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Date: 01-18-2021

Case Style:

State of Ohio v. Leo Buggs

Case Number: 20CA3913

Judge: Mike Hess


Plaintiff's Attorney: Shane A. Tieman, Scioto County Prosecuting Attorney, and Jay Willis, Scioto County
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

Defendant's Attorney:

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Circleville, Ohio - Criminal defense attorney represented Leo Buggs with one count of having weapons while under disability.

In May 2019, Buggs was charged via complaint in Portsmouth Municipal
Court case number CRA 1900700C with one count of having weapons while under
disability. The municipal court found probable cause for the charge and bound the
matter over to the Scioto County grand jury, which indicted Buggs in the common pleas
court on two counts of aggravated burglary with firearm specifications, two counts of
having weapons while under disability, and one count of felonious assault. Buggs
pleaded not guilty, and in March 2020, he moved for discharge on speedy trial grounds.
The trial court ordered the parties to file briefs on or before March 27, 2020, and
scheduled a non-oral hearing on the motion for March 30, 2020.
{¶3} However, at a March 20, 2020 hearing, the court explained that Buggs
wanted to enter a new plea to one count of having weapons while under disability and
“[t]hat we are going to reserve his right to appeal on the issue of speedy trial only.”
During the hearing, defense counsel stated that “if Your Honor would go on record for
Mr. Buggs as overruling the motion for discharge that would preserve that as the Court
has indicated it wanted to do for appeal.” Defense counsel also noted that there had
been a discussion in chambers about Buggs “entering a no contest plea and the
Court—and I discussed with him that the only advantage to a no contest plea was if a
civil case would be filed and he is prepared to go forward with the guilty plea.” The
court overruled the motion for discharge on speedy trial grounds and conducted a plea
colloquy. The court asked Buggs: “Has anyone promised you anything, threatened you
or made any inducements to you whatsoever which has caused you to come in here,
waive your Constitutional rights and enter a plea other than what we have put here on
Scioto App. No. 20CA3913 3
the record today?” Buggs responded, “Nah, as long as I can appeal these motions right
here in my hand.” The court said, “Now wait a minute, I am having trouble hearing you.”
Buggs responded, “I said as long as I can appeal these motions that you denied that is
[sic] in my hand right here, and I can get 18 months with that credit, I don’t care how you
do it.” The court said, “All right. Yeah, okay,” and continued with the colloquy.
{¶4} Buggs pleaded guilty to one count of having weapons while under
disability, and the court accepted the plea, found him guilty, sentenced him, noted that
“we will need to put this in the entry that defendant reserves the right to appeal the
speedy trial issues that were overruled by the Court,” and told Buggs it would appoint
counsel to represent him “for the whole purpose of appealing the speedy trial * * *
denial.” Subsequently, the court issued a judgment entry finding Buggs guilty of one
count of having weapons while under disability based on his guilty plea, imposing an
agreed sentence of 18 months in prison, dismissing the remaining charges, and stating
in bold print: “The Court further finds that the defendant reserves the right to appeal
speedy trial issues that were overruled by this Court.”
{¶5} Buggs assigns the following errors for our review:
1. Appellant did not knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily enter a guilty
plea, in violation of his due process rights under the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Section
Sixteen, Article One of the Ohio Constitution.
2. Appellant’s trial counsels were ineffective in their representation of the
3. Appellant was denied his right to a speedy trial pursuant to R.C.
2945.71 and R.C. 2945.73; the Sixth Amendment to the United States
Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution.
Scioto App. No. 20CA3913 4
{¶6} In the first assignment of error, Buggs contends that his guilty plea was
not knowing, intelligent, or voluntary. Buggs asserts that his “right to appeal the violation
of his speedy trial rights was not correctly explained to him and the Court incorrectly
assured him that his appellate rights were preserved” by a guilty plea. Buggs maintains
that he suffered prejudice because “but for the trial court’s incorrect statements of law
concerning his appellate rights, [he] would not have entered a guilty plea in this matter.”
The state contends that Buggs entered an Alford plea which preserved his right to
appellate review on the limited issue of whether a speedy trial violation had occurred.
{¶7} “ ‘When a defendant enters a plea in a criminal case, the plea must be
made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. Failure on any of those points renders
enforcement of the plea unconstitutional under both the United States Constitution and
the Ohio Constitution.’ ” State v. Veney, 120 Ohio St.3d 176, 2008-Ohio-5200, 897
N.E.2d 621, ¶ 7, quoting State v. Engle, 74 Ohio St.3d 525, 527, 660 N.E.2d 450
(1996). “In determining whether a guilty or no contest plea was entered knowingly,
intelligently, and voluntarily, an appellate court examines the totality of the
circumstances through a de novo review of the record to ensure that the trial court
complied with constitutional and procedural safeguards.” State v. Willison, 4th Dist.
Athens No. 18CA18, 2019-Ohio-220, ¶ 11.
{¶8} “The plea of guilty is a complete admission of the defendant’s guilt.”
Crim.R. 11(B)(1). A guilty plea forfeits “the right to challenge both constitutional and
statutory speedy-trial violations.” State v. Shaffer, 4th Dist. Lawrence No. 14CA15,
2014-Ohio-4976, ¶ 19, citing State v. Dickens, 4th Dist. Meigs No. 05CA14, 2006-Ohio-
Scioto App. No. 20CA3913 5
4920, ¶ 6. A no contest plea “is not an admission of defendant’s guilt, but is an
admission of the truth of the facts alleged in the indictment * * *.” Crim.R. 11(B)(2). A
no contest plea “does not preclude a defendant from asserting upon appeal that the trial
court prejudicially erred in ruling on a pretrial motion,” Crim.R. 12(I), such as a motion to
dismiss on speedy trial grounds, State v. Luna, 2 Ohio St.3d 57, 57-58, 442 N.E.2d
1284 (1982).
{¶9} Buggs entered a guilty plea rather than a no contest plea, so contrary to
the statements of the trial court and the intent of Buggs, he forfeited his right to appeal
the denial of his motion for discharge on speedy trial grounds. The state’s contention
that Buggs entered an Alford plea that preserved his right to appeal that ruling is not
well taken. “North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970),
provides a method by which a defendant is able to maintain his factual innocence yet
enter a plea of guilty.” State v. Shifflet, 2015-Ohio-4250, 44 N.E.3d 966, ¶ 24 (4th
Dist.). Buggs did not enter an Alford plea because his guilty plea was not accompanied
by a protestation of innocence. Even if Buggs had entered an Alford plea of guilty, the
state cites no legal authority for the proposition that a defendant who enters such a plea
may reserve the right to appeal an issue ordinarily forfeited by a guilty plea.
{¶10} “Ohio courts, including the Supreme Court of Ohio, ‘have held that a plea
is not entered knowingly and intelligently where it is premised on the mistaken
impression that a trial court’s decision is appealable.’ ” State v. Lask, 4th Dist. Adams
No. 18CA1081, 2019-Ohio-2753, ¶ 9, quoting State v. Felts, 4th Dist. Ross No.
13CA3407, 2014-Ohio-2378, ¶ 19, citing Engle, 74 Ohio St.3d at 527-528, 660 N.E.2d
450; State v. Brown, 9th Dist. Summit No. 25103, 2010-Ohio-3387, ¶ 8. In Engle, the
Scioto App. No. 20CA3913 6
Supreme Court of Ohio held that a no contest plea was not knowing and intelligent
because the record reflected that “all the parties, including the judge and the prosecutor,
shared the impression that [the defendant] could appeal rulings other than a pretrial
motion,” and the defendant entered the plea based “on a belief that she could appeal
the trial court’s rulings that her counsel believed had stripped her of any meaningful
defense.” Engle at 527-528. In Lask, we recently held that a guilty plea was not
knowing and intelligent because the defendant entered it based on incorrect information
about his right to appeal a suppression decision. Lask at ¶ 2.
{¶11} Like the defendants in Engle and Lask, Buggs entered his plea based on
incorrect information about his appellate rights; therefore, we conclude his plea was not
made knowingly or intelligently. We sustain the first assignment of error and reverse
the trial court’s judgment. We remand to the trial court to allow Buggs to withdraw his
guilty plea and enter a new plea in accordance with Crim.R. 11 and to conduct further
proceedings consistent with this opinion. This decision renders moot the remaining
assignments of error, so we need not address them.

Outcome: It is ordered that the JUDGMENT IS REVERSED and that the CAUSE IS REMANDED. Appellee shall pay the costs.

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