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State v. Lynch

Appellate Court of Connecticut

October 22, 2019

STATE of Connecticut

         Argued April 22, 2019

          Appeal from Superior Court, Judicial District of Hartford, Prats and Williams, JJ.

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          Kevin Lynch, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

         Melissa L. Streeto, senior assistant state’s attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state’s attorney, and Michael Weber, senior assistant state’s attorney, for the appellee (the state).

         Lavine, Keller and Elgo, Js.


         ELGO, J.

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          [193 Conn.App. 640] The self-represented defendant, Kevin Lynch, appeals from the judgments of conviction rendered by the trial court following the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. On appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly (1) failed to conduct an evidentiary hearing on his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, (2) denied his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, and (3) failed to conduct an evidentiary hearing prior to terminating his participation in the pretrial alcohol education program (program). We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

         The record reveals the following relevant facts and procedural history. On October 7, 2016, pursuant to a global plea agreement that encompassed all of the defendant’s cases and was reached in accordance with State v. Garvin, 242 Conn. 296, 699 A.2d 921 (1997),[1] the defendant entered guilty pleas to three counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor as a first offender in violation of General Statutes § 14-227a, two counts of failure to appear in the second degree in violation of General Statues § 53a-173, and to one count each of risk of injury to a child in violation of General Statutes § 53-21, and criminal trespass in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-107. In accordance with the Garvin agreement, the court, Prats, J., agreed to sentence the defendant to a total effective sentence of four years of incarceration, execution suspended, with three years of probation. Pursuant to that agreement, the defendant’s conviction of risk of injury to a child would be vacated. [193 Conn.App. 641] The court, however, also advised the defendant that he remained subject to a possible sentence of up to fourteen and one-half years of incarceration if he violated the terms of the Garvin agreement by failing to comply with an inpatient alcohol treatment program, by being arrested with probable cause on any new charges prior to his sentencing, or by failing to appear at the sentencing hearing.

         The sentencing hearing was held on February 15, 2018. At that time, the state indicated that the defendant had complied with the conditions of the Garvin agreement and, therefore, the state was prepared to enter a nolle prosequi as to the defendant’s conviction of risk of injury to a child, once the court vacated that conviction. The court, Williams, J., then asked the clerk to verify before they proceeded that the program in one of the defendant’s cases was previously terminated.[2] The clerk responded that he had no record of that in the court’s file. In response, the state argued that the "agreed disposition and the fact that the plea was entered ... more than implies the fact that [the program] was supposed to be terminated ...."

         Defense counsel responded that he believed that a notice of successful completion of the program was filed with the court by the bail commissioner. He also stated that the program had not been terminated and that "there is a valid argument

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to be made in that file that the [successful completion of the program] should be acknowledged by the court ... [a]nd that matter should be dismissed ...." The court then asked defense counsel if this issue was raised at the time of the Garvin plea. Defense counsel answered: "No, it was not [raised], because in all candor to this court, I did not [193 Conn.App. 642] comprehend the procedural history of [the defendant’s] several cases .... At that point in time, my primary focus was to persuade the court ... to allow for inpatient treatment for [the defendant]."

          Defense counsel went on to explain: "But, I also didn’t understand at that time ... that [the defendant] was under [the influence of] about four psychotropic medications administered by the Department of Correction. And what I also didn’t take up with the court or with the state is the history of this particular file and the fact that the [program] had been granted by the court. I believe Judge Suarez had granted the [program] with full knowledge with the preexisting matter then still at GA 10 in New London. Also, there was a family violence education program granted in this courthouse at about the same time in a different but companion matter. And there was ... in that case a successful completion of the family violence education program, as well. And only since long after October 6 have I become aware and better understood the procedural history here. And then, while ... I have learned only in the past week that there ... was an absolute defense to the New London failure to appear, to which he [pleaded] guilty on October 7, 2016, which I had no understanding about it at all. And ... there is a substantial defense to [the failure to appear charge], Your Honor. So ... the combination of those ... factored in the new information, is why I would respectfully pray the court to allow me to fulfill my obligations to [the defendant] ... by allowing me three or four days to file motions and a brief on this issue of [the program]. The last case of the operating under the influence occurred after the one year dismissal date of the [program], as I recall, Your Honor. And the [program] had not been dismissed on the scheduled date only because ... documentation from [Connecticut Valley Hospital] had not been received by the bail commissioner. So what I’m saying [193 Conn.App. 643] in good faith, to the court and to the state, is that there is a substantial amount of information that I respectfully suggest calls into question the validity of the pleas, to the failures to appear, as well as the plea to the file that we’ve just confirmed the [program] had not been terminated in, at the time of the plea."

          The court responded by asking defense counsel if he wanted the court to not honor the plea agreement. The court also pointed out that the plea agreement was entered in 2016, that it involved matters dating back to 2014, and that the court had granted multiple continuances in this matter. While defense counsel and the defendant conferred, the court stated that the clerk had discovered that "on [program] progress reports ... the defendant, apparently, did not complete the fifteen sessions for which he was referred. However, he completed detox and residential treatment."

          Subsequently, the following colloquy occurred:

"[Defense Counsel]: I would ask Your Honor for simply four days to file—

"The Court: Well, that’s denied.... I said back in January that today was the day for sentencing. I made that clear. On January 11, I made that abundantly clear. This is it. This is the sentencing day. And now I’m hearing an oral motion to, I guess, delay sentencing. I’m hearing an oral motion to not honor ...

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