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People v. Betances

Supreme Court of New York, Third Department

January 9, 2020

The People of the State of New York, Respondent,
v.
Joshua Betances, Appellant.

          Calendar Date December 17, 2019

          Thomas H. Kheel, Ithaca, for appellant.

          Matthew Van Houten, District Attorney, Ithaca (Andrew J. Bonavia of counsel), for respondent.

          Before: Lynch, J.P., Clark, Mulvey, Devine and Reynolds Fitzgerald, JJ.

          Clark, J.

         Appeal, by permission, from an order of the County Court of Tompkins County (Rowley, J.), entered December 27, 2018, which denied defendant's motion pursuant to CPL 440.10 to vacate the judgment revoking defendant's probation and imposing a sentence of imprisonment, without a hearing.

         In 2013, defendant pleaded guilty to attempted rape in the second degree, was reportedly sentenced to six months in jail and 10 years of probation and was classified as a risk level three sex offender (see Correction Law art 6-C). [1] In July 2014, defendant was charged with violating the conditions of his probation in several respects, including by being in the presence of a girl who was under the age of 17. [2] Defendant thereafter made an admission to violating a condition of his probation. Consequently, defendant's probation was revoked and he was resentenced to a prison term of two years, to be followed by 10 years of postrelease supervision (hereinafter PRS), with credit for time served. Defendant did not appeal from the judgment revoking his probation and resentencing him. [3] Nearly four years later, in 2018, he moved pursuant to CPL 440.10 to vacate that judgment, contending that he had been denied the effective assistance of counsel in connection with his admission to violating probation (see CPL 440.10 [1] [h]). County Court denied the motion in a written order, without a hearing.

         Defendant's argument that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel is premised on the claim that he was incorrectly advised by his trial counsel that the sentence of two years in prison with 10 years of PRS, the sentence ultimately imposed by County Court, was the minimum permissible sentence for attempted rape in the second degree. Defendant contends that because this was not the minimum sentence, [4] this misadvice regarding the potential sentence rendered his admission to violating probation involuntary. Initially, defendant's allegations were properly raised in this CPL 440.10 motion because they rely on matters outside the record concerning what counsel advised him (see People v Reynoso, 88 A.D.3d 1162, 1162-1163 [2011]; compare CPL 440.10 [2] [c]). However, we find that defendant's motion to vacate was properly denied.

         A court may deny a CPL 440.10 motion without a hearing if "[a]n allegation of fact essential to support the motion... is contradicted by a court record..., or is made solely by the defendant and is unsupported by any other affidavit or evidence, and... there is no reasonable possibility that such allegation is true" (CPL 440.30 [4] [d]). The transcript of the allocution reflects that County Court clearly informed defendant that, if he admitted violating probation, it would "cap" the sentence at two years, to be followed by 10 years of PRS. The court then advised defendant that this was the "maximum" sentence he would face upon his admission, and that the ultimate sentence would be based upon the updated presentence report and the arguments of counsel. At sentencing, the court imposed that sentence and, thus, the sentence did not exceed the promised cap. [5]

         The motion to vacate was properly denied without a hearing as the allegation central to the motion regarding trial counsel's misadvice was made "solely by the defendant and is unsupported by any other affidavit or evidence" and, in view of the court record, "there is no reasonable possibility that such allegation is true" (CPL 440.30 [4] [d]). Defendant did not submit an affidavit from trial counsel or provide any explanation for its absence (see generally People v Wright, 27 N.Y.3d 516, 522 [2016]). Moreover, given that defendant was advised, on the record prior to his admission, that the potential sentence was the maximum one that he could receive, his allegation that trial counsel had misadvised him prior to his admission that this was the minimum sentence is inconsistent with the court record (see CPL 440.30 [4] [d]). [6] Under these circumstances, County Court's denial of the motion without a hearing was not an abuse of discretion (see People v Wright, 27 N.Y.3d at 520; People v Howe, 150 A.D.3d 1321, 1322 [2017]).

          Lynch, J.P., Mulvey, Devine and Reynolds Fitzgerald, JJ., concur.

         ORDERED that the order is affirmed.

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