Ahvakana v. State
In Ahvakana v. State, 475 P.3d 1118 (Alaska Ct. App. 2020), the court of appeals held that Ahvakana’s attorney provided him incompetent advice and remanded the case to determine if the advice prejudiced Ahvakana. (Id at 1124, 1126). Ahvakana was indicted with, inter alia, first-degree assault and faced a mandatory 99-year sentence if convicted. (Id. at 1120–21). Ahvakana’s attorney, however, erroneously concluded that he faced only 15 to 20 years if convicted, while the prosecutor informed Ahvakana that he faced a discretionary, not mandatory, 40 to 99-year sentence. (Id. at 1120). The prosecutor offered Ahvakana a plea agreement for 21 years with 4 years suspended, and Ahvakana rejected the plea offer. (Id. at 1121). Ahvakana filed an application for post-conviction relief, asserting that he would have accepted the plea agreement if he had understood the true nature of the 99-year sentence. (Id. at 1121). The superior court held that the prosecutor’s and defense attorney’s mutual mistake voided the plea offer and then concluded that Ahvakana was not entitled to specific performance of the agreement. (Id. at 1122). The court of appeals held that mutual mistake did not govern in this case because there was no actual mutual mistake. (Id. at 1123). The prosecutor was aware that a 99-year sentence was still a possibility, while the defense attorney’s mistake was “far more egregious” in believing it to be 15 to 20 years. (Id. at 1124). Furthermore, nothing in the record suggested that the prosecutor’s mistake had a material effect on the prosecutor’s plea offer. (Id.) The court remanded the case to determine if the advice prejudiced Ahvakana under Alaska’s “reasonable possibility” of a different outcome standard. (Id. at 1125.) Vacating the superior court’s decision, the court of appeals held that Ahvakana’s attorney provided him incompetent advice and remanded the case to determine if the advice prejudiced Ahvakana. (Id. at 1124, 1126.