CHRISTOPHER S. SOBRADO A/K/A CHRISTOPHER STEVEN SOBRADO A/K/A CHRIS APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/09/2012
PONTOTOC COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. PAUL S. FUNDERBURK JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CHRISTOPHER S. SOBRADO (PRO SE)
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LADONNA C. HOLLAND
MODIFIED OPINION ON REHEARING
¶1. Acting on its own motion, this Court grants rehearing in this matter, withdraws its prior opinion, and substitutes this opinion in its place.
¶2. This case centers on a circuit court's authority to reinstate a prisoner's suspended sentence based on misconduct that occurred while he was still serving his initial ten-year sentence as an inmate under the supervision of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Christopher Sobrado appeals the Pontotoc County Circuit Court's judgment summarily dismissing his motion for post-conviction relief (PCR) after the circuit court ostensibly revoked his post-release supervision and reinstated the suspended portion of his sentence for burglary of a dwelling. Because the record on appeal does not clearly indicate whether the conduct that led to the circuit court's decision occurred while Sobrado was still an inmate on earned-release supervision (ERS) or whether he had been officially discharged from his ten-year sentence and placed on post-release supervision, we reverse the circuit court's judgment and remand this matter for an evidentiary hearing as described below.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
¶3. Sobrado was indicted for two counts of burglary of a dwelling. The prosecution and Sobrado negotiated a plea agreement that the prosecution would "retire" one burglary charge in exchange for Sobrado's guilty plea to the second burglary charge. The plea agreement was also contingent upon Sobrado's payment of restitution to both of the burglary victims.
¶4. On April 10, 2003, Sobrado went before the circuit court and pled guilty to the second count of burglary of a dwelling. The circuit court accepted Sobrado's guilty plea and followed the prosecution's sentencing recommendation. Specifically, the circuit court sentenced Sobrado to twenty-five years in the custody of the MDOC, with fifteen years suspended and ten years to serve, followed by five years of post-release supervision.
¶5. Additionally, the circuit court ordered Sobrado to pay restitution to the two burglary victims. To ensure that Sobrado complied with his restitution obligation, the circuit court told Sobrado, "Upon completion of your sentence, you will be placed on five years [of] post-release supervision, [and] you will be placed in a restitution center as designated by the [MDOC] until all fines, cost[s, ] and restitution are paid." In the circuit court's subsequent sentencing order, the circuit court specified the conditions of Sobrado's post-release supervision. Among other conditions, the circuit court reserved the right to revoke Sobrado's post-release supervision if Sobrado failed to pay restitution to the victims. The circuit court further ordered that during Sobrado's term of post-release supervision, he "shall be transported to the restitution center to successfully complete and pay all cost[s], fines, and restitution."
¶6. On January 16, 2008, Sobrado was reclassified by the MDOC and placed on ERS. As an MDOC inmate, Sobrado was sent to the Hinds County Restitution Center. In February 2008, Sobrado began working at two restaurants. Sobrado was obligated to tender his paychecks to the restitution center, but he failed to tender approximately $2, 800 of his earnings. Sobrado was later transferred to two other restitution centers, where he tendered all of his paychecks to the MDOC. Based on the record, it appears that Sobrado spent seventeen months in various restitution centers. Through June 2009, Sobrado had deposited a total of approximately $9, 200 toward his restitution. After deducting for his room and board and his personal allowance, Sobrado's restitution account contained approximately $4, 200.
¶7. On June 19, 2009, he was fired from his job at Wendy's. Two days later, he was written up for "disobeying a direct order of a[n MDOC] staff member." On June 22, 2009, MDOC Field Officer Fannie Tonth signed a "warrant for [Sobrado's] arrest [for] violation of [his] probation." According to Officer Tonth, Sobrado "violated the terms of [his] order of probation" when he: (a) was fired from his job on June 19, 2009; (b) refused to obey an order to wake up and clean his area on June 21, 2009; and (c) when he requested to sign out of the restitution center on June 22, 2009.
¶8. According to Officer Tonth's violation-report form, the MDOC discharged Sobrado from ERS on June 21, 2009. At that time, Sobrado began his term of post-release supervision. In other words, on June 21, 2009, Sobrado appears to have been officially discharged from his initial ten-year sentence. However, the record does not contain what has been described as a "gold certificate of discharge" from the MDOC.
¶9. On July 7, 2009, the State filed a petition to revoke Sobrado's post-release supervision and impose the suspended portion of the circuit court's sentence. The next day, the circuit court conducted a hearing on the State's petition. Based on Sobrado's allegations that there were discrepancies between his earnings and his deposit account while he was on ERS, the circuit court continued the hearing until September 11, 2009, so Joe Cotton, the MDOC director of accounting, could testify and reconcile the discrepancies. Cotton later testified that the discrepancies were related to the fact that Sobrado simply cashed some of his paychecks during 2008, and he did not tender them to the restitution center.
¶10. Ultimately, the circuit court concluded that Sobrado more likely than not violated the terms of his post-release supervision by failing to abide by the rules of the restitution center. As a result, the circuit court reinstated the fifteen-year portion of Sobrado's suspended sentence. However, the circuit court suspended five years of that sentence and required Sobrado to serve ten more years in MDOC custody, followed by five years of post-release supervision.
¶11. In August 2011, Sobrado filed a PCR motion attacking the validity of the circuit court's revocation of his post-release supervision incident to case number CR02-144. Among other issues, Sobrado claimed the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to revoke his post-release supervision and reinstate the previously suspended portion of his sentence. He also claimed that his post-release supervision was unlawfully revoked. ...