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State v. Lopez

Supreme Court of Maine

April 26, 2018

STATE OF MAINE
v.
JOHN V. C. LOPEZ

          Argued November 15, 2017

          Andrea S. Manthorne, Esq. (orally), Roach, Hewitt, Ruprecht, Sanchez & Bischoff, Portland, for appellant John V.C. Lopez.

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Donald W. Macomber, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine.

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual History

         [¶2] 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.

         [¶3] 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.

         [¶4] 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.

         B. Preliminary Proceedings

         [¶5] 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.[1] 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. ยง l5l(1)(A), Mohamed ...


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