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State v. Wheeler

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

April 30, 2015

The State of Washington , Respondent ,
v.
Robert Wheeler , Petitioner. In the Matter of the Personal Restraint of Robert Wheeler , Petitioner

Argued February 26, 2015.

Appeal from Pierce County Superior Court. 05-1-02167-7. Honorable Elizabeth P. Martin.

Jeffrey E. Ellis and B. Renee Alsept (of Law Office of Alsept & Ellis ), for petitioner.

Mark E. Lindquist, Prosecuting Attorney, and Kathleen Proctor, Brian N. Wasankari, and Jason Ruyf, Deputies, for respondent.

AUTHOR: Justice Steven C. González. WE CONCUR: Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen, Justice Charles W. Johnson, Justice Susan Owens, Justice Mary E. Fairhurst, Justice Debra L. Stephens, Justice Charles K. Wiggins, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Justice Mary I. Yu.

OPINION

Page 821

[183 Wn.2d 74] Steven C. González, J.

¶ 1 After his 18th birthday, Robert Wheeler was charged with and pleaded guilty to first degree child rape and first degree child molestation for offenses he committed when he was 13 or 14 years old that came to light when he was 17 and a half. His convictions have been final since 2006.

¶ 2 Wheeler contends we have the authority to, and should, revisit his previously rejected claim that his plea was involuntary because he was misinformed of the maximum sentences for his crimes. He also challenges his convictions as the product of unconstitutional preaccusatorial delay and seeks to avoid the time bar for collateral attack by claiming he has newly discovered evidence that the State delayed filing charges until Wheeler aged out of juvenile court. We reject Wheeler's arguments and affirm the Court of Appeals.

Facts

¶ 3 Between December 2000 and December 2001, when Wheeler was 13 or 14 years old, he sexually abused his 6 or 7 year old twin stepsisters. The abuse came to light in late 2004 when Wheeler was 17 and a half years old. On May 4, 2005, a little more than a month after Wheeler's 18th birthday, the State filed an information charging Wheeler as an adult with first degree child rape and first degree child molestation. The information was originally dated in typeface March 26, 2005--three days before Wheeler's 18th [183 Wn.2d 75] birthday--but that date was changed in handwriting to May 4, 2005.

¶ 4 The parties negotiated a plea agreement. Wheeler pleaded guilty to the offenses as charged and was sentenced under the special sex offender sentencing alternative (SSOSA), RCW 9.94A.670, on April 17, 2006. Our legislature created the SSOSA program to give certain first time sex offenders the opportunity, and incentive, to receive sex offender treatment. See State v. Pannell, 173 Wn.2d 222, 227, 267 P.3d 349 (2011). Offenders who successfully complete the program can have all or some of their sentences suspended. Id. First degree child rape and first degree child molestation are class A felonies subject to a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $ 50,000 fine. RCW 9A.44.073(2), .083(2); RCW 9A.20.021(1)(a). Wheeler's plea statement correctly recited the maximum life sentence for each count once but also erroneously listed the maximum sentence as 20 years on each count. The judgment and sentence also incorrectly stated the maximum sentences.

Page 822

The court imposed standard range sentences of 131.75 months of confinement on count I and 89 months of confinement on count II (to run concurrently) but suspended the sentences in accordance with the SSOSA. Wheeler did not appeal. His judgment and sentence became final when it was ...


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