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Ray v. State

Court of Appeals of Maryland

July 28, 2017

BASHAWN MONTGOMERY RAY
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

          Argued: May 4, 2017

         Circuit Court for Montgomery County Case No. 116959

          Barbera, C.J., Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty, JJ.

          OPINION

          Hotten, J.

         Petitioner, Bashawn Montgomery Ray, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit theft and making a false statement to the police at a hearing based on an agreed statement of facts, and was thereafter sentenced to ten years' incarceration with six years suspended and four years' probation. He argues that the circuit court imposed an illegal sentence after it bound itself to a "[c]ap of four years on any executed incarceration." Petitioner contends that a reasonable lay person in his position would not have understood the agreement's cap to mean that the circuit court could have imposed a suspended sentence and probation in addition to incarceration for up to four years. We affirm the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, holding that the plain language of the cap was clear and unambiguous, and thus, Petitioner's sentence was legal.

         FACTS AND LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

         Petitioner was charged by indictment in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County with conspiracy to commit theft of property with a value over $1, 000, theft scheme, identity fraud, and making a false statement to the police. After the denial of his motion to suppress evidence, Petitioner and the State entered into the following agreement: Petitioner would proceed by way of a plea of not guilty with an agreed statement of facts on the conspiracy and false statement charges, and the State would enter the remaining counts as nolle prosequi. This agreement was written, signed by the prosecutor and Petitioner's attorney, and submitted to the circuit court's Assignment Office, in the form of an agreement memorandum. The memorandum contained the following terms:

The defendant agrees to proceed by way of an agreed statement of facts on count one, amended to allege conspiracy to commit theft of property having a value at least $1, 000 but less than $10, 000 and on count four, alleging false statement when under arrest.
Cap of four years on any executed incarceration.
Judg[]ments of restitution totaling $8, 377 will be entered as part of the sentence, not merely as a term of probation.
The State will enter nolle prosequi as to counts two and three at sentencing.
The State will defer to the Court as to the defendant's bond status between the date of the trial and the date of sentencing.
The defendant will waive his right under Maryland Rule 4-345(e) to request modification of his sentence.

(Emphasis added).

         In addition to the agreement memorandum, the record reflects a form entitled "GUILTY PLEA - VOIR DIRE[.]" We recognize that the form's title is inaccurate- Petitioner did not enter a guilty plea. This form was characterized at the hearing at which Petitioner pleaded not guilty on an agreed statement of facts as an "advice of rights form[.]" At the hearing, Petitioner's counsel stated "I have crossed out a number of items" on the form "that deal with the appeal issues because [Petitioner] would maintain his appeal rights[.]" The form, signed by Petitioner and his counsel, outlines the elements of the conspiracy and false statement counts, and states that "[t]he maximum penalty for the offense you are offering to plead guilty is: 10 years 6 months[.]"

         The hearing at which Petitioner pleaded not guilty on an agreed statement of facts, and the subsequent trial, were held on April 18, 2011. The circuit court read into the record the terms of the agreement:

THE COURT: The terms of the plea are that [Petitioner] agrees to proceed by way of an agreed statement of facts on Count 1, amended to allege conspiracy to commit theft of property having a value of at least $1, 000 but less than $10, 000.
And on Count 4, alleging false statement when under arrest. There's a cap of four years [on executed[1] incarceration. The State will enter a nolle prosequi to Counts 2 and 3 at sentencing, and the State will defer to the Court as to defendant's bond status between the date of trial and the date of sentencing.
The defendant will waive any right under Maryland [R]ule 4-345(e) to request a modification of his sentence.
Are those the complete terms of the agreement?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: They are, Your Honor. Mr. Montgomery, understanding those terms of the agreement -
Are those the terms of the plea agreement that you and I discussed?
[PETITIONER]: Yes. What was it about the bond issue?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: The bond is that the State's not going to be asking to have your bond revoked -
THE COURT: Whether you stay out of jail between now and the time you get sentenced or not, the State is not going to request that you be locked up while ...

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