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Paskins v. Pierce

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 24, 2017

DANIEL M. PASKINS, JR., Petitioner,
v.
DAVID PIERCE, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

          Daniel M. Paskins, Jr. Pro se petitioner.

          Gregory E. Smith, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robinson, District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Petitioner Daniel M. Paskins Jr. ("petitioner") filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("application"). (D.I. 1) For the reasons that follow, the court will deny petitioner's § 2254 application.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner pled guilty to first degree robbery and first degree burglary in October 1988. See Paskins v. State, 58 A.3d 983 (Table), 2012 WL 5948969 at *1 (Del. Nov. 27, 2012). On March 9, 1989, he was sentenced to a total of twenty years at Level V imprisonment, suspended after four and one-half years for thirteen and one-half years at Level II probation. Id. In January 1994, petitioner was convicted on four counts of first degree robbery and one count of possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, and he was sentenced to a total period of thirty-three years at Level V, suspended after twenty-five years for probation. See Paskins, 2012 WL 5948969, at *1. As a result of this new conviction, the Superior Court found petitioner in violation of his probation ("VOP") for his 1988 convictions. The Superior Court re-imposed the sentence of twenty years, suspended after four and one-half years of imprisonment, with credit for time served, followed by ten years of probation. (D.I. 16 at 1-2)

         In November 2010, petitioner filed a motion to modify his VOP sentence for his 1988 convictions. See Paskins, 2012 WL 5948969 at *1. After granting the motion, the Superior Court modified petitioner's sentence on January 19, 2011 by suspending all of the remaining Level V time and imposing a one year period at Level IV home confinement, followed by four years at Level III probation. See Paskins, 2012 WL 5948969 at *1. In July 2012, petitioner was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Id. As a result of that arrest, in August 2012 the Superior Court found petitioner in violation of his probation for his 1988 convictions and sentenced him to a total period of thirty-one years at Level V incarceration, suspended entirely for one year at Level IV home confinement, to be followed by probation. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that VOP sentence order. Id. at *2.

         On January 4, 2013, petitioner was found in violation of his probation for his 1988 convictions after testing positive for alcohol during a urine screening test. (D.I. 16 at 3) As a result, the Superior Court immediately sentenced him on the VOP to a total of thirty one years at Level V incarceration, suspended upon successful completion of the Greentree program for decreasing levels of treatment and supervision. (D.I. 18 at 222-225, 230) Petitioner appealed, and the Delaware Supreme Court dismissed petitioner's appeal on March 14, 2013 due to his failure to pay the filing fee or file a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, and his failure to file a timely response to show cause. See (D.I. 18 at 230); Paskins v. State, 2013 WL 1098258 (Del. Mar. 14, 2013). Petitioner filed a Rule 35 motion on April 1, 2013, which the Superior Court denied on April 9, 2013. (D.I. 16 at 2)

         On July 1, 2014, petitioner filed a motion to reduce his sentence for his January 2013 VOP, which the Superior Court denied on August 27, 2014. (D.I. 16 at 2) Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion") on September 16, 2014. The Superior Court denied the Rule 61 motion on September 29, 2014, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on January 14, 2015. See Paskins v. State, 108 A.3d 1225 (Table), 2015 WL 177415 (Del. Jan. 14, 2015).

         Thereafter, petitioner filed in this court the instant pending application for habeas relief. In his sole claim, petitioner contends that he is actually innocent of his January 4, 2013 VOP conviction (relating to his 1988 convictions), because the probation officer lied when he said that petitioner's urine tested positive for drugs and alcohol. The State filed an answer, asserting that the application should be denied in its entirety as moot, because petitioner only challenges the Level V incarceration resulting from his 2013 VOP conviction and he is now on probation. (D.I. 16 at 3-4) Alternatively, the State contends that the application must be dismissed as time-barred. (D.I. 16 at 3-4)

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Mootness

         According to Article III, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, federal courts can only consider ongoing cases or controversies. Lewis v. Continental Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477-78 (1990); United States v. Kissinger,309 F.3d 179, 180 (3d Cir. 2002)(finding that an actual controversy must exist during all stages of litigation). When a habeas petitioner challenges his underlying conviction, and he is released during the pendency of his habeas petition, federal courts presume that "a wrongful criminal conviction has continuing collateral consequences" sufficient to satisfy the injury requirement. Spencer v. Kemna,523 U.S. 1, 8 (1998); see Steele v. Blackman,236 F.3d 130, 134 n.4 (3d Cir. 2001). However, when a petitioner does not attack his conviction, the injury requirement is not presumed. See Chong v. District Director, INS,264 F.3d 378, 384 (3d Cir. 2001). "[O]nce a litigant is unconditionally released from criminal confinement, the litigant [can only satisfy the case-and-controversy requirement by] prov[ing] that he or she suffers a continuing injury from the collateral consequences attaching to the challenged act"[1] "that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision." Spencer, ...


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