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Jones v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 12, 2019

KUSHAUNTIA JONES A/K/A KUSHAUNTIA LASHONE JONES APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/29/2018

          RANKIN 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 L. GORE

          BEFORE BARNES, C.J., McCARTY AND C. WILSON, JJ.

          C. WILSON, J., FOR THE COURT

         ¶1. 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.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. 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.

         ¶3. 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.

         ¶4. 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.

         ¶5. 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.

         ¶6. 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.[1] 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.

         ¶7. 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 ...


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