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Laboa v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 15, 2019

John Laboa, Appellant-Petitioner,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Respondent.

          Appeal from the Floyd Superior Court The Honorable Bradley B. Jacobs, Special Judge Trial Court Cause No. 22D03-1704-PC-6

          APPELLANT PRO SE John Laboa New Castle, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Chandra K. Hein Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          ROBB, JUDGE.

         Case Summary and Issue

         [¶1] John Laboa pleaded guilty to child molesting, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to twenty years in the Indiana Department of Correction ("DOC"). Laboa filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, professional misconduct, judicial bias, and a conspiracy among those involved in his case to wrongfully convict and confine him. Without ordering the parties to proceed by affidavit or holding an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied his petition. Laboa, pro se, appeals the summary denial of his petition raising five issues, which we consolidate and restate as whether the post-conviction court erred by denying his petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. Concluding the restated issue is dispositive and the post-conviction court clearly erred in the procedure it used to dispose of Laboa's petition, we reverse and remand with instructions.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] Laboa was accused of molesting several children. After an investigation, the State charged Laboa with two counts of child molesting as Class A felonies and three counts of child molesting as Class C felonies. On March 12, 2014, Laboa pleaded guilty to one count of child molesting as a Class B felony, and the remaining counts were dismissed. The trial court sentenced him to twenty years in the DOC.

         [¶3] Following his guilty plea, Laboa filed a petition for post-conviction relief in March 2015 in which he claimed ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, and judicial bias. However, Laboa withdrew his petition in February 2017. He filed another petition for post-conviction relief in April 2017. In his second petition, Laboa alleged ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, abuse of discretion, and professional misconduct as the basis for vacating his conviction. Specifically, he alleged a "conspiracy [among those involved in his case] to commit malicious and nefarious intentional collusion to wrongfully convict [him] and wrongfully confine [him] in the [DOC]." Appellant's Appendix, Volume 2 at 128. The original trial court judge recused herself and Special Judge Bradley Jacobs was appointed. In November 2017, Laboa amended his petition[1] and submitted an affidavit summarizing his allegations. Laboa also attached his previously withdrawn petition for post-conviction relief and the statement of facts which he had submitted with his first petition, and he requested an evidentiary hearing. In support of his petition, Laboa filed self-serving affidavits and subsequently filed numerous notices with the post-conviction court. The chronological case summary indicates that the State did not respond to Laboa's petition and the post-conviction court did not order the cause to be submitted by affidavit or schedule an evidentiary hearing.

         [¶4] On December 28, 2017, the post-conviction court issued findings of fact and conclusions thereon denying Laboa's petition:

[H]aving read and considered the pleadings and affidavits . . .: Findings of Fact
1. [Laboa] pleaded guilty on March 12, 2014 and was sentenced on April 9, 2014.
2. [Laboa] timely filed his Petition for Post-Conviction Relief ...

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