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Valentino v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 11, 2018

SEBASTIAN VALENTINO
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs October 18, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2015-I-930 Cheryl Blackburn, Judge

         The Petitioner, Sebastian Valentino, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered because he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          David M. Hopkins, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sebastian Valentino.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Megan McNabb King, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In November 2015, the Petitioner was charged by criminal information with one count of aggravated assault. That same month, the Petitioner pled guilty to the aggravated assault charge in exchange for a six-year sentence to be served on supervised probation and the dismissal of two other misdemeanor charges.

         At the plea submission hearing, the trial court asked the Petitioner if he was taking any medication. The Petitioner responded that he had "an insulin pump that[ was] about to go out." The trial court asked the Petitioner if "it [was] affecting [his] ability to understand what [he was] doing" and the Petitioner responded that it was not. The Petitioner stated that he had "thoroughly discussed" his case with trial counsel and that he was satisfied with trial counsel's representation. The Petitioner also stated that no one was forcing him to plead guilty. For the factual basis of the plea agreement, the prosecutor stated that the Petitioner pushed his girlfriend off of a moving train. The Petitioner stated that the State's recitation of the facts was "generally true, " but corrected the prosecutor by stating that the victim was his wife, not his girlfriend.

         That same month, a probation violation warrant was issued alleging that the Petitioner had violated his probation by using alcohol and committing new offenses. After the Petitioner refused to participate in the Veterans Court program, the trial court revoked his probation and ordered his sentenced to be served. The Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief alleging that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered due to the ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. The petition alleged that trial counsel failed to properly investigate "the facts and circumstances" of the case, failed to properly investigate the Petitioner's mental health, and failed to ensure that the Petitioner received proper medical treatment while he was incarcerated pending the plea agreement.

         The Petitioner testified at the post-conviction hearing that he did not push the victim off of the train. The Petitioner claimed that the victim jumped off the train because she "thought the train was going slow enough" to get off. The Petitioner further claimed that he got off of the train and flagged down help for the victim. The Petitioner recalled that the aggravated assault charge was dismissed by the general sessions court because the victim did not show up to the preliminary hearing. However, he met with trial counsel shortly after the preliminary hearing and trial counsel told him that the State "was going to knock it up to attempted murder if [he] didn't take a six[-]year deal."

         The Petitioner testified that he "felt like [he] was being bullied into taking" the plea agreement because the State threatened him with an attempted murder charge and because he had "a diabetic pump [he] needed" refilled. The Petitioner explained that he had an insulin pump "in [his] stomach" and that it would click when the supply of insulin got low. The Petitioner claimed that his "energy [would get] low" and that he would "start getting delusional" when the insulin supply in his pump got low. However, the Petitioner admitted that he "had like a month's worth left" of insulin in his pump at the time he pled guilty. The Petitioner testified that he told trial counsel that his insulin pump needed refilling but that trial counsel did nothing "to make that happen." The Petitioner ...


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