Submitted: October 27, 2014
Upon Defendant's First Motion for Postconviction Relief.
Eric S. Teel, pro se, Wilmington, Delaware.
Zoe M. Plerhoples, Esquire, Department of Justice, 820 N. French St., Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.
Ferris W. Wharton, J.
This 22nd day of December, 2014, upon consideration of Defendant's First Motion for Postconviction Relief, Trial Counsel's Affidavit, Conflict Counsel's Motion to Withdraw and the transcript of the plea hearing, it appears to the Court that:
1. Defendant, Eric S. Teel, was charged with several crimes that allegedly arose from three consecutive days of domestic disputes with his paramour between July 2, 2013 and July 4, 2013 including: Second Degree Burglary, three counts of Terroristic Threatening, two counts of Harassment, Offensive Touching, Criminal Mischief and three counts of Breach of Release. On October 28, 2013, Defendant pled guilty to one count of Stalking and one count of Terroristic Threatening.
2. The transcript of the plea colloquy reflects the following: Defendant reviewed the plea agreement and Truth-in-Sentencing form with his attorney, acknowledged that he understood the documents and signed the documents; Defendant acknowledged that he would be giving up constitutional rights and civil liberties by pleading guilty and indicated that he understood that the penalty imposed could range from six months to four years; Defendant asserted that he was not being forced by anyone to plead guilty; Defendant agreed that he was satisfied with his attorney's representation; and Defendant acknowledged that he fully understood the nature of the proceedings and consequences associated with pleading guilty. Despite the revelation that Defendant was not taking his mental health medications as prescribed and had been admitted to a mental institute within the past two years, upon further questioning, the Court found that Defendant knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily entered a guilty plea.
3. On January 24, 2014, Defendant was sentenced to four years of incarceration at Level V suspended after serving three years for one year of probation at Level III with various special conditions. Defendant did not file a direct appeal. Instead, Defendant filed his first Motion for Postconviction Relief pro se on February 4, 2014. In so much as the Court can decipher and extract Defendant's arguments, the Motion set forth four claims: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel because Trial Counsel did not submit a motion to suppress or a motion to withdraw his guilty plea nor did Trial Counsel communicate with Defendant, his witnesses or victim; (2) "suppression of favorable evidence" because evidence that Defendant never stalked his victim exists and, therefore, he is not guilty; (3) "unfulfilled plea agreement" because Trial Counsel informed Defendant that Defendant would face substantial prison time and Trial Counsel would resign if Defendant refused to execute the plea agreement; and (4) "sentence exceeds the norm" because the guideline for Stalking is 0-3 years of incarceration and the applicable presumptive sentence is 18 months at Level V incarceration. Defendant alleged that the sentencing judge acted unfairly by exceeding those guidelines.
4. Conflict counsel was appointed to represent Defendant in this matter on April 17, 2014 and the matter was re-assigned to this judge on June 6, 2014. By Order dated June 23, 2014, the Court directed Trial Counsel to respond via affidavit to the claims Defendant raised in his Motion. On July 7, 2014, Trial Counsel submitted an affidavit denying all allegations as set forth.
5. In response to Defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, via sworn affidavit, Trial Counsel asserted that Defendant neither requested that Trial Counsel file any motions to suppress nor a motion to withdraw the guilty plea. Trial Counsel also stated that Defendant proffered only one person for Trial Counsel to contact and that multiple attempts to reach that person at the phone number provided were unsuccessful. Additionally, Trial Counsel claimed that he visited Defendant several times at Howard R. Young Correctional Institute between August 9, 2013 and October 28, 2013. Trial Counsel asserted that at no time did he threaten to withdraw from the case but acknowledged that he had advised Defendant that, if Defendant refused the plea offer, Defendant would face substantially more prison time if convicted of all of the charges against him.
6. In response to Defendant's other three claims, Trial Counsel contended that Defendant's claim that he was not guilty of Stalking is contradicted by Defendant's own acknowledgement that he was in direct contact with the victim, in violation of a "no contact" order and by Defendant's admission to the prosecuting attorney, via written letter, that "I know what I did was wrong and yes I intended to put fear in [the victim]." Trial Counsel also asserted that the sentence imposed was not illegal.
7. On November 17, 2014, the Court granted Conflict Counsel's Motion to Withdraw based upon his representation to the Court that Defendant's claims lack merit.
8. Before addressing the merits of Defendant's claims, the Court must apply the procedural bars set forth in Super. Ct. Crim. R. 61(i).According to the version of the Rule in force at the time that this Motion was filed, the Court rejects a motion for postconviction relief as procedurally barred if the motion is untimely or ...