OF JUDGMENT: 05/29/2018
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. WILLIAM E. CHAPMAN III TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT SANFORD E. KNOTT
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY BILLY
BARNES, C.J., McCARTY AND C. WILSON, JJ.
WILSON, J., FOR THE COURT
Kashuantia Jones appeals the Rankin County Circuit
Court's denial of her motion for post-conviction relief
(PCR). After consideration of the issues raised by Jones, we
find no error and affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On December 15, 2015, a Rankin County grand jury indicted
Jones on multiple charges: five counts of tax evasion, five
counts of fraudulent representation, and one count of
computer fraud, in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated
sections 27-3-79 (Rev. 2010), 97-7-10 (Rev. 2006), and
97-45-3 (Supp. 2013). Jones qualified for court-appointed
counsel, and the court appointed Dawn Mapp and Darla Palmer
to represent Jones.
The parties had a settlement conference on June 20, 2016. The
next day, June 21, 2016, the State sent Mapp a plea offer,
recommending "five years to serve" concurrent on
Counts IV and V (tax evasion) and Count XI (computer fraud),
with five additional years suspended. The plea negotiations
deadline was set for June 24, 2016. Mapp relayed the plea
offer to Jones.
A few days after Mapp received the plea offer, either June 23
or June 24, 2016, Mapp and Jones briefly met again at
Mapp's office. Mapp had to leave for court for another
client, but she instructed Jones to stay at her (Mapp's)
office and review discovery materials on her computer. Mapp
testified that before she left, she and Jones reviewed the
allegations against Jones, possible defenses, and the plea
offer, but Jones was adamant about not pleading guilty. Jones
admits that she was placed at Mapp's computer to review
discovery materials, but she disputes that she and Mapp
discussed the discovery or the plea offer in detail.
The following Monday, June 27, 2016, Jones and Mapp appeared
before the circuit judge for Jones's pretrial conference.
The State placed the plea offer that was made and rejected by
Jones in the record. Jones and Mapp stated on the record that
the offer was communicated to Jones prior to the guilty-plea
deadline and that Jones chose to reject the offer and proceed
to trial. The court then set trial dates. By this time, the
relationship between Mapp and Jones had deteriorated. Mapp
stated that there was a "breakdown in communication
between [her and Jones.]" Nonetheless, Mapp and Palmer
remained counsel of record.
Trial began on September 27, 2016. After the State rested its
case-in-chief, Jones decided not to call any witnesses.
Instead, Jones entered open guilty pleas on Counts IV and V
(tax evasion) and Count XI (computer fraud). The court
questioned Jones extensively, and in response, Jones
acknowledged that she understood her rights and was satisfied
with her counsel's representation. From the record, it is
unclear whether Jones indicated satisfaction with both Mapp
and Palmer's representation or simply Palmer's
representation. Regardless, Jones raised no issue with
either attorney's representation and indicated that she
fully understood the import of her guilty pleas. The court
accepted Jones's guilty pleas, finding that
"[Jones's] plea of guilty [was] freely, voluntarily,
knowingly and intelligently made and entered, and further
[that] it [had] a factual basis." The court sentenced
Jones to serve twenty years on November 7, 2016: five years
each on Counts IV and V (tax evasion) and ten years on Count
XI (computer fraud), with each sentence to run consecutively.
On June 19, 2017, Jones filed a PCR motion, alleging that she
had received ineffective assistance of counsel during plea
negotiations. The circuit court directed the State to respond
to Jones's PCR motion, and the State complied. The
circuit court conducted an initial hearing on Jones's
motion on March 7, 2018. During the hearing, the judge, who
had also presided over Jones's trial and accepted her
open guilty pleas, affirmatively stated that he would not
have accepted the initial "five years to serve"
plea agreement offered by the State and rejected by Jones in
June 2016. The judge also stated that he ...