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People v. Cantu

April 6, 2010

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
CHRISTOPHER JAMES CANTU, DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County. Graham Anderson Cribbs, Judge. Reversed. (Super.Ct.No. INF065430).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McKinster Acting P.J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

The People appeal from a judgment claiming that the court erred in enforcing a plea agreement that they had entered into, but from which they withdrew before defendant Christopher James Cantu pled guilty in open court. We find the court erred in enforcing the plea bargain and reverse the judgment.

FACTS*fn1

The facts are irrelevant to the issue on appeal; consequently, we state them in abbreviated fashion.

Defendant and the victim were in a dating relationship. On Sunday, April 19, 2009, defendant was drinking and in an irritable mood. He apparently believed that the victim was looking at another male while they attended a poolside picnic at her apartment complex. She returned to her apartment to avoid a conflict. Shortly thereafter, defendant went to the victim's apartment where he accused the victim of cheating on him. Defendant began punching her in the arms and then in the mouth causing it to bleed.

PROCEDURAL FACTS

A felony complaint charged defendant with one count of infliction of corporal punishment upon a cohabitant pursuant to Penal Code section 273.5, subdivision (a).*fn2 The complaint further alleged that defendant had been convicted of a strike prior (§§ 667, subds. (c) & (e)(1), 1170.12, subd. (c)(1)) and had served three prior prison terms (§ 667.5, subd. (b)).

At defendant's arraignment, the case was set for a settlement conference and for preliminary hearing two days later.

At the settlement conference the deputy district attorney (deputy) conveyed an offer which was rejected. Defendant made a counteroffer which the deputy accepted. The offer, among other things, provided for a prison term of three years eight months on a plea to a new count 2 alleging a violation of section 236.

A plea bargain form setting forth the agreement was signed by defendant, his attorney and the deputy. That plea form was submitted to the court. During a break in the proceedings and before defendant entered any plea, the deputy contacted the victim. During the conversation with her, he received new information that the victim had lost two upper teeth and had cracked lower teeth. She had medical bills in excess of $4,000, and she was not in accord with the plea agreement.

The deputy then contacted his supervisor to discuss the case. The supervisor decided that the People would not go forward with the negotiated agreement. The People wanted a longer prison sentence.

Thereafter, the deputy met with defendant's attorney and the judge in chambers to inform them that the People were withdrawing from the plea bargain. The court set the matter over one week so that the parties could brief ...


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