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State v. Phillips

Superior Court of Delaware

October 5, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
RON PHILLIPS, Defendant.

          Submitted: September 1, 2017

          John Downs, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.

          Ron Phillips, Howard R. Young Correctional Institute, Wilmington, Delaware, pro se.

          COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION THAT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF SHOULD BE DENIED

          Katharine L. Mayer Commissioner

         This 5th day of October, 2017, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief and the record in this matter, the following is my Report and Recommendation.

         BACKGROUND, FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         1. Defendant was originally indicted (and then re-indicted) on twenty-four (24) charges including numerous felony offenses. Defendant eventually pled guilty on February 10, 2015, to Assault First Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony ("PFDCF") and Gang Participation, and as part of the plea agreement, all other charges were dismissed. The plea related to a 2009 incident whereby Defendant threw a knife at one victim and then shot another in the stomach. The Plea Agreement was signed by Defendant, and his counsel, and indicated that the recommendation/agreement was "Open sentencing." Defendant also executed a Truth in Sentencing Guilty Plea Form that informed him of the rights he was waiving, the range of penalties, including the minimum and maximum penalty, as well as other conditions. Defendant acknowledged that the total maximum penalty could be 53 years of incarceration with a minimum mandatory term of 5 years at Level 5.

         2. On November 13, 2015, Defendant was sentenced as follows: (i) for the Assault First Degree conviction, Defendant was sentenced to 20 years at Level 5, suspended after 8 years for 2 years at Level 3; (ii) for the PFDCF conviction Defendant received 5 years at Level 5; and (iii) for the Gang Participation charge, Defendant was sentenced to 2 years at Level 5, suspended for 1 year at Level 2.

         3. Through the course of his case, Defendant's trial counsel filed three motions to dismiss[1] and Defendant independently submitted several letters and papers with the Court that included requests for relief such as a motion to dismiss and a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus.[2] In addition, Defendant, with the assistance of counsel, filed a Motion for Reduction of Sentence.[3]

         4. On November 9, 2016, Defendant filed a Motion for Postconviction Relief and asserted three grounds for relief: (i) Defendant's understanding of the plea agreement was undermined by his education and counsel's explanation and therefore the plea was not knowing and intelligently entered into; (ii) the sentencing judge, having presided over his co-defendant's trial, may have been privy to evidence incriminating Defendant which led to the judge imposing an excessive sentence; and (iii) Defendant's plea was coerced because he was promised that the mother of his children would not be prosecuted for felony charges.

         5. Before ruling on Defendant's motion, the record was enlarged and Defendant's trial counsel was directed to submit an Affidavit responding to Defendant's claims. Thereafter, the State filed a response to the motion[4] and Defendant filed a reply thereto.[5]

         ANALYSIS OF DEFENDANT'S RULE 61 MOTION

         6. Prior to ruling on a motion for post-conviction relief, the Court must first determine whether there are any procedural bars before considering the merits of the claims.[6] This is Defendant's first motion under Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 and it was timely filed.

         7. All of Defendant's arguments relate to his plea and sentencing. However, Defendant did not file a Motion to Withdraw the Guilty Plea and his Motion for Modification/Reduction of Sentence has already been denied by this Court. In its decision, this Court reviewed Defendant's plea and held that after addressing the Defendant in open court, the Court determined that the Defendant understood the nature of the charges, as well as the mandatory minimum and ...


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