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State v. McNair

Court of Appeals of Utah

February 22, 2019

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Eugene Steven McNair, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Royal I. Hansen No. 061903216

          Ann M. Taliaferro, Attorney for Appellant.

          Sean D. Reyes and Erin Riley, Attorneys for Appellee.

          Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in which Judges David N. Mortensen and Diana Hagen concurred.

          OPINION

          CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Eugene Steven McNair pleaded guilty to rape, was sentenced to prison, and did not appeal his conviction or sentence. Nearly a decade later, McNair filed a motion to have the time to file his direct appeal reinstated. The district court concluded that McNair failed to establish that he was prevented in any meaningful way from commencing a timely appeal after he was sentenced. He appeals that decision, and we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 In 2006, the State charged McNair with rape, forcible sodomy, and forcible sexual abuse. In November of that year, shortly before trial was scheduled to begin, McNair and the State entered into a plea agreement. That is, McNair agreed to plead guilty to rape and, in exchange, the State agreed to dismiss the two remaining charges.

         ¶3 In support of the plea agreement, McNair signed a plea statement indicating he understood and acknowledged having been advised of the facts and the rights set forth in that statement. In the signed document, McNair admitted to having sex with the victim without the victim's consent and that his actions constituted rape. McNair accepted that, by pleading guilty, his right to a direct appeal would be limited and that he understood that an appeal of the sentence needed to be filed within thirty days after entry of his sentence. Further, McNair stated that he entered the plea voluntarily and "of [his] own free will and choice."

         ¶4 At the change-of-plea hearing, the district court asked McNair's defense counsel if he had "discussed [the change of plea]" and "gone over the statement of defendant" with McNair. Defense counsel responded that he had done both. Counsel also stated, "McNair does not read, but I did read the document to him. We covered it twice, once . . . yesterday and once today." Defense counsel then affirmed that he was satisfied that McNair understood the meaning and effect of the guilty plea.

         ¶5 The court asked McNair directly whether he understood "what is being proposed here," and McNair responded, "Yes." McNair further affirmed that he discussed the plea agreement with his counsel and that defense counsel had gone over the written plea statement with him. Finally, McNair acknowledged that defense counsel had read the written plea statement to him and that McNair understood its terms. The court accepted McNair's guilty plea to rape, finding that he entered the plea knowingly, voluntarily, and of his own free will.

         ¶6 In January 2007, the court sentenced McNair to five years to life in prison. After imposing the sentence, the court did not again advise McNair of his right to appeal or the time limit in which to file such an appeal. See Utah R. Crim. P. 22(c)(1).

         ¶7 In 2016, McNair filed a motion requesting reinstatement of his time to file a direct appeal.[1] The district court ...


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