NEW CITY – The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, Second Department has overturned a guilty plea entered by a man charged with weapons possession because a Rockland County judge failed to explain the agreement to the defendant.
In November 2014, Sharrahn Walton pled guilty to a charge of criminal possession of a weapon before Rockland County Court Judge James Hubert. The plea deal included a prison term of 1 1/2 to 3 years. The court, in explaining the plea offer, told Walton that the promised sentence was contingent on Walton staying out of trouble between the period of entering a plea and sentencing. The defendant agreed to the condition and entered a plea of guilty.
Walton subsequently appeared before Judge David Zuckerman for sentencing at which time the district attorney’s office notified the court that Walton had been arrested on two occasions on robbery charges, after pleading guilty for the weapons charge.
The court noted that Walton had violated the terms of the plea agreement and, as a result, Judge Zuckerman handed down an “enhanced” sentence that added a period of “post-release supervision” not previously mentioned or agreed upon at the plea or sentencing proceedings.
The defendant successfully appealed the original decision because, according to the higher court, “[A] trial court has the constitutional duty to ensure that a defendant, before pleading guilty, has a full understanding of what the plea connotes and its consequences.” That ruling is based on a previous ruling of the appellate court.
As a result, the Appellate Division has vacated the guilty plea and sent the case back to Rockland County Court for further proceedings because of the “enhanced” sentence.