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Edmonds v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Virginia

July 14, 2016

LEONTE D. EDMONDS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

          PRESENT: Lemons, C.J., Goodwyn, Mims, McClanahan, Powell, and Kelsey, JJ., and Lacy, S.J.

          OPINION

          CLEO E. POWELL JUSTICE

         FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA

         Leonte Delmario Edmonds ("Edmonds") was charged with possession of a firearm after conviction of a felony, in violation of Code § 18.2-308.2. He entered a guilty plea on March 12, 2014. Edmonds moved to withdraw his guilty plea prior to sentencing. The trial court denied the motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court. On appeal, Edmonds argues that the Court of Appeals erred when it held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea because the motion "was made in good faith and premised upon a reasonable basis for the substantive defense of duress."

         I. BACKGROUND

         At Edmonds' guilty plea hearing, the Commonwealth offered the following stipulated facts leading to his charge of possession of a firearm after conviction of a felony:

[O]n September 30, 2013, officers responded to 104 North Thomas Street in Arlington County for a disturbance of a man threatening a woman and saying that he had a gun. When police arrived, they learned that the threats involved an individual by the name of Brandon Bumpy Miller, who had previously threatened [Edmonds'] girlfriend with a gun.
While on the scene, Officer Martin heard shouting from an apartment from that location and saw [Edmonds] coming out of an apartment that was in the same direction as the shouting. [Edmonds] had clothing that was similar to the clothing described in the 911 call and he was detained. He initially did not comply with keeping both of his hands on the wall as directed by Officer Martin, keeping his right hand down by his waist. He then complied and told Officer Martin that he had a gun in his pants pocket. Martin recovered the handgun from the pocket without incident. The chamber was empty, but there were seven rounds in the magazine. [Edmonds] said he was not involved in the disturbance and that he was trying to do the right thing by getting the gun out of the apartment, so that Bumpy Miller couldn't access it while he was drunk and angry.
While in front of the magistrate, [Edmonds] stated, "Even though I was wrong, I know I was wrong. I was doing the right thing." [Edmonds] had a blood alcohol content of .18 while he was in booking. [Edmonds] was convicted of armed robbery in South Carolina in 1998.

         Represented by new counsel, Edmonds filed his motion to withdraw his guilty plea in September 2014 prior to sentencing. Edmonds argued that he took the gun under duress because of the threat of imminent harm to his uncle and girlfriend.

         Denying the motion to withdraw the guilty plea, the trial court held that

It's clear that the defense of duress could be available, and the requirement is imminent harm. The facts here [are] that they assume a threat was made, the individual – Mr. Miller – who allegedly had the gun would have to exit the apartment building, go across a courtyard, and go into another building. The Court simply doesn't find that can be imminent. This method of self help is . . . not supported by the facts. A call to the police could have been made, and a call to – we don't even know if those individuals were in the apartment at that point in time. So there is simply no evidence of any imminent harm.

         The trial court sentenced Edmonds to the statutorily mandated 5 year sentence.

         Adopting the rationale of and affirming the trial court, the Court of ...


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