Submitted: January 28, 2015
Upon Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief - DENIED
Upon Motion to Withdraw as Counsel for Eric Williams – GRANTED
HONORABLE ANDREA L. ROCANELLI, Judge
On January 26, 2010, members of New Castle County Police and Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Safe Streets Unit executed an administrative search warrant on two probationers staying in Room 174 of the Fairview Inn at 1051 N. Market St., Wilmington, Delaware. The probationers were the defendant in this case Eric Williams, a Level 2 probationer and convicted felon ("Defendant") and William Comer, a Level 3 probationer and convicted felon. As convicted felons, both Defendant and Comer were prohibited from possessing firearms.
Room 174 was registered in Defendant's name. Neither Defendant nor Comer was in Room 174 at the time the warrant was executed. The following items were recovered from Room 174: 19 grams of Cocaine; 16 bags of Heroin; 40 rounds of .32 caliber ammunition; a loaded .32 caliber revolver; a digital scale; and various drug paraphernalia. Also recovered were pieces of mail belonging to both Defendant and Comer. Defendant was arrested as he attempted to enter Room 174 while police were inside. Defendant had the key to Room 174 in his possession when he was taken into custody.
Defendant was charged with Trafficking Cocaine (10-50 grams); Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony; Possession with Intent to Deliver Cocaine; Possession with Intent to Deliver Heroin; Possession of Ammunition By a Person Prohibited; Possession of a Firearm By a Person Prohibited; Maintaining a Dwelling; Conspiracy 2nd Degree; Possession of Drug Paraphernalia; and Resisting Arrest. Defendant was also charged with Violation of Probation. If Defendant had been convicted of all new charges arising from the January 26, 2010 arrest and the Violation of Probation, he would have faced almost twenty (20) years of minimum mandatory Level 5 incarceration.
Kathryn Van Amerongon, Esquire, was appointed as Defendant's trial counsel. Ms. Van Amerongon represented Defendant for approximately one week before recusing herself and her office due to a conflict of interest. Peter Letang, Esquire, was the second attorney appointed to Defendant as trial counsel. Mr. Letang also recused himself due to a conflict of interest within one week of his appointment. Patrick Collins, Esquire, was appointed as counsel for Defendant and represented Defendant through the conclusion of the case. (Mr. Collins is referenced herein as "Trial Counsel").
The Court scheduled trial for December 14, 2010. More than nine months after his arrest, following the completion of discovery and a full investigation conducted by Trial Counsel, Defendant pled guilty on December 2, 2010 to Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. The remaining eight charges were dropped.
Pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Procedural Rule 11(c)(1), the Court addressed Defendant personally in open court. The Court determined that Defendant understood the nature of the charges to which the plea was offered, the mandatory minimum penalties provided by law, the maximum possible penalties provided by law, and the range of possible penalties included in the sentence imposed by the Court in this case. Defendant acknowledged in open court that he was guilty of the criminal conduct to which he was pleading guilty and acknowledged his responsibility for the violation of probation. The Court emphasized that the dismissal of the remaining charges reflected Defendant's acceptance of responsibility for his criminal conduct.
The Court sentenced Defendant to three (3) years at Level 5 incarceration, the minimum mandatory sentence for Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony. In addition, because Defendant admitted that he was responsible for the Violation of Probation, the Court sentenced Defendant to an additional three (3) years at Level 5. Defendant's incarceration was to be followed by one (1) year of community-based supervision at probation Level 3.
Defendant filed a Motion for Postconviction Relief on May 29, 2012. The Motion asserted four grounds for relief, including ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court requested affidavits from each of Defendant's prior counsel. Pursuant to Defendant's claims for relief, Ms. Van Amerongon filed an affidavit to which Defendant submitted a reply. Mr. Letang filed an affidavit to which Defendant submitted a reply. Trial Counsel submitted an affidavit to which Defendant submitted a reply. By letter dated January 25, 2013, the Court sought additional information from Mr. Letang's office. At this time, the Court did not require the State to file a response to Defendant's Motion.
This case was reassigned in August 2013, at which time the Court requested a response from the State to Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief. At about the same time, Defendant requested that Rule 61 counsel be appointed to represent him. Accordingly, the Court informed the State that a response to Defendant's Motion should not be filed. On October 18, 2013, the Court ordered appointment of Rule 61 counsel. By Order dated April 15, 2014, Christopher Tease, Esquire, was appointed as Rule 61 Counsel. (Mr. Tease is referenced herein as "Rule 61 Counsel"). 
Rule 61 Counsel filed a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61(e)(6), asserting that Defendant failed to allege meritorious grounds for postconviction relief. The State filed a response requesting that Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief be denied. This is the Court's decision on ...