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State v. Stevison

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

September 26, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs July 24, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Bradley County No. 17CR97 Sandra Donaghy, Judge

         Defendant, Ricky Jan Stevison, pled guilty to theft of property and was sentenced to two years on supervised probation with the trial court to determine the issue of restitution at a hearing. Defendant subsequently filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The trial court denied the motion after a hearing. Because we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. However, because the judgment form does not include the amount of restitution or the terms of the repayment, we remand to the trial court for entry of an amended judgment form.

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

          Richard Hughes, District Public Defender; John Fortuno, Assistant District Public Defender (at guilty plea); and Chessia A. Cox (at hearing on motion to withdraw guilty plea), Athens, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ricky Jan Stevison.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; Stephen D. Crump, District Attorney General; and Drew Robinson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., joined.



         Defendant was indicted in March of 2017 for financial exploitation of the elderly pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-111 and theft of property valued at more than $10, 000 but less than $60, 000 pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-103. On January 25, 2018, Defendant pled guilty to one count of theft of property valued at more than $2500 but less than $10, 000, a Class D felony. At the guilty plea hearing, the State indicated that if the matter had gone to trial, the following facts would have been submitted to a jury.

         Forest Jack Coleman, the victim, was a senior citizen who had been diagnosed with senile dementia. Defendant was interviewed by the victim's family on June 8, 2015, and then hired shortly thereafter as a caretaker. About one month later, in order to secure a conservatorship for the victim, the victim's family compiled a list of the victim's assets. The victim's niece, Janie Coleman, took some jewelry from the victim's residence on July 7 and photographed the jewelry for documentation for the conservatorship. Ms. Coleman returned the jewelry to the victim's home. Ms. Coleman asked Defendant to take the victim to open a safe deposit box. Defendant took the victim to open a safe deposit box and deposited all of the jewelry and other property in the box. Defendant did not notify the family of the location of the bank where the property was held and stopped all communication with the family. On July 20, Suntrust Bank contacted Ms. Coleman to inform her of excessive withdrawals from the victim's checking account. On July 22, Charter Cable installed Internet and phone service at the victim's residence without consultation with the family. On July 29, the victim's family was notified that Defendant had inquired about a home equity line of credit for the victim.

         In early August, the family fired Defendant, and Adult Protective Services opened an investigation into the matter. During the investigation, the victim met with his guardian ad litem and claimed that Defendant was in possession of his car keys and credit cards. The guardian noted that the victim was distracted and needed to have things repeated to him several times during their conversation. The family eventually located the safe deposit box. When a court order was obtained for the safe deposit box to be opened, there was nothing inside except an empty envelope from Landmark Insurance. The family requested that Defendant return all of the victim's belongings. Defendant complied by returning the victim's car keys, checkbooks, a birth certificate and death certificate for the victim's brother, a social security card, military records, and other family documents. Defendant expressed his concern about the victim and claimed that he was considering applying for a conservatorship over the victim. It was eventually discovered that all of the coins and jewelry that were in the safe deposit box were in the possession of Defendant. Defendant sold jewelry and coins to Cleveland Coin and Jewelry on three separate occasions, all of which was identified as jewelry and coins that were taken from the victim or given by the victim to Defendant. At some point, some of the jewelry was in the possession of Defendant's trial counsel. Counsel inventoried and photographed the jewelry and made Defendant sign for it prior to releasing it to Defendant. The victim was deceased at the time of the guilty plea hearing.

         At the conclusion of the State's recitation of the proposed facts, Defendant agreed that the guilty plea was in his best interest. The State, however, commented that the plea was not a best interest plea. The State explained that the "exploitation of an adult" charge was being dismissed because "[i]t speaks in terms of money, as opposed to property." Counsel for the State explained that there was a "bill pending that would attach [the statute] to property, but it of course wouldn't apply to this Defendant." The trial court sentenced Defendant to two years, suspended to supervised probation. According to the judgment form, the trial court "expressly reserved" the issue of restitution to a hearing on March 23, 2018. The financial exploitation of the elderly charge was dismissed.

         At the conclusion of the guilty plea hearing, the trial court accepted the plea and found it was "freely and voluntarily given" by Defendant who had "full knowledge and understanding of the consequences." Again, the trial court commented that it was to determine the amount of restitution at another hearing.

         Less than a month after entering the guilty plea, on February 23, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to set aside his guilty plea. About one week later, Defendant filed an amended motion to set aside the guilty plea. The Public Defender's Office filed a motion to withdraw on the basis that Defendant's ...

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