Case Caption: Felipe Jimenez Caraballo v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: SCT-CRIM-2020-0005Date: 09/21/2021Author: Swan, Ive Arlington Citation: 2021 VI 16Summary: Defendant pled guilty to aggravated assault and battery, domestic violence, in violation of 14 V.I.C. § 298(3) and 16 V.I.C. § 91(b)(1)(2) in an amended plea agreement, pursuant to which the People submitted a recommended sentence of one year of incarceration with all but thirty days suspended. However, the Superior Court rejected that recommendation, ultimately sentencing the defendant to, inter alia, three years of incarceration. Defendant contends for the first time on appeal that the People breached the parties’ plea agreement when the prosecutor mentioned certain aggravating factors pertaining to him during allocution at the sentencing hearing, which in defendant’s view caused the judge to impose a harsher penalty than was recommended in the amended plea agreement. He likewise argues that the Superior Court violated Rule 11 of the Virgin Islands Rules of Criminal Procedure when, after accepting the plea agreement that was amended based on its instructions and concerns regarding the factual basis of the plea, it failed to adopt the recommended sentence, and instead imposed a harsher sentence. Following a review of the record, the Court concludes that the prosecutor’s statements during allocution do not constitute error, much less plain error. Nevertheless, the Court also concludes that the Superior Court judge violated the prohibition on judicial participation in plea agreement negotiations imposed by Rule 11, that this participation was in error, and that such error was plain. While Rule 11 clearly gives the Superior Court the authority to reject a plea agreement with which it does not fully agree, under that rule the Superior Court cannot participate in plea discussions so as to impose its view of what must be included in a plea agreement, absent the consent of the parties. Accordingly, the sentence is vacated and the case is remanded to the Superior Court in order for it to conduct a plea agreement hearing consistent with Rule 11 of the Virgin Islands Rules of Criminal Procedure before a different Superior Court judge.Attachment: Open Document or Opinion