Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Cleveland Man Wins Sentencing Appeal

The Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled that a Cleveland man who pleaded guilty to a drug offense so he could participate in drug court diversion program should have been allowed to change his plea after a drug court judge later deemed him unqualified for the program.

Jonathan Orlando was deemed eligible for drug court after he was charged with one count of drug possession and possession of criminal tools. Orlando appeared at drug court with the understanding that he would be placed in a treatment program rather than sentenced to a prison term if he pleaded guilty. The judge advised him of his rights prior to accepting his guilty pleas to all charges.

After accepting the guilty pleas, the judge determined that Orlando’s “attitude throughout the plea, convinced [the court] that he would not be a good candidate for drug court.” The judge then sentenced Orlando to 6 months in prison.

Orlando filed a motion to vacate his pleas, arguing that his guilty pleas were made “as a condition to enter into drug court with the belief and understanding that he would be admitted into the drug court following his ‘guilty’ plea.” The trial court denied Orlando’s motions to vacate his pleas.

Orlando appealed the decision. Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Kathleen Ann Keough in the court’s opinion wrote: “We find that the drug court judge had jurisdiction over Orlando’s case, but violated the local rules when the judge failed to return Orlando’s case to the docket of the originally-assigned judge prior to accepting Orlando’s plea.”

Judges Tim McCormack and Eileen T. Gallagher concurred in the June 6 opinion that reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings.

“Based on the facts and circumstances of this case, we find that the trial court accepted the plea agreement, and Orlando had a reasonable expectation that he would be placed on community control sanctions in admittance into drug court,” Judge Keough wrote. “When the court decided to deviate from the plea agreement, it should have advised Orlando of the court’s intentions and allowed Orlando to reconsider his plea.”

Judge Keough also wrote that the trial court failed to comply with Ohio criminal rules (Crim.R. 11) that deal with pleas.

“A trial court shall not accept a defendant’s plea unless the defendant has been readvised that he has the right to be represented by retained counsel,” Judge Keough wrote. “Because Orlando’s pleas were not made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily, the plea must also be vacated.”

State v. Orlando, 2013-Ohio-2335
Criminal Appeal From: Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Judgment Appealed From Is: Reversed and Remanded
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: June 6, 2013

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