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2005-UP-521 - State v. Frazier

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

The State,        Appellant,

v.

Jonathan Frazier,        Respondent.


Appeal From Charleston County
A. Victor Rawl, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2005-UP-521
Submitted September 1, 2005 – Filed September 15, 2005


REVERSED AND REMANDED


Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, Assistant Attorney General W. Rutledge Martin, Office of the Attorney General, all of Columbia: and Solicitor Ralph E. Hoisington, of Charleston, for Appellant.

Assistant Appellate Defender Eleanor Duffy Cleary, Office of Appellate Defense, of Columbia, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Jonathan Frazier pleaded guilty to armed robbery and was sentenced to a sentence not to exceed six years under the Youthful Offenders Act, South Carolina Code section 24-19-10 to 160 (Supp. 2004).  The State appeals, arguing that the trial judge erred by denying its motion to reconsider the sentence because Frazier did not qualify as a youthful offender.  We reverse.[1]   

FACTS

During the morning of November 5, 2001, Frazier and two others planned and carried out a robbery at the Fairfield Inn in North Charleston.  While Frazier and Antonio Staley waited in the truck, Lawanda Collins went inside the hotel and propped the dinning room door open for Frazier.  Frazier entered the hotel through the opened door, wearing a nylon mask and carrying an unloaded rifle.  He then took the hotel clerk to the bathroom and secured it by tying the door shut with an extension cord.  Frazier helped Staley carry the hotel safe out to the truck and Collins helped them put it in the truck.  Staley went back into the hotel to wipe off their fingerprints.  After leaving the hotel, all three went home and unloaded the safe.  Later that day they tried to open the safe with a sledgehammer, but it broke, so they had to buy a torch and get three other people to help them with it.  When they almost had the safe open, Staley wanted to take it somewhere else so the others would not have access to it.  After driving the safe to Sheep Island, the three opened the safe and split the cash equally.  The three then burned all the checks and gift certificates from the safe and hid the safe in Mt. Pleasant by the water.

Frazier gave a written statement to the police on December 7, 2001 and was willing to testify against Staley.  On June 26, 2003, Frazier pleaded guilty to armed robbery.  The trial judge sentenced Frazier to a sentence not to exceed six years under the Youthful Offenders Act, South Carolina Code section 24-19-10 to 160 (Supp. 2004).  The judge did not order credit for the 557 days Frazier had served awaiting trial.  The State filed a motion to reconsider the sentence on June 27, 2003.  The judge heard and denied the motion on November 20, 2003.  The State now appeals.                      

LAW/ANALYSIS

The State argues that the trial judge erred by denying its motion to reconsider the sentence because Frazier did not qualify as a youthful offender.  We agree.

South Carolina Code section 24-19-10(d)(ii) (Supp. 2004) defines a “youthful offender” as an offender who is “seventeen but less than twenty-five years of age at the time of conviction for an offense that is not a violent crime . . . and that is a misdemeanor, a Class D, Class E, or Class F felony, or a felony which provides for a maximum term of imprisonment of fifteen years or less.”  Frazier was twenty-four years old at the time of his guilty plea and he pled guilty to armed robbery. 

The South Carolina Code designates armed robbery as a “violent crime” and establishes that it is a class “A” felony.  S.C. Code Ann. §§ 16-1-60 and 90(A) (Supp. 2004).  The Code also provides that, as a felony, armed robbery carries a “mandatory minimum term of not less than ten years or more than thirty years, no part of which may be suspended or probation granted.”  S.C. Code Ann. § 16-11-330(A) (2003).  Therefore, the State correctly argues that Frazier does not qualify as a youthful offender under the Act. 

“A trial judge generally has wide discretion in determining what sentence to impose.”  State v. Franklin, 267 S.C. 240, 246, 226 S.E.2d 896, 898 (1976).  “[T]his court has no jurisdiction to review a sentence, provided it is within the limits provided by statute for the discretion of the trial court, and is not the result of prejudice, oppression or corrupt motive.”  Id.; State v. Benning, 338 S.C. 59, 64, 524 S.E.2d 852, 856 (Ct. App. 1999). 

“[T]he effect of the enactment of [the Youthful Offenders Act] statute was to provide alternative methods of sentencing youthful offenders, leaving the decision as to its application in each case to the discretion of the trial judge.”  Powell v. State, 262 S.C. 592, 595, 206 S.E.2d 883, 884 (1974).  However, “[t]he exercise of a sound judicial discretion must and should be performed in every case with a conscientious regard for what is just and proper under the circumstances.”  State v. Scates, 212 S.C. 150, 155-56, 46 S.E.2d 693, 695 (1948).  Here, because Frazier does not qualify as a youthful offender under the Act, the trial judge erred by denying the State’s motion to reconsider Frazier’s sentence.

REVERSED AND REMANDED. 

GOOLSBY, BEATTY, and SHORT, J.J., concur.


[1] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.