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Bennett v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 6, 2018

RANDY WAYNE BENNETT
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Session October 17, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Williamson County No. CR-160657 Joseph A. Woodruff, Judge

         The Petitioner, Randy Wayne Bennett, appeals from the Williamson County Circuit Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that the ineffective assistance of his trial counsel led to his rejection of a more beneficial plea offer from the State. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          M. Stuart Saylor, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Randy Wayne Bennett.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Alexander C. Vey, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Tammy J. Rettig, 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 September 2015, the Petitioner entered into an "open" plea agreement with the State. The Petitioner agreed to plead guilty to one count of delivery of less than .5 grams of oxymorphone and one count of failure to appear with his sentences to be determined by the trial court. Following a November 2015 sentencing hearing, the trial court determined that the Petitioner was a Range III, persistent offender with respect to the delivery conviction and a career offender with respect to the failure to appear conviction. The trial court imposed a sentence of twelve years for the delivery conviction and six years for the failure to appear conviction. The trial court ordered the sentences to be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of eighteen years.

         On October 14, 2016, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel failed to inform him of a plea offer from the State that would have recommended a total effective sentence of ten years. Post-conviction counsel was appointed to represent the Petitioner in this matter, and an amended petition was filed alleging that trial counsel either advised the Petitioner to reject the State's ten-year offer or that trial counsel failed to inform the Petitioner that ten years was the minimum possible sentence he could receive for the offenses to which he pled guilty.

         At the post-conviction hearing, the Petitioner testified, contrary to his pro se petition, that trial counsel had informed him of the State's ten-year offer. The Petitioner claimed that he only met with trial counsel once prior to his guilty plea. The Petitioner further claimed that trial counsel did not review the applicable sentencing ranges and offender classifications with him and that he was unfamiliar with these concepts. The Petitioner also claimed that trial counsel did not show him the State's notice of intent to seek an enhanced sentence based on his prior convictions and that she never reviewed his criminal history with him.

         The Petitioner testified that trial counsel never informed him of the possible minimum sentence he could receive. However, the Petitioner later claimed that trial counsel informed him that he could get a sentence of "six or eight or something" if he entered an open guilty plea. The Petitioner denied that he agreed to plead "open" in hopes of serving his sentence on probation or receiving some type of drug treatment. The Petitioner claimed that he never asked his trial counsel about an alternative sentence. Rather, the Petitioner insisted that he had wanted to spend a year in drug treatment and then serve nine years in confinement.

         The Petitioner claimed that he only accepted the open plea agreement because trial counsel told him that he would probably get a better sentence if a judge sentenced him. The Petitioner denied getting angry with trial counsel when she attempted to discuss his criminal history and its impact on his sentences in this case. The Petitioner admitted he signed a plea petition that stated his trial counsel had advised him of his possible punishment. However, the Petitioner ...


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