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State v. Sagal

Court of Appeals of Utah

June 6, 2019

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Miguel A. Sagal, Appellant.

          Second District Court, Farmington Department The Honorable David M. Connors No. 111701832

          Scott L. Wiggins, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Daniel W. Boyer, 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 Miguel A. Sagal appeals his convictions on six counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Sagal was charged with six third-degree felony counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor as a result of having sexual intercourse with two minor females in 2010 and 2011. Sagal pleaded not guilty to the charges.

         ¶3 Although a jury trial was initially scheduled, Sagal's counsel filed a Request for Bench Trial shortly before trial. In the Request for Bench Trial, counsel stated that he had advised Sagal "of his right to seek trial by jury and all the rights attendant to such a choice, as well as the rights that he would be waiving by opting for a bench trial." On the day of trial, the trial court questioned counsel regarding Sagal's waiver of his right to a jury trial. The judge stated, "I would just like to have on record that you've had discussion with your client about his . . . right to a jury trial and that he has knowingly and intentionally agreed to go forward in a trial . . . without a jury." Counsel responded, "I have discussed at length with Mr. Sagal, his right to a jury trial, the rights that he will be waiving should he elect to forgo his right to a jury trial and have it tried to the bench."

         ¶4 Both victims testified at trial. The first victim, K.G., testified that she had sex with Sagal a number of times when she was fourteen years old and he was eighteen years old. After K.G. broke up with Sagal, he began contacting her friend, M.P. M.P. had sex with Sagal three times in the summer of 2011, when she was fourteen years old and he was nineteen years old. On several occasions prior to trial, both victims had denied having sex with Sagal.

         ¶5 After hearing the evidence, the trial court convicted Sagal of all charges, finding both victims to be credible witnesses and determining that other witnesses corroborated their testimony. The trial court later amended the verdict by reducing the three counts relating to K.G. to class B misdemeanors because Sagal was slightly less than four years older than K.G.

         ¶6 Following trial, Sagal's mother sought mitigating testimony to undermine the victims' credibility. She obtained an affidavit from a witness, L.S., who stated that M.P. admitted to her that she had lied at trial about having sex with Sagal. When counsel learned of this first potential witness, L.S., he withdrew as Sagal's attorney because Sagal had previously admitted to counsel that he had engaged in sex with M.P. and counsel felt he could therefore not ethically pursue any investigation into the witness's statements. Following counsel's withdrawal, Sagal's mother obtained an affidavit from a second witness, K.P., who also stated that M.P. had confessed to her that she had lied about having sex with Sagal.

         ¶7 Sagal appealed his convictions. First, he asserted that the trial court committed plain error by failing to conduct an adequate colloquy to ensure that he had been fully informed of the rights he was waiving by electing a bench trial rather than a jury trial. Second, Sagal asserted that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel did not fully inform him of the rights he was waiving and did not adequately investigate the two potentially exonerating witnesses or move for a new trial.

         ¶8 This court remanded the case to the trial court pursuant to rule 23B of the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure, directing the trial court

to make all findings of fact and enter all conclusions of law necessary to resolve:
(1) whether counsel performed deficiently in advising [Sagal] about his right to a jury trial;
(2) whether [Sagal] was prejudiced by counsel's deficient performance, if any;
(3) whether counsel performed deficiently in not investigating [L.S.] and [K.P.] and for not moving for a new trial ...

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