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The People of the State of Illinois v. James A. Whitaker

August 22, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES A. WHITAKER,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 07CF578 Honorable Timothy J. Steadman, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Turner

PRESIDING JUSTICE TURNER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Pope and Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 As a result of defense counsel's failure to file the attorney's certificate required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (eff. July 1, 2006), this court remanded case No. 07-CF-578 (case 578) of defendant, James A. Whitaker, to the Macon County circuit court. People v. Whitaker, No. 4-08-0926, slip order at 6 (Nov. 13, 2009) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). On remand, defendant filed a February 2010 letter, raising some complaints about counsel and requesting to be present, at what the docket sheets refer to as a "pre-trial." Moreover, defense counsel filed (1) a motion to withdraw defendant's guilty plea, asserting defendant did not understand the consequences of his plea, and (2) a proper Rule 604(d) certificate. In April 2011, the court held a hearing on defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea and denied it. At the hearing, defendant testified his counsel had told him he would receive an 18-month sentence.

¶ 2 Defendant appeals, asserting only this court should again remand case 578 to the trial court for an inquiry into his pro se ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims that were raised in his February 2010 letter and during his testimony at the hearing on his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. We affirm.

¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 4 In April 2007, the State charged defendant with one count of driving while license revoked with a prior conviction for driving while license revoked (625 ILCS 5/6-303(a), (d) (West 2006)) in case 578. In August 2007, the case was assigned to Judge Katherine McCarthy. Defendant later received additional charges in a separate case, case No. 07-CF-1595 (case 1595), and that case was also before Judge McCarthy.

¶ 5 In January 2008, Judge Timothy J. Steadman held a plea hearing on the charge in case 578, at which defendant entered an open plea of guilty to the State's charge. Defendant was represented by David Ellison at the plea hearing. After indicating it was an open plea, Ellison stated the following: "And I understand that when he enters his plea that you're going to have to send it back to Judge McCarthy for sentencing. I've discussed that with him and he's agreeable to it." The following exchange between the trial court and defendant also took place.

"THE COURT: Is anybody forcing to you [sic] plead guilty to this?

THE DEFENDANT: No, sir.

THE COURT: Have any promises been made to you by anyone to get to you [sic] plead guilty?

THE DEFENDANT: No, sir.

THE COURT: Mr. Ellison is your attorney. Has he answered any questions you might have had about your ...


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