November 15, 2017
S. Manthorne, Esq. (orally), Roach, Hewitt, Ruprecht, Sanchez
& Bischoff, Portland, for appellant John V.C. Lopez.
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Donald W. Macomber, Asst.
Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta,
for appellee State of Maine.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
John V.C. Lopez appeals from a judgment of conviction entered
by the sentencing court (York County, Billings, /.)
following his guilty plea to an information charging him with
felony murder (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 202(1) (2017).
The court imposed a prison sentence of twenty years, all but
ten years suspended, with four years' probation and a
restitution order of $6, 592.63. Lopez challenges his
sentence on the grounds that it (1) is unconstitutionally
disproportionate; and (2) denies his constitutional right to
equal protection. We affirm the judgment.
The following undisputed facts are set forth in the
State's Rule 11 summary of evidence that, absent
Lopez's guilty plea, would have been presented at trial.
See M.R.U. Crim. P. 11; State v. Ward, 2011
ME 74, ¶ 2, 21 A.3d 1033.
On March 24, 2013, Lopez and Bub Nguany were managing a drug
operation at a house in Saco when two unknown men stole drugs
and money from them. Lopez and Nguany made immediate plans to
"recover their property and make things right." The
next day, Lopez texted Mohamud Mohamed and asked him for a
firearm to use. On March 26, 2013, the three men drove in two
vehicles from Old Orchard Beach to Birch Street in Biddeford,
where the victim, Charles Raybine, was sitting in a car with
his nephew. As Nguany got out of his car, Raybine's
nephew heard "talking, arguing or conversation"
between the vehicles' occupants. Nguany then approached
the driver's window, pulled out a gun, and shot Raybine
three times. Nguany quickly returned to his car and both
vehicles were driven back to Old Orchard Beach.
After police responded to the scene, an alert was sent out
with a description of the shooter and the vehicles. Because
an Old Orchard Beach police officer had stopped Nguany for a
traffic infraction a couple of days earlier, he recognized
the descriptions as matching Nguany and Nguany's vehicle.
Police then proceeded to arrest Nguany outside of Lopez's
apartment. Incident to that arrest, police discovered drugs
and a gun in his backpack, and testing demonstrated that the
gun matched the bullets and shell casings found at the scene
of the shooting.
On May 6, 2015, Lopez was indicted for one count of
intentional or knowing murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 2Ol(1)(A)
(2017), and one count of conspiracy to commit murder (Class
A), 17-A M.R.S. § 151(1)(A) (2017). After the State
filed a notice of joinder concerning Lopez, Nguany, and
Mohamed, Lopez pleaded not guilty to the charges at
arraignment. See M.R.U. Crim. P. 8(b). Lopez
subsequently reached a plea agreement with the State-in
exchange for a guilty plea to an information charging him
with felony murder (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 202(1), the
State would dismiss the other charges and recommend a
sentence of no greater than twenty-five years'
imprisonment, all but fifteen years suspended, with four
years' probation. Lopez reserved his right to argue for a
lesser sentence than the sentence to be recommended by the
State. Accordingly, Lopez waived indictment on
the felony murder charge and pleaded guilty. Like Lopez,
co-defendant Mohamed was initially indicted for intentional
or knowing murder and conspiracy to commit murder. In
exchange for Mohamed's guilty plea to the conspiracy
charge, the State dismissed the charge of intentional or
knowing murder. For the charge of conspiracy to commit
murder, 17-A M.R.S. § l5l(1)(A), Mohamed ...