Appeal from the Order Entered April 9, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-38-CR-0000309-2010
BEFORE: MUNDY, J., WECHT, J., and FITZGERALD, J. [*]
The Commonwealth appeals from the April 9, 2013 order granting Appellee, Miguel Angel Landrau-Melendez's petition for relief filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9541-9546. After careful review, we reverse.
The PCRA court summarized the relevant facts and procedural history of this case as follows.
In 2010, [Appellee] was charged with numerous sexually-related offenses stemming from incidents involving two sisters that occurred between November 1, 2009 and February 3, 2010. During the pendency of the charges, [Appellee] hired Attorney John Kelsey, Esquire [(Attorney Kelsey)] to represent him. After pretrial maneuvering, [Appellee]'s case was ultimately scheduled for a trial the October 2010 term of [c]riminal [c]ourt.
A jury was scheduled to be selected in [Appellee]'s case on October 4, 2010. Immediately before jury selection, both counsel asked to meet with [the trial c]ourt in chambers. This meeting was not recorded, and a difference of opinion now exists with respect to what occurred at it. [Attorney Kelsey] testified at [Appellee]'s PCRA hearing that [the trial court] promised that he would not impose a sentence that exceeded a one-year minimum. This d[id] not at all comport with the recollection of [the trial court]. According to testimony at the PCRA hearing, [Attorney Kelsey] returned to [Appellee] following the meeting in chambers. [Attorney Kelsey] then led [Appellee] to believe that [the trial court] would impose a one[-]year minimum sentence. [Attorney Kelsey] even advised [Appellee] that there was a possibility that the sentence could be served in the Lebanon County Correctional Facility instead of a state correctional [f]acility when in fact there was no realistic possibility that a local sentence would ever be imposed.
[Appellee] decided to enter a plea of guilty. During the guilty plea colloquy, [the trial court] emphasized that the plea was an open one and that [Appellee] could be sentenced to anything up to the maximum penalty permitted by law. In addition, [the trial court] reminded [Appellee] that he was entering a plea of guilty on the first day of a scheduled jury trial. Because of the prejudice that would be created to the Commonwealth and its witnesses that would flow from renewed preparation and trial at a later date, [Appellee] was advised up front that a plea withdrawal at a later date would be extremely unlikely to occur. Effectively, [Appellee] was advised that his decision to plead guilty would be a final decision. Despite knowing this, [Appellee] proceeded to proffer his open plea of guilty.
Several days following the plea, [Appellee] contacted [Attorney Kelsey] in order to request that a [m]otion to [w]ithdraw [his g]uilty [p]lea be filed. [Attorney Kelsey] acknowledged that [Appellee] had requested to withdraw his plea. [Attorney Kelsey] reminded [Appellee] of the colloquy conducted in court with [the trial court]. [Attorney Kelsey] indicated to [Appellee] that he would not be permitted to withdraw his plea of guilty. Therefore, no [m]otion to [w]ithdraw [the guilty p]lea was filed.
Following Megan's Law litigation, [Appellee] was directed to appear for sentencing. At [Appellee]'s sentencing date, he requested permission to withdraw his plea of guilty. [The trial court] afforded the Commonwealth time to discern whether it would suffer prejudice as a result of [Appellee]'s withdrawal of this plea. On June 27, 2011, [the trial court] conducted a hearing. For multiple reasons, [the trial court] determined that [Appellee] should not have been permitted to withdraw his plea of guilty. [The trial court] therefore denied [Appellee]'s request to withdraw his plea.
PCRA Court Opinion, 6/25/13, at 2-4.
On July 13, 2011, the trial court sentenced Appellee to 18 to 72 months' imprisonment. Appellee filed a timely notice of appeal, and this Court affirmed the judgment of sentence on July 31, 2012. Commonwealth v. Landrau-Melendez, 55 A.3d 152 (Pa.Super. 2012) (unpublished memorandum). Appellee did not file a petition for allowance of appeal with our Supreme Court.
On October 12, 2012, Appellee filed a timely counseled PCRA petition. The Commonwealth filed its answer on December 3, 2012. The PCRA court conducted a hearing on April 8, 2013. On April 9, 2013, the PCRA court entered an order granting Appellee's petition and ordering a new ...