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State v. Ledbetter

Supreme Court of South Dakota

November 28, 2018

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
ANTONIO D. LEDBETTER, Defendant and Appellant.

          ARGUED ON OCTOBER 3, 2018

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT LINCOLN COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE DOUGLAS E. HOFFMAN JUDGE

          DAVID A. STUART Peterson, Stuart, Rumpca & Rasmussen, Prof. LLC Attorneys for defendant Beresford, South Dakota and appellant.

          MARTY J. JACKLEY Attorney General

          PATRICIA ARCHER Assistant Attorney General Attorneys for plaintiff Pierre, South Dakota and appellee.

          JENSEN, JUSTICE

         [¶1.] Antonio Ledbetter appeals from three consecutive fifteen-year sentences handed down by the circuit court after Ledbetter pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault. Ledbetter claims that the circuit court erred by failing to follow the terms of a plea agreement that limited the maximum prison term on each count of aggravated assault to ten years. Because the plea agreement was not binding on the circuit court, we affirm the sentences.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2.] In the fall of 2016, Sara Inboden broke off a romantic relationship with Ledbetter. However, Inboden maintained contact with Ledbetter because she had become pregnant with his child.

         [¶3.] On October 11, 2016, Ledbetter insisted on visiting Inboden. Inboden hesitantly agreed. After arriving at Inboden's apartment, Ledbetter demanded to be involved in her evening plans. When Inboden refused, he punched her in the face. Ledbetter continued to strike Inboden and slammed her head onto the floor, knocking her unconscious. While unconscious, Ledbetter cut off Inboden's nipple on her right breast with a pair of scissors. After Inboden regained consciousness, Ledbetter attacked her again, cutting off the nipple on her left breast and choking her until she passed out a second time. Inboden regained consciousness and escaped the apartment. Inboden suffered multiple injuries from the attack and required reconstructive surgery to repair the disfiguring injuries to her breasts.

         [¶4.] Ledbetter was indicted on one count of aggravated kidnapping and eight counts of aggravated assault. The court appointed counsel to represent Ledbetter and he pleaded not guilty to all charges. A jury trial was scheduled for January 31, 2017. After issues developed in the attorney-client relationship between Ledbetter and his court-appointed counsel, the circuit court appointed co-counsel to assist in Ledbetter's defense. The start of trial was delayed to August 29, 2017 on Ledbetter's motion.

         [¶5.] On August 14, 2017, Ledbetter's counsel emailed the circuit court requesting an informal meeting to discuss a plea agreement negotiated between the parties. Defense counsel's stated purpose for the meeting was to determine if the plea agreement would be acceptable to the court. The meeting with the court took place the next day in chambers with the prosecuting attorney and defense counsel. The meeting occurred off the record, but Ledbetter claims that the terms of the plea agreement were explained and the court orally stated the plea agreement was acceptable. Following the meeting, Ledbetter's attorney drafted a written Petition to Plead Guilty and Statement of Factual Basis (Petition), which included the terms of the plea agreement. Ledbetter signed the Petition on August 16, 2017.

         [¶6.] Two days later Ledbetter appeared at a change of plea hearing. The Petition was presented to the circuit court and described the plea agreement as follows:

[Ledbetter] has accepted the terms of the plea agreement negotiated between his attorneys and the State. The terms of such plea agreement call for a plea of guilty to Counts [three], [six], and [eight] of the Indictment filed on October 17, 2016. In return for such pleas of guilty, the State has agreed to cap its argument for actual penitentiary time to [thirty] years. However, the State may request additional suspended prison time in addition to the [thirty] years actual. Lastly, Defense is not able to argue for any actual time less than [eighteen] ...

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