BY THE COURT
recommendations made pursuant to a plea agreement are not
binding on the sentencing court.
from Sedgwick District Court; Joseph Bribiesca, judge.
J. Eddinger, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, was on the
brief for appellant.
A. Isherwood, assistant district attorney, Marc Bennett,
district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were
on the brief for appellee.
September 2013, the State charged Charles A. Beck, Jr. with
one count each of first-degree murder and attempted
first-degree murder. The complaint alleged Beck killed Lonnie
Staggs by strangulation and attempted to kill Staggs'
15-year-old son by cutting him with a knife and strangling
him with a cord.
the district court found Beck competent to stand trial, he
entered into a plea agreement with the State. In exchange for
Beck's guilty pleas to both counts, the State agreed to
request a hard 25 life sentence for the first-degree
premeditated murder count and ask the court to impose the
maximum grid-box sentence for the attempted first-degree
murder, though Beck was free to request a lesser sentence.
The real incentive to Beck was the State's agreement to
recommend to the sentencing court that the sentences be
ordered to run concurrently, "for a total anticipated
sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility after 25
the district judge accepted Beck's guilty pleas, he
ensured Beck understood the court was not bound by the plea
agreement and that the court could order the sentences to run
consecutive to one another. Beck said he understood, and the
judge accepted his pleas. Prior to sentencing, Beck filed a
motion asking the court to grant a downward durational
departure on the attempted first-degree murder count. The
motion cited mitigating factors such as his "rough
upbringing"; a history of "auditory and visual
hallucinations"; the fact that his only felonies were
from 2006; and his belief that a consecutive sentence to his
life imprisonment would be "exceedingly harsh."
initial sentencing hearing, the court found Beck had a
criminal history score of C. Staggs' mother and
stepbrother gave statements outlining the brutal nature of
the crimes. They both ultimately asked the court to not allow
Beck to "see the light of day again." The State
made recommendations consistent with the plea agreement.
court imposed a hard 25 life sentence for the first-degree
premeditated murder. It erroneously stated the applicable
sentencing range for the attempted first-degree murder count
was 147 to 165 months. See K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 21-5301(c)(1)
("An attempt to commit an off-grid felony shall be
ranked at nondrug severity level 1."); K.S.A. 2013 Supp.
21-6804 (stating that a nondrug severity level 1 crime with a
criminal history score of C results in a presumptive range of
258 to 285 months). It then sentenced Beck to serve 165
months in prison. Lastly, despite the parties' joint
recommendation, the court decided to run the sentences
consecutively rather than concurrently.
point thereafter, the court was made aware of the sentencing
error. At resentencing, the court stated the correct
presumptive sentencing range for the attempted murder
conviction was 258 to 285 months. Nonetheless, it granted
Beck's request to depart downward to the original
sentence-165 months' imprisonment.
timely appealed his sentence to this court. See K.S.A. 2016
Supp. 22-3601(b)(3) (providing for direct appeal to the
Supreme Court from a district court's final judgment when
a maximum sentence of life imprisonment has been imposed);
see also State v. Looney, 299 Kan. 903, 908, 327
P.3d 425 (2014) (appellate jurisdiction exists when
defendants receive a downward departure).
sole argument on appeal is the district court erred when it
refused to follow the plea agreement's recommendation by
running his sentences concurrent to each other. Because such
decisions lie within the sound discretion of sentencing
courts, we review them for an abuse of discretion. State
v. Mosher, 299 Kan. 1, 2, 319 P.3d 1253 (2014). A
district court abuses its discretion if its decision is (1)
arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable; (2) based on an error
of law; or (3) based on an error of fact. State v.
Mattox, 305 Kan. 1015, 1029-30, 390 P.3d 514 (2017). It
is Beck's burden to demonstrate an abuse of discretion.
See State v. Baker, 297 Kan. 482, 484, 301 P.3d 706
(2013). "[I]n Kansas both parties to a plea agreement
assume the risk the sentencing court will impose a sentence
different than the ...