The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the decision to deny a man’s request for post-conviction relief, finding that although his attorney’s performance was deficient for not investigating whether a previous conviction attributed to the defendant was really his, the man couldn’t show he was prejudiced.
Brian Roberts was charged with burglary and theft, and the state filed a motion to add an allegation that Roberts was a habitual offender. The motion included a 1996 burglary conviction that belonged to another Brian Roberts. Roberts told his attorney that the 1996 conviction wasn’t his, but the attorney never investigated the matter.
As part of a plea agreement to Class B felony burglary and Class D felony theft, Roberts’ attorney and the state agreed the state wouldn’t pursue the motion to amend the charging information to add the habitual offender allegation in exchange for Roberts’ guilty plea. There was no written plea agreement presented to the court. Before he was sentenced, Roberts tried to have the guilty plea withdrawn, but the motion was denied and he was sentenced to 20 years with five years suspended.
His sentence was upheld on direct appeal, so Roberts filed a motion for post-conviction relief, claiming that he was told if he didn’t plead guilty, he’d face a 30-year sentence for the habitual offender enhancement. The post-conviction court denied his motion for relief.
In Brian Roberts v. State of Indiana, No. 24A04-1011-PC-726, the Court of Appeals affirmed that Roberts’ plea was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. He knew the 1996 conviction wasn’t his, so he didn’t believe he was eligible for the enhancement. Therefore, the state’s threat to pursue the amendment to add the habitual offender count couldn’t have been his main motivation to plead guilty, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.
His trial counsel should have investigated whether the 1996 conviction was not Roberts’, but that failure wasn’t so material to his decision to plea guilty because he knew that he was not a habitual offender, the judge continued. Roberts’ attorney was also arguably deficient by allowing Roberts to plead guilty without a written plea agreement, but Roberts didn’t establish prejudice due to his attorney’s deficient performance.