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State v. Lee

Court of Appeals of Idaho

February 14, 2019

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JOHN LEE, aka KANE W. GRZEBIELSKI, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District, State of Idaho, Latah County. Hon. John R. Stegner, District Judge.

         Appeals from judgment of conviction and concurrent fixed life sentences for three counts of first degree murder and determinate sentence of fifteen years for one count of aggravated battery, dismissed; order denying motion to withdraw guilty pleas, affirmed; civil judgments for fines, dismissed; order denying I.C.R. 35 motion for reduction of sentences, dismissed; order denying motion to release evidence, dismissed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          LORELLO, JUDGE

         In these consolidated appeals, John Lee, aka Kane W. Grzebielski, appeals from his judgment of conviction for three counts of first degree murder and one count of aggravated battery (Docket No. 44330); the district court's order denying Lee's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas (Docket No. 44330); four civil judgments for fines imposed pursuant to I.C. § 19-5307 (Docket No. 44496); an order denying Lee's I.C.R. 35 motion for reduction of his sentences (Docket No. 44753); and an order denying Lee's motion to release evidence (Docket No. 44754)[1]. Lee asserts that: (1) the district court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas; (2) his concurrent fixed life sentences for three counts of first degree murder are excessive and that the district court abused its discretion in denying his Rule 35 motion for reduction of his sentences; and (3) the district court erred in entering judgments of $5000 for fines imposed pursuant to I.C. § 19-5307. We affirm the order denying Lee's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas and dismiss Lee's remaining appeals.

         I.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         John Lee shot and killed his mother, his landlord, and the manager of a fast food restaurant. Lee also shot and wounded another individual who was in the landlord's office when Lee killed his landlord. Following the murders and aggravated battery, Lee fled to a nearby state where he was apprehended after he crashed his vehicle during a police pursuit. Following Lee's arrest, law enforcement found over $11, 000 in cash in Lee's vehicle.

         The State charged Lee with three counts of first degree murder and one count of aggravated battery. Pursuant to a written I.C.R. 11 plea agreement, Lee entered Alford[2] pleas to all charged counts. The plea agreement included the following provision regarding sentencing:

That the State and [Lee] agree that the appropriate disposition of this matter is as follows: [Lee] will be sentenced to the Idaho Department of Correction on each count and that those sentences will run concurrently. Each party reserves the right to argue for what actual fixed and indeterminate periods of confinement they deem to be appropriate and the decision on such is left to the sound discretion of the Court.

         The plea agreement also included a waiver provision, which reads that Lee "understands that he has a right to appeal the judgment and sentence of the Court herein, and the right to seek a modification or reduction of sentence under Idaho Criminal Rule 35, and hereby freely and voluntarily waives such appeal and I.C.R. 35 rights." In light of the plea agreement, the State filed a notice pursuant to I.C. § 18-4004A indicating it did not intend to seek the death penalty.

         The district court accepted Lee's Alford pleas, imposed a fixed life sentence for each of the murder charges and fifteen years fixed for the aggravated battery charge, and ordered the sentences to run concurrently. The district court also imposed a civil penalty in the amount of $5000 to the victims or victim representatives for each of the four charges and entered a separate judgment for each victim. Lee filed a notice of appeal from his judgment of conviction (Docket No. 44330) and a separate, single notice of appeal referencing the four civil judgments (Docket No. 44496). The State moved to dismiss the appeal in Docket No. 44330, asserting Lee waived his right to appeal the judgment as part of the plea agreement. Lee objected to the State's motion, asserting that his appeal waiver could only be enforced if the record showed the waiver was made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. Lee contended that, under that standard, the State's motion to dismiss the appeal was premature because it was filed prior to preparation of the clerk's record and transcripts. The Idaho Supreme Court denied the State's motion to dismiss the appeal in Docket No. 44330.

         Lee subsequently filed an I.C.R. 35 motion for a reduction of his sentences and a motion to release evidence. The district court denied both motions. Lee then filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, which the ...


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