MOUNT VERNON — The Fifth District Appellate Court has overturned a St. Clair County Circuit Court decision to deny a man convicted of armed robbery the chance to remove his plea.
Judge Richard P. Goldenhersh delivered the opinion and noted that although the judges only reviewed whether denying Gabriel Boyd’s motion to remove his plea was an abuse of its discretion, “(r)egardless of what standard we apply, we find defendant’s plea counsel was ineffective." Judges John B. Barberis and Melissa Chapman concurred in the decision.
Boyd pleaded guilty to armed robbery in May 2014, which is a Class X felony, according to background information in the ruling. Boyd received a sentence of 18 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections and three years mandatory supervised release. One month later, in June 2014, Boyd filed a pro se motion claiming that his sentence was excessive and that his counsel had been ineffective. A public defender was assigned to Boyd, and in September 2014 Boyd’s defender filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
Boyd claimed that his guilty plea was not voluntary because his counsel made promises that his sentence would be reduced if he enrolled in programs that give inmates credit for time served and for good behavior, according to the ruling. Boyd claimed that the attorney mentioned a six-month initial credit for good behavior and a day-for-day program that could substantially reduce his sentence, as well as educational programs that would be applied to his sentence as credit. Boyd claims that he learned after in the Department of Corrections that Class X felonies were not eligible for the sentence reduction programs and had he known he wouldn’t have been eligible for these programs, he may not have entered a guilty plea, information in the ruling stated.
Goldenhersh wrote in the opinion that Boyd “was statutorily ineligible for such credit due to the offense to which he pled guilty,” calling Boyd’s plea counsel’s performance “deficient.”
The circuit court denied Boyd’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea, finding that his plea was voluntary “no improper promises relating to good time credit or any other matter were made to defendant that caused him to enter guilty plea,” according to information in the ruling. Boyd appealed.
Goldenhersh noted that the plea counsel’s testimony in the hearing proved that Boyd had been given misinformation that led to his guilty plea and found that the “plea of guilty was not truly knowing and voluntary.”
The appellate court ruling reversed the circuit court’s “order denying defendant’s motion to withdraw plea of guilty, vacate defendant’s conviction and sentence, and remand this cause with directions to allow defendant to plead anew."