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People v. Blount

July 14, 2009

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
TREVESIA MICHELLE BLOUNT, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Peter C. Deddeh, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. SCD200420).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irion, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Trevesia Michelle Blount pleaded guilty to one count of felony child neglect (Pen. Code, § 273a, subd. (a))*fn1 and admitted an allegation that she personally inflicted great bodily injury on a child under the age of five years in the commission of a felony or attempted felony (§ 12022.7. subd. (d)). As part of the plea, the district attorney dismissed a number of charges, including a first degree murder charge, and agreed to a stipulated sentence of 12 years in prison. The trial court imposed the stipulated sentence.

After Blount's boyfriend and co-defendant, Rodney Jeffcoat, was acquitted of the more serious charges against him at trial and was sentenced to less than six years in prison, Blount moved to recall her sentence. (See People v. Jeffcoat (Jan. 14, 2009, D052250) [nonpub. opn.] (Jeffcoat);*fn2 § 1170.) The trial court held a hearing on the motion. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court concluded that it did not have the authority to alter the terms of the parties' plea bargain and impose something less than the stipulated 12-year sentence. Consequently, the court left Blount's sentence unchanged.

Blount appeals. She contends that the trial court had the discretion to impose a sentence lower than 12 years and asks that we remand the case for the trial court to exercise that discretion. As we conclude that the trial court was correct that it could not impose a sentence other than the 12-year stipulated term agreed to by the parties, we reject this contention and affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 23, 2006, Blount and Jeffcoat drove Blount's two-year-old daughter Kenvesia to Kaiser Hospital in San Diego. Hospital staff determined that Kenvesia was dead. After an autopsy revealed that Kenvesia had suffered from burns and severe physical beatings, Blount and Jeffcoat were charged with a series of felony offenses, including first degree murder (§ 187) and assault on a child with force likely to produce great bodily injury resulting in death (§ 273a, subd. (b)). (See Jeffcoat, supra, D052250.)

On September 10, 2007, Blount entered a negotiated guilty plea. At a hearing on the plea, the trial court recited the terms of the parties' agreement as follows:

"In exchange for your guilty plea, the D.A.'s office will dismiss the balance of the charges against you. You and the D.A.'s office agree that you're going to get 12 years in state prison, 6 years on the [section ]273a[, subdivision ](a), plus 6 years consecutive on the [section ]12022.7[, subdivision ](d). And you also agree to testify truthfully if you're called as a prosecution witness."

The trial court asked Blount if that was her "understanding of your agreement"; Blount responded, "Yes." A plea form signed by Blount states these same terms of the agreement. The court accepted the plea and set a date for sentencing.

After Blount entered her plea, but before her sentencing, Jeffcoat was tried on charges of murder, assault on a child by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury resulting in death and conspiracy to obstruct justice. (Jeffcoat, supra, D052250.) At the conclusion of the trial, the jury acquitted on the first two counts, finding Jeffcoat guilty only of certain lesser included offenses. The trial court sentenced Jeffcoat to five years eight months in prison. (Jeffcoat, supra, D052250.)

At Blount's sentencing hearing, the trial court noted that Jeffcoat received an "appreciably lesser" sentence than the sentence stipulated in Blount's plea agreement.*fn3 The court then asked if Blount desired to withdraw her plea. Blount's counsel stated that she did not. The court, stating "I don't think I have the authority . . . to do anything but follow this plea agreement," then sentenced Blount to 12 years in prison. The court also issued a certificate of probable cause allowing Blount to appeal. (§ 1237.5.)

Prior to her appeal, Blount's appellate counsel moved to recall the sentence under section 1170, arguing that the court did have the legal authority to sentence Blount to a reduced sentence. The trial court held a hearing on the motion. During the hearing, Blount's counsel again emphasized, "She's not asking to withdraw any plea," but rather Blount was requesting to be sentenced under the existing plea agreement to a lesser term. The deputy district attorney argued that the trial court was bound by the terms of the plea.

After hearing the arguments, the trial court agreed with the prosecution that it was bound by the terms of the plea and could not impose a sentence lower than 12 years. The court explained that "the conditions of the plea bargain" include "a stipulated sentence" and, ...


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