Blidi v. State, Case No. PM-2018-7851

CourtRhode Island Superior Court
Writing for the CourtVOGEL, J.
PartiesCHRISTOPHER BLIDI v. STATE OF RHODE ISLAND
Decision Date20 July 2020
Docket NumberCase No. PM-2018-7851

CHRISTOPHER BLIDI
v.
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND

Case No. PM-2018-7851

STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS PROVIDENCE, SC. SUPERIOR COURT

July 20, 2020


DECISION ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

VOGEL, J. Petitioner, Christopher Blidi (Blidi or Applicant) brings this motion for summary judgment asking the Court to vacate his guilty plea and conviction for first degree child molestation sexual assault. Blidi filed his Application for Post-Conviction Relief under G.L. 1956 § 10-9.1-1(a)(1). He claims that his plea was neither knowing, voluntary nor intelligent because he was not informed of the mandatory community supervision requirements set forth in G.L. 1956 § 13-8-30.1 The State opposes Blidi's motion solely on the argument that the consequences of § 13-8-30 are collateral rather than direct, and as such, failure to advise him of those consequences does not render his plea deficient. Of significance, Blidi does not reference G.L. 1956 § 11-37-8.2.1, the statute that requires him to be electronically monitored for life through an active global positioning system upon release from prison.

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Facts

A grand jury indicted Christopher Blidi in 2012, charging him with two counts of criminal conduct, one count of first degree child molestation, to wit, penile/vaginal penetration and a second count of assault with intent to commit child molestation. The charges in count one stem from allegations against Blidi that in 2010, he molested Amy2, the nine-year old niece of his live-in girlfriend by penetrating her vagina with his penis from behind. The charges in count two refer to another occasion when he purportedly attempted to molest her by removing her underwear, but then stopped when she resisted the assault.

On March 26, 2014, the case was reached for trial before this trial justice. The Court issued a pretrial order and prepared a written jury questionnaire. The State was prepared to proceed and to present testimony from Amy. However, at the so-called "eleventh hour," Blidi requested permission to change his plea to guilty to the charges in count one, first degree child molestation in violation of § 11-37-8.1. In exchange for his willingness to plead guilty to count one, the State agreed to dismiss the charges in count two. At the plea hearing, the Court reviewed the affidavit signed by Blidi and addressed a variety of issues with him in detail, such as the fact that a guilty plea carried with it the waiver of specific constitutional rights, the immigration consequences for a non-citizen, whether he wished to consult with an immigration specialist, the impact on a citizen's voting rights if incarcerated, and the ramifications of failing to comply with the terms and conditions of probation when he is released. (Tr. 5-8, Mar. 26, 2014.) Blidi also acknowledged knowing that statutory requirements flowed from plea of guilty to first degree child molestation, "including registration as a sex offender . . ."3 Id. at 10. On an earlier occasion, August 6, 2013,

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this trial judge conducted a hearing to ensure that Blidi understood the then pending offer of 45 years with 12 years to serve before he rejected it. At that hearing, the Court reviewed with Blidi the maximum penalties for both counts for which he was charged "and the fact that you would have to be registered as a sex offender, there would be statutory requirements of counseling and so forth, and you said you understood." Blidi responded in the affirmative. Id. at 2-3. However, the Court did not address the provisions of § 13-8-30 or § 11-37-8.2.1 at either hearing.4

Counsel for the State provided the Court with a narration of facts. She represented that the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that in 2010, Blidi engaged in sexual penetration with Amy, a child under the age of fourteen. The Court asked Blidi if he was guilty of committing the conduct described by counsel, and he responded "Yes." Id. at 8-9. The Court then received a compelling victim impact statement authored by Amy followed by an in-court statement offered by her mother who noted that "[w]hat happened in dark comes to light by one courageous little girl who shows the strength within." Id. at 11. The Court determined that Blidi's decision to change his plea was knowing, voluntary and intelligent and accepted his decision to plead guilty to the charges in count one, first degree child molestation sexual assault. Blidi declined to make an allocution statement, and the Court imposed the agreed upon sentence of fifty years at the Adult Correctional Institutions, fourteen years to serve with the balance suspended with probation and a no contact order with Amy.

On October 29, 2018, Blidi filed this Application for Post-Conviction Relief. The Court conducted a hearing on the Application on December 17, 2019. Both Scott Lutes, Blidi's attorney

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at the plea stage, and Blidi offered testimony on the issue of whether attorney Lutes had reviewed the provisions of § 13-8-30 with Blidi. Lutes testified that he had no recollection of discussing the community monitoring requirement with the Applicant and was unable to testify as to whether he then had a regular practice of informing clients of the provisions of that statute. (Tr. 7-8, Dec. 17, 2019.) For his part, Blidi testified that when he decided to plead guilty, he then understood that he "... would receive a sentence of 50 years with 14 to serve, the balance suspended, and a total of 50 years ... would be under supervision and probation ..." Id. at 14. He acknowledged knowing that he "would be required to register as a sex offender ..." Id. at 14-15.

Blidi testified that attorney Lutes never informed him of the provisions of the statute and that he first learned of the community supervision requirement after the plea when a fellow prisoner told him about it while he was serving his sentence. Id. at 16, 22-23. Blidi testified that if he had known about the community supervision law, he would not have pled guilty "[b]ecause I would rather go to trial . . . If I knew about that, I would not plead guilty . . . If he told me about that, I'd rather go to trial than to plead guilty." Id. at 17. He explained that he would have gone to trial rather than "wear the GPS the rest of my life." Id. at 18. He added that "It's not about not pleading guilty, because I didn't understand, because he never said anything about GPS the rest of my life." Id. at 18. Reviewing the entirety of the testimony offered at the December 17, 2019 hearing, it is clear that the questioning attorneys and the witnesses confused the community supervision provisions under § 13-8-30 with the electronic monitoring requirement under § 11-37-8.2.1. Pet'r's Mem. Law Supp. of Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 3, May 7, 2020.

Applicable Law

As a person convicted of first degree child molestation, Blidi is subject to the provisions of § 13-8-30 and of § 11-37-8.2.1. Those provisions subject Blidi upon his release from prison

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both to community supervision and electronic monitoring via an active global positioning system for life. In pertinent part, § 13-8-30 provides:

"§ 13-8-30. Community supervision for child molestation offenses.
Notwithstanding any other provision of the general laws to the contrary, any person convicted of first degree child molestation pursuant to § 11-37-8.1 . . . shall, in addition to any other penalty imposed, be subject to community supervision upon that person's completion of any prison sentence, suspended sentence, and/or probationary term imposed as a result of that conviction.

In the case of a person convicted of first degree child molestation pursuant to § 11-37-8.1, community supervision shall be for life and pursuant to the provisions of § 11-37-8.2.1, community supervision shall include electronic monitoring via an active global positioning system for life . . ." Section 13-8-30.

While a person is under community supervision, he or she is "under the jurisdiction, supervision and control of the parole board in the same manner as a person under parole supervision." Section 13-8-32(b). Under § 13-8-32(e) - (j), a person "sentenced" to community supervision can under certain circumstances petition the parole board for termination of community supervision. Section 13-8-32.

"§ 13-8-33. Violations of community supervisionpenalties.
Any person who violates a condition of community supervision shall be guilty of a separate offense and, upon conviction, shall be sentenced to no more than one year in prison; provided, if the violation also constitutes a criminal offense the term of imprisonment shall be consecutive to any sentence received for the commission of the new offense." Section 13-8-33.

The provisions that permit early termination of community supervision would not appear to greatly benefit Blidi because he was convicted of first degree child molestation which subjects him to an additional "penalty" under § 11-37-8.2.1, the so-called Penalty for First Degree Child

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Molestation Sexual Assault--Jessica Lunsford Child Predator Act of 2006. That Act does not give the parole board or the Court discretion to reduce the "penalty" to less than lifetime.

In accordance with the pertinent provisions of § 11-37-8.2.1:

"Every person who shall violate the provisions of subdivisions 11-37-8.2.1(b)(1) . . . shall be electronically monitored via an active global positioning system for life and, as a condition of parole and probation, and for the duration of any period of his or her probation following his or her parole shall attend a sex offender treatment program to address his or her criminally offensive behavior, as determined by the department of probation and parole. The persons subject to this condition of parole shall include:
(1) Persons who commit first degree child molestation sexual assault on or after January 1, 2007 and the victim of the sexual assault is twelve (12) years of age or younger;

. . .

(3) Any person who violates the terms of the
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