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State v. Robles

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 25, 2016

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
ROLANDO ROBLES

          Argued September 7, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Miano, J. [judgment]; Alexander, J. [motions to correct illegal sentence; petition for writ of error coram nobis].

          Rolando Robles, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

          Sarah Hanna, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and David L. Zagaja, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Alvord and Pellegrino, Js.

          OPINION

          DiPENTIMA, C. J.

         The self-represented defendant, Rolando Robles, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his motion to correct an illegal sentence. The defendant was convicted, following his guilty pleas made pursuant to the Alford doctrine, [1] of kidnapping in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-92 (a) (2) (A), attempt to commit kidnapping in the first degree in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-49 and 53a-92 (a) (2) (A) and sexual assault in the fourth degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-73a (a) (2). On appeal, the defendant, raising a number of constitutional and nonconstitutional issues, claims that the trial court improperly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider his motion to correct an illegal sentence. The defendant's appellate claims, however, challenge the validity of his conviction rather than his sentence or the sentencing proceeding. We conclude, therefore, that the court properly determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to our discussion. On August 29, 2007, the defendant appeared before the court, Miano, J., to enter guilty pleas to the charges pending against him. The defendant intended to plead guilty pursuant to the Alford doctrine. The prosecutor recited the factual bases underlying the charges against the defendant.[2]During the plea canvass, a question arose regarding whether the defendant wanted to plead guilty pursuant to the Alford doctrine or enter a ‘‘straight guilty plea to all three of the charges . . . .'' After further discussion, the court accepted the guilty pleas pursuant to the Alford doctrine. On October 17, 2007, Judge Miano sentenced the defendant to fifteen years incarceration, execution suspended after time served, [3] and twenty years probation.

         On July 22, 2011, the defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. That motion was denied on November 10, 2011. On September 3, 2014, the defendant filed another motion to vacate or correct an illegal sentence or, in the alternative, for a writ of error coram nobis.[4] The defendant requested that the court vacate or correct the plea disposition and his sentence pursuant to Practice Book § 43-22, [5] or, in the alternative, issue a writ of error coram nobis. He argued that as a result of the new interpretation of our kidnapping statutes as set forth in State v. Salamon, 287 Conn. 509, 949 A.2d 1092 (2008), [6] the state and the court had committed ‘‘numerous constitutional errors'' resulting in his sentences[7] being void or subject to correction. On November 20, 2014, the state filed a response to the defendant's motion arguing, inter alia, that the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the defendant's claims.

         On March 19, 2015, the court, Alexander, J., issued a memorandum of decision dismissing the defendant's motion. With respect to the Practice Book § 43-22 claim, the court noted that the defendant's arguments essentially challenged the validity of his conviction, and therefore it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. As to the petition for a writ of error coram nobis, the court observed that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the petition had been filed untimely.[8]

         On appeal, the defendant presents a variety of claims, including that the dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence deprived him of his federal and state constitutional rights to due process, that his conviction for kidnapping constituted plain error and that the court abused its discretion and misapplied Practice Book § 43-22. The state counters that the court properly dismissed the defendant's motion because it challenged his convictions and not his sentence or the sentencing proceeding. We agree with the state.

         At the outset, we note that the defendant's claims pertain to the subject matter jurisdiction of the trial court, and therefore present a question of law subject to the plenary standard of review. State v. Koslik, 116 Conn.App. 693, 697, 977 A.2d 275, cert. denied, 293 Conn. 930, 980 A.2d 916 (2009); see also State v. Bozelko, 154 Conn.App. 750, 759, 108 A.3d 262 (2015); State v. Abraham, 152 Conn.App. 709, 716, 99 A.3d 1258 (2014).

         ‘‘The Superior Court is a constitutional court of general jurisdiction. In the absence of statutory or constitutional provisions, the limits of its jurisdiction are delineated by the common law. . . . It is well established that under the common law a trial court has the discretionary power to modify or vacate a criminal judgment before the sentence has been executed. . . . This is so because the court loses jurisdiction over the case when the defendant is committed to the custody of the commissioner of correction and begins serving the sentence. . . . Because it is well established that the jurisdiction of the trial court terminates once a defendant has been sentenced, a trial court may no longer take any action affecting a defendant's sentence unless it expressly has been authorized to act.'' (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Monge, 165 Conn.App. 36, 41-42, 138 A.3d 450, cert. denied, 321 Conn. 924, 138 A.3d 284 (2016); see also State v. Cruz, 155 Conn.App. 644, 648-49, 110 A.3d 527 (2015).

         ‘‘[Practice Book] § 43-22 embodies a common-law exception that permits the trial court to correct an illegal sentence or other illegal disposition. . . . Thus, if the defendant cannot demonstrate that his motion to correct falls within the purview of § 43-22, the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain it. . . . [I]n order for the court to have jurisdiction over a motion to correct an illegal sentence after the sentence has been executed, the sentencing proceeding [itself] . . . must be the subject of the attack. . . . [T]o invoke successfully the court's jurisdiction with respect to a claim of an illegal sentence, the focus cannot be on what occurred during the underlying conviction.'' (Citations omitted; internal ...


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