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Echeverria v. Commissioner of Correction

Appellate Court of Connecticut

September 24, 2019

Sergio ECHEVERRIA
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION

         Argued May 13, 2019

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1118

         Superior Court, Judicial District of Tolland, Oliver, J.

         Affirmed.

          Vishal K. Garg, West Hartford, for the appellant (petitioner).

         Denise B. Smoker, senior assistant state’s attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Richard J. Colangelo, Jr., state’s attorney, and Jo Anne Sulik, supervisory state’s attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

         Lavine, Keller and Harper, Js.

          OPINION

         HARPER, J.

         [193 Conn.App. 2] The petitioner, Sergio Echeverria, appeals from the judgment of the habeas court denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petitioner’s sole claim on appeal is that the habeas court improperly rejected his claim that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel due to his attorney’s failure to advise him properly of the immigration consequences of his guilty plea pursuant to Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 130 S.Ct. 1473, 176 L.Ed.2d 284 (2010). We disagree [193 Conn.App. 3] and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the habeas court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. The petitioner is a Bolivian citizen who entered the United States without authorization at the age of six. On February 7, 2014, police officers executed a search warrant on the petitioner’s Stamford apartment. Pursuant to the executed warrant, the police officers found and subsequently seized 4.3 pounds of marijuana, a large sum of cash, and a semiautomatic pistol with the serial number removed. A police report admitted into

Page 1119

evidence at the habeas trial also revealed that the police seized, inter alia, a marijuana grinder, a digital scale, and several plastic bags containing the drug commonly referred to as "Molly." The petitioner subsequently was arrested and charged with two counts of possession of a hallucinogenic substance other than marijuana or more than four ounces of marijuana in violation of General Statutes § 21a-279 (b); possession of marijuana with intent to sell in violation of General Statutes § 21a-277 (b); operation of a drug factory in violation of General Statutes § 21a-277 (c); possession of narcotics with intent to sell by a person who is not drug-dependent in violation of General Statutes § 21a-278 (b); and illegal alteration of a firearm identification mark in violation of General Statutes § 29-36.[1] Thereafter, the petitioner retained Attorney Michael Skiber to represent him.

         Following the petitioner’s arrest, the state and Skiber, on behalf of the petitioner, entered into pretrial negotiations. The state initially offered a plea deal by which the petitioner would plead guilty to a charge stemming from the sale of marijuana,[2] as well as alteration of a [193 Conn.App. 4] firearm identification mark, and the state would recommend a sentence of five years of incarceration, execution suspended after three years, followed by three months of probation.[3] The petitioner did not accept the offer, and the case was placed on the jury list.

         On June 3, 2015, after the petitioner received another plea offer from the state, the trial court indicated that it would allow the petitioner to enter an open guilty plea with no agreed upon sentence to possession of marijuana with intent to sell in violation of § 21a-277 (b) and alteration of a firearm identification mark in violation of § 29-36. If, however, the petitioner paid a $10,000 fine, the trial court offered to vacate the plea and grant the petitioner’s application for accelerated rehabilitation. The petitioner subsequently entered a guilty plea. The trial court accepted the petitioner’s plea, finding that it was made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. After the trial court accepted his plea, the petitioner stated that he was unsure of whether he previously had been convicted of a crime, calling into question his ability to receive accelerated rehabilitation.[4] In light of the petitioner’s statement, Skiber asked the trial court to let the petitioner withdraw his plea. The trial court declined Skiber’s request, opting instead to determine whether the petitioner was in fact eligible for accelerated rehabilitation before allowing the petitioner to withdraw his plea.

          After it was determined that the petitioner was ineligible for accelerated rehabilitation, the state and the petitioner ...


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