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McKeever v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

November 15, 2019



          McFadden, Chief Judge.

         Alfonza McKeever, Jr., acting pro se, brings this timely direct appeal from the trial court's judgment of conviction following McKeever's entry of an Alford plea. See North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162) (1970). McKeever's appellate briefing is severely deficient, but as best we can discern, pursuant to our obligations under Felix v. State, 271 Ga. 534 (523 S.E.2d 1) (1999), [1] McKeever's claims of error fall into three general categories. His challenge to the voluntariness of his guilty plea cannot be resolved on the record. His challenge to the trial court's jurisdiction over him has no merit. And he waived appellate review over his various other claims of trial court error by virtue of his guilty plea. So we affirm.

         1. Facts and procedural posture.

         On November 13, 2018, McKeever was indicted for, among other things, violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), OCGA § 16-14-4 (c), predicated on allegations that he engaged in acts of insurance fraud, theft by deception, and identity fraud that involved making false claims about car accidents. This was a reindictment following the state's dismissal of a 2017 indictment of McKeever for the same offenses under a different case number, and during the course of the proceedings under the earlier indictment the trial court had granted McKeever's request to represent himself.

         The trial court made a number of pre-trial rulings, including denying McKeever's request to continue a January 14, 2019 trial date.[2] On the day of trial, McKeeever again asked for a continuance, arguing that he was not prepared to proceed, and the trial court again denied the request, informing McKeever that he could either proceed to trial or enter a guilty plea. After engaging in a plea colloquy, McKeever entered an Alford plea to the RICO count; the remaining counts of the indictment were nolle prossed.

         Immediately thereafter, McKeever filed a notice of appeal from the trial court's entry of the judgment of conviction. It appears from the record that he did not ask the trial court to withdraw his guilty plea.

         2. Challenges to voluntariness of guilty plea.

         McKeever argues that he felt pressured to enter the guilty plea, which we construe as a challenge to the voluntariness of the plea. He argues that the trial court assumed a prosecutorial role and threatened him, but the transcript of the plea hearing does not support that claim. And we do not discern within McKeever's appellate briefs any other challenge to voluntariness that can be resolved by the existing record. To win on appeal, a defendant "must be able to show reversible error, and he must do so on the existing record." Collier v. State, ___ Ga. ___, ___ (1) (___ S.E.2d ___) (Case No. S19A0658, decided October 21, 2019). Because McKeever has not shown on the existing record that his challenge to the voluntariness of his plea has merit, he has not shown reversible error. See generally Collier at ___ (1) n. 6 ("Following our decision today, if a defendant who appeals directly from a guilty plea cannot prevail on the merits, we will simply affirm the conviction, rather than dismiss the appeal.").

         3. Challenges to jurisdiction.

         McKeever argues that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over him. We may review this claim of error notwithstanding McKeever's guilty plea, because it is "grounded upon the right not to be haled into court at all[.]" Hooten v. State, 212 Ga.App. 770, 771 (1) (442 S.E.2d 836) (1994) (citation and punctuation omitted). Accord Davis v. State, 251 Ga.App. 436, 437 (554 S.E.2d 583) (2001). But "[t]here is no merit to this contention, as the trial court clearly had jurisdiction of the person and subject matter." Duncan v. State, 291 Ga.App. 580, 581 (2) (662 S.E.2d 337) (2008). See Shields v. State, 276 Ga. 669, 671 (3) n. 10 (581 S.E.2d 536) (2003). Thus, this argument presents no basis for reversal.

         4. Remaining challenges.

         McKeever makes several claims of error in his briefs that he does not associate with any ruling by the trial court. Because we are a court for the correction of errors, Felix, 271 Ga. at 539, these arguments present no basis for reversal. And as to McKeever's remaining claims of trial court error, he "waived his right to assert these arguments on appeal by pleading guilty. Thus, th[ese] arguments present[ ] no basis for reversal." LaFette v. State, 285 Ga.App. 516, 518 (3) (646 S.E.2d 725) (2007) (footnotes omitted; involving Alford plea).

         Judgment ...

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