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Commonwealth v. Escobar

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

March 29, 2018

COMMONWEALTH
v.
EMILIA ESCOBAR.

          Heard: January 10, 2018.

         Complaint received and sworn to in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court Department on October 2, 2003.

         A motion to withdraw a plea of guilty, filed on November 18, 2016, was heard by Kenneth J. Fiandaca, J.

         The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review.

          Edward Crane for the defendant.

          Para Z. Kesselheim, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Lowy, Budd, Cypher, & Kafker, JJ.

          BUDD, J.

         The defendant, Emilia Escobar, pleaded guilty to identity fraud pursuant to G. L. c. 266, § 37E (b), in connection with providing a false name to a police officer during a traffic stop. Here, she appeals from the denial of a motion to withdraw the guilty plea, claiming that there were insufficient facts to establish that she attempted to receive, or received, "anything of value" within the meaning of § 37E (b). Because we conclude that the phrase "anything of value, " as it appears in the statute, does not include avoiding criminal prosecution, we reverse.

         Background.

         The facts are uncontested. In October, 2002, a State police trooper stopped the defendant for driving an automobile with an excessively loud exhaust. The defendant told the trooper falsely that her name was Ana Escobar, gave a false date of birth, and said that she did not have her license with her. Upon conducting a check with the registry of motor vehicles, the trooper learned that Ana Escobar's license was suspended and issued a citation in Ana Escobar's name.

         Almost one year later, an investigation revealed that the defendant had been untruthful at the time of the stop. A complaint was issued charging the defendant with multiple infractions in addition to identity fraud: operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license;[1] improper operation of a motor vehicle; failing to possess a license while operating a motor vehicle; and providing a false name to a police officer.

          In March, 2004, pursuant to a plea agreement, the defendant admitted to sufficient facts on all charges except the charge of providing a false name to a police officer, which was dismissed. Charges of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license and identity fraud were continued without a finding for nine months, then dismissed, and the remaining charges were placed on file.

         Over a decade later, in November, 2016, the defendant filed a motion to withdraw her plea to the charge of identity fraud, alleging that there was an insufficient factual basis for the charge.[2] After a hearing, the judge denied the defendant's motion. The defendant appealed, and we allowed her application for direct appellate review.

         Discussion.

         In order for a judge to accept a guilty plea, he or she must find "sufficient facts on the record to establish each element of the offense." Commonwealth v. Hart, 467 Mass. 322, 325 (2014), quoting Commonwealth v. DelVerde, 398 Mass. 288, 297 (1986). Ordinarily, during a plea colloquy the prosecutor recites the facts that the Commonwealth would have proved if the case had gone to trial. The defendant indicates whether he or she agrees with the facts as presented and may provide clarifications. The judge then determines whether the ...


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