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State v. Huddleston

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 25, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
COREY E. HUDDLESTON

          Session: July 18, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Dickson County No. 2015-CR-243 Larry Wallace, Judge

         Defendant, Corey E. Huddleston, pleaded no contest to sexual battery on February 8, 2016. As a result of the no contest plea, he was sentenced to one year of incarceration and placed on the sex offender registry. Defendant sought to withdraw his no contest plea, and the trial court denied the motion. Defendant appeals the denial of his motion to withdraw his plea. We affirm the trial court's decision.

          Leonard G. Belmares II, Charlotte, Tennessee (on appeal) and Jake Lockhart (at plea hearing), District Public Defender, for the appellant, Corey E. Huddleston.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Ray Crouch, District Attorney General; and Carey Thompson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and John Everett Williams, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Defendant was indicted by a Dickson County grand jury with one count of aggravated burglary and one count of sexual battery. The State alleged that Defendant broke into a family dwelling in Dickson County, entered the bedroom of a minor boy, and touched the boy's genitals. On February 8, 2016, Defendant entered a no contest plea to sexual battery and received a one-year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction to be served concurrent to Defendant's sentences from cases in the Dickson Municipal Court. In exchange for the plea, the aggravated burglary charge was dismissed. During Defendant's plea hearing, his attorney, Jake Lockhart, the Public Defender for the 23rd Judicial District of Tennessee, was not present. Dawn Kavanagh, an assistant public defender, stood in on behalf of Mr. Lockhart.

         As Defendant was entering his plea, it became evident that Defendant was not aware that he was going to be placed on the sex offender registry. After hearing that he will be placed on the sex offender registry, Defendant stated, "What's that? They didn't tell me what that is."[1] At that point, Ms. Kavanaugh explained that being on the sex offender registry is similar to being on probation and that Defendant will have to check-in around his birthday every year. Ms. Kavanaugh further stated that Defendant would have to disclose to the sex offender registry where he was living and where he was working. She also stated, "I think that you do have to pay for it." She goes further to tell him about certain jobs involving children that he cannot obtain, places around children where he cannot live, and other restrictions that he would encounter while on the sex offender registry. She even stated that the sex offender registry is very "onerous, " but that it was part of the plea agreement.

         The trial court asked Defendant if he would like more time to consult with his lawyer about the plea, and Defendant asked if that would affect whether the plea would get done that day. The trial court indicated that it was unclear if the plea would be done that day if Defendant wanted to further consult with his attorney, and then Defendant responded, "Just run it, man. . . . Just do it. Just do it." After a brief exchange, the trial court inquired, "So, you want to go forward?" Defendant responded, "Yes." The trial court confirmed by asking, "Are you sure?" Defendant responded, "Yes sir." Defendant went on to indicate that he wanted to go forward with the plea knowing that he would be placed on the sex offender registry and agreed that he was entering the plea voluntarily. Defendant told the trial court that he pleaded "no contest."

         Fourteen days later, Defendant filed a pro-se motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant argued that he should be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea because he did not realize that he would be placed on the sex offender registry. The trial court appointed Defendant an attorney, and a hearing was held on November 16, 2016.

         At the hearing, Defendant testified that he did not "want to plead guilty to nothing because [he] didn't do nothing." Defendant also testified that he "didn't know nothing about no sex offender registry." Defendant stated that he "would have never, ever signed [his plea agreement] if [he] had known that [he] had to do all this." On cross- examination, Defendant admitted that it was explained to him by the judge that he was going to be on the sex offender registry for ten years. However, Defendant contended that it was not an informed decision.

         Ms. Kavanaugh and Mr. Lockhart both testified at Defendant's hearing regarding the withdrawal of his guilty plea. Neither Ms. Kavanaugh nor Mr. Lockhart could independently recall facts that differed from the audio recording of the plea colloquy. Ms. Kavanaugh added that she did not provide Defendant with the standard form that contained information about the sex offender registry. Mr. Lockhart admitted that he did not discuss the ...


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