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State v. Cater

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

March 16, 2015

The State of Washington, Respondent
v.
Gregory James Cater, Appellant

Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 1-89464. Superior Court Judge Signing: Hon. Francis Holman. Date filed in Superior Court: May 25, 1979.

Maureen M. Cyr (of Washington Appellate Project ), for appellant.

Daniel T. Satterberg, Prosecuting Attorney, and Leah Taguba and Deborah A. Dwyer, Deputies, for respondent.

Written by: Judge Schindler. Concurred by: Chief Judge Spearman, Judge Leach.

OPINION

Page 844

Schindler, J.

[186 Wn.App. 385] [¶1] On July 29, 2013, Gregory James Cater filed a motion to enlarge time to file a notice of appeal of his 1979 plea of guilty to arson in the first degree and the " Order Deferring Imposition of Sentence (Probation)." Cater asserts that because he was misadvised about the scope of his limited right to appeal a guilty plea, he did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive his constitutional right to appeal. The State concedes the 1979 plea agreement did not expressly state Cater had the right to appeal a guilty plea on limited grounds but asserts the record establishes Cater waived his right to appeal. Because the circumstances demonstrate Cater waived his right to appeal, we deny the motion to enlarge time.

[186 Wn.App. 386]1979 Arson in the First Degree Conviction

[¶2] On March 1, 1979, a Seattle police officer responded to the report of an auto theft at an apartment building located on Empire Way South. The officer met with Clara Lewis and her boyfriend, Gregory James Cater, at Lewis's apartment. Lewis accused Cater of stealing her car. The officer and Lewis left the apartment to retrieve the car. When Lewis and the officer returned five to seven minutes later, Cater was gone and two fires were burning in Lewis's apartment. Other residents of the apartment units were at home at the time.

[¶3] The police arrested Cater later that day. Following Miranda [1] warnings, Cater admitted that he set the fires in Lewis's apartment.

[¶4] On March 7, the State charged Cater with arson in the first degree, a class A felony with a maximum term of life in prison, in violation of former RCW 9A.48.020(1)(a), (b), and (c) (1975).[2] An attorney was appointed to represent Cater.

[¶5] On April 9, Cater agreed to plead guilty as charged. In exchange, the State agreed to recommend a deferred sentence. In the " Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty," Cater acknowledged that he was pleading guilty to arson in the first degree " as charged in the information, a copy of which I have received," that the State would recommend a deferred sentence with conditions, that he had read the Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty and had " no [186 Wn.App. 387] further questions to ask of the court," and that he was " freely and voluntarily" pleading guilty to arson in the first degree " as charged." The Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty states that by entering a plea of guilty, Cater

Page 845

agreed to waive a number of rights, including the right to appeal " any finding of guilty and the sentence."

[¶6] Cater signed the Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty dated April 9, 1979 " in open court in the presence of his attorney." King County Superior Court Judge Frank Eberharter accepted the plea as knowing, intelligent, and voluntary, and found Cater guilty as charged of arson in the first degree.

[¶7] At the sentencing hearing on May 25, King County Superior Court Judge Francis Holman imposed a deferred sentence on condition Cater serve 90 days in jail but suspended the 90-day sentence subject to several conditions, including " full employment or training" and " continu[ing] alcohol and mental health counseling." Cater did not file an appeal.

[¶8] Cater did not comply with the conditions of the deferred sentence. On March 22, 1985, the court ordered Cater to serve six months in the King County jail and terminated probation " upon [Cater's] release from custody."

1989 Arson in the First Degree and Murder in the First Degree Convictions

[¶9] In 1988, Cater lived with his girlfriend, Margaret Susan Morris, and her 13-year-old son in a basement apartment of a house. At approximately 12:30 p.m. on August 6, 1988, firefighters responded to a fire at the house. Before the firefighters arrived, a neighbor entered the basement apartment and found Morris " engulfed in flames." The neighbor was able to carry Morris out of the ...


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