State v. Mahatha, 090319 NCCA, COA18-734

Docket Nº:COA18-734
Opinion Judge:COLLINS, JUDGE.
Party Name:STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, v. CORY ANTWON MAHATHA, Defendant.
Attorney:Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Forrest P. Fallanca, for the State-Appellee. Morgan & Carter PLLC, by Michelle F. Lynch, for the Defendant-Appellant.
Judge Panel:Judges DILLON and INMAN concur.
Case Date:September 03, 2019
Court:Court of Appeals of North Carolina
 
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STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA,

v.

CORY ANTWON MAHATHA, Defendant.

No. COA18-734

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

September 3, 2019

Heard in the Court of Appeals 27 February 2019.

Appeal by Defendant from judgment entered 24 January 2018 by Judge Lori I. Hamilton in Rowan County No. 17CRS51386 Superior Court.

Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Forrest P. Fallanca, for the State-Appellee.

Morgan & Carter PLLC, by Michelle F. Lynch, for the Defendant-Appellant.

COLLINS, JUDGE.

Defendant Cory Antwon Mahatha appeals from judgment entered upon a jury's verdicts finding him guilty of felony speeding to elude arrest and attaining habitual felon status. After careful review, we conclude that the trial court failed to provide adequate information to ensure that Defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to be represented by counsel. We therefore vacate Defendant's convictions and judgment and grant a new trial.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

On 28 March 2017, Detective Patrick Schmeltzer of the Rowan County Sheriff's Office was assigned to the crime reduction unit in the Airport Road area. Schmeltzer, accompanied by Detective Cody Trexler and Deputy Naturile, patrolled the area in an unmarked black Chevrolet Tahoe. Schmeltzer received a "be on the lookout" ("BOLO") from his supervisor, Sergeant Weston, who radioed that an assault had occurred and that the suspect vehicle, a white Dodge Challenger, was heading his way. Schmeltzer pulled his vehicle onto the shoulder, waited, and spotted a white Dodge Challenger drive past him. Schmeltzer pulled onto the highway and followed the vehicle for some distance but did not observe Defendant speed, commit any traffic violations, or engage in suspicious behavior. Schmeltzer activated the Tahoe's blue lights and siren in order to initiate a traffic stop of the vehicle.

Defendant was driving the white Dodge Challenger but did not pull over when Schmeltzer activated the Tahoe's blue lights and siren. Instead, Defendant maintained a speed of approximately 45 miles per hour and continued driving until he reached South Main Street. Once Defendant reached South Main Street, he turned right and accelerated to speeds of 90-100 miles per hour. The officers pursued Defendant onto South Main Street and witnessed Defendant: cross into turn lanes and onto the shoulder of the road in order to pass other vehicles; "almost wreck" before swerving back into traffic; fish-tail across lanes; pass over the double-yellow lines; and turn into oncoming traffic.

Defendant next drove through an intersection, failed to stop at a stop sign, and pulled his car into a driveway; he then took off on foot and ran into a cow pasture. Schmeltzer and Naturile pursued Defendant on foot, discovered him hiding in a ditch, and took Defendant into custody. Upon searching Defendant, the officers found $3000 on his person and later found a small amount of marijuana inside Defendant's vehicle.

On 15 May 2017, a grand jury indicted Defendant for felony speeding to elude arrest in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-141.5(B) (2017). On 12 June 2017, a grand jury indicted Defendant for having attained habitual felon status in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-7.1 (2017).

On 11 September 2017, Defendant was arraigned in Rowan County Superior Court. The trial court told Defendant of the crimes with which he was charged: "obtaining the status of a habitual felon; possession of a firearm by a felon; attempted robbery with a firearm; fleeing to allude arrest; driving while license revoked, not an impaired revocation; and assaulting a female." The trial court asked Defendant whether he wished to have a lawyer represent him, to which Defendant replied that he was going to represent himself. The trial court also asked Defendant if he understood how much time he was facing and told him that he was "looking at . . . 231 months." At the end of his arraignment, Defendant entered a plea of not guilty.

On 23 January 2018, prior to the start of Defendant's jury trial, the State dismissed the charges of driving while license revoked, not an impaired revocation; assault on a female; possession of a firearm by a felon; and attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon. The State proceeded to trial on the charges of speeding to elude arrest and attaining habitual felon status.

On 24 January 2018, the jury returned verdicts finding Defendant guilty of both charges. The trial court entered judgment upon the jury's verdicts, sentencing Defendant to a term of 97 months' to 129 months' imprisonment. From entry of judgment, Defendant gave proper notice of appeal.

II. Discussion

Defendant argues that the trial court erred (1) in failing to dismiss the charge of speeding to elude arrest where there was no evidence that the officer was lawfully performing his duties at the time of the traffic stop and (2)...

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