APPEAL from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon.
ROBERT L. GAGEN, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE EBERSPACHER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The grand jury indicted the defendant, Joe Thompson, for the offense of burglary. The defendant pled guilty to the burglary charge. The circuit court of St. Clair County entered a judgment of conviction on such plea and sentenced the defendant to a term of 5 to 15 years in the penitentiary to run concurrently with the sentence, if any, imposed by the Parole and Pardon Board on a related parole violation. The only issue presented for review is whether the trial court should have sua sponte entertained a motion to withdraw the defendant's plea of guilty upon learning of the possibility that the accused had been mistaken about the sentencing condition attached to his plea bargain. In particular, the defendant contends that he did not understand the meaning of a "concurrent" sentence.
The defendant initially entered a plea of not guilty to the burglary charge. A jury was selected, but before the formal introduction of evidence at trial, the accused changed his plea. The record shows that defense counsel, who had previously spoken with the trial judge regarding the possible change of plea, enunciated the following proposed condition to a plea of guilty:
"* * * that in exchange for our change of plea to a guilty plea to the offense of burglary, the understanding between the State and the defense would be that the sentence would be imposed by the Court and that sentence would be concurrent with any action taken by the Parole Authorities of the State of Illinois. Mr. Thompson has been explained this, that in exchange for the plea, a concurrent sentence to whatever action would be taken, that is the sentence would run at the same time with any action by the Parole people."
Replying to defense counsel's proposal, the State's attorney disavowed any participation in plea negotiations. By not objecting to the sentencing agreement, however, he acquiesced in the subsequent "plea agreement."
Subsequently, the trial court inquired whether the defendant was under any physical or mental handicap that would prevent his understanding. Upon being informed that the defendant's education was limited to the first eight grades, the trial court stated, "If I ask you something or say something to you that you don't understand, stop me so that I can go back and try to word it in a way you will understand it, okay?" The court then itself addressed the situation:
"But I have indicated to defense counsel that whatever plea sentence is imposed by me will run concurrent with whatever action the Parole Board takes with respect to Mr. Thompson's case. And I think in view of that fact I am going to take this as a negotiated plea rather than straight up so that there's no problem with the record."
After reading the indictment and explaining the charge to the defendant, the trial court fulfilled its duty to explain the consequences of a plea of guilty in the following manner:
"* * * you may be sentenced to the Illinois Department of Corrections for a period of not less than one year or more than twenty years. It's up to the Court to determine what sentence to impose upon you. The maximum would be six years eight months to twenty years. That would be the most I could give you on this particular case. I could give you one to three. I could give you two to six. But you understand, it's my duty to impose the sentence?"
The defendant responded affirmatively. The trial court again inquired: "Do you understand?", to which the defendant again responded affirmatively. Later, the following colloquy occurred:
"THE COURT: Do you want to give up your right to a trial of any kind, and enter a plea of guilty here?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, to the condition that my attorney explained
THE COURT: All right. That condition being that whatever sentence I would give you would run concurrent with whatever ...