Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Tolland, Rockville, Geographic Area 19
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Hon. Vernon D. Oliver, J.
The petitioner, Earl Akpan, brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming that his criminal defense attorney provided him ineffective assistance in violation of the state and federal constitutions, and seeking to have his convictions vacated. Specifically, the petitioner claims, in his Second Amended Petition filed April 27, 2015, that his right to effective legal representation at his plea was denied in that his counsel, attorney Bruce Lorenzen, misadvised him as to the range of years to which he could be sentenced a result of the plea bargaining process.
The petitioner also asserts due process claims with the same factual bases. The petitioner asserts that his ignorance of the specifics of the plea bargain in his case rendered his plea involuntary. The petitioner seeks an order of this court allowing him to withdraw his pleas and return the matter to the criminal court for further adjudication. The respondent denies the allegations. The court heard the trial of this matter on the merits on August 27, 2015. Based upon the credible evidence presented, the court finds the issues for the respondent and denies the petition.
Procedural History/Findings of Fact
On November 28, 2011, in the Hartford Judicial District, in the matters of State of Connecticut v. Earl Akpan, in docket numbers HHD-CR11-0649629, CR11-0651678 and CR11-0651679, the petitioner entered guilty pleas to Felony Murder, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-54c, Assault in the First Degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-59(a)(5), Robbery in the First Degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134(a)(4), Conspiracy to Commit Robbery in the First Degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-48/53a-134(a)(4), Robbery in the First Degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-134(a)(4), and Conspiracy to Commit Robbery in the First Degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-48/53a-134(a)(4), respectively (Exhibit 1). On that date, the petitioner accepted a plea offer from the prosecuting authority of a " right to argue within a ten year range" (Exhibit 2, p. 1). As part of the plea canvass, it was specifically explained to the petitioner that " the maximum sentence the Court will impose as a result of this agreement is not more than 45 years to serve. The minimum sentence is 35 years to serve, and both sides have a right to argue in that range" (Exhibit 2, p. 3). When asked if he understood the nature of the agreement, the petitioner responded in the affirmative. As an additional part of the Court canvass wherein the petitioner was informed of the maximum possible consecutive sentence for all of the charges to which he entered guilty pleas, it was reiterated to the petitioner that " [he had] reached an agreement that is not the maximum sentence, but it is a term of not more than 45 years, not less than 35 years" (Exhibit 2, pp. 4-5). The petitioner indicated that he had previously discussed his decision to enter guilty pleas with attorney Lorenzen and that, other than the plea agreement and the ten-year range, no one had promised him anything to cause him to enter his pleas (Exhibit 2, p. 5). During the Court canvass, the petitioner responded in the negative when asked if he had any questions for either the Court or his attorney about the plea agreement (Exhibit 2, p. 10). After canvass by the Court, Alexander, J., and order of a Pre-Sentence Investigation, the matter was continued for sentencing. At no point did the petitioner indicate any lack of understanding surrounding the plea agreement.
On February 24, 2012, the Court began the sentencing hearing by repeating what had occurred on the previous court date, including " [t]he sentencing range for not more than forty-five years, not less than thirty-five years" (Exhibit 3, p. 1). The prosecutor then provided the sentencing court with additional information and argument in support of his sentencing recommendation of forty-five years to serve (Exhibit 3, p. 8). The Court also heard from the aunt of the victim in the Felony Murder case who read a letter authored by the victim's mother. Attorney Lorenzen and a number of other individuals next addressed the Court in support of a lesser sentence. Finally, the petitioner addressed the Court, expressed remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions. At no point did the petitioner indicate any confusion about the sentencing range or the plea agreement. Having heard from both parties and considering the PreSentence Investigation, the Court sentenced the petitioner to a total effective sentence of forty years to serve. The state entered a nolle pro se qui on the remaining five felony charges.
There was no direct appeal of the underlying convictions. The petitioner did apply for sentence review. This petition followed.
A. Civil Matters--Generally
" The admission of the truth of an allegation [in a] pleading is a judicial admission conclusive on the pleader." Jones Destruction, Inc. v. Upjohn, 161 Conn. 191, 199, 286 A.2d 308 (1971). " An admission in pleading dispenses with proof, and is equivalent to proof." (Citation ...