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Giles v. State

Supreme Court of Delaware

October 25, 2017

WARDELL GILES, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: August 11, 2017

         Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No. 0707010864

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and SEITZ, Justices.


          Leo E. Strine, Jr. Chief Justice

         This 25th day of October 2017, upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the Superior Court record, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) In a Superior Court criminal case in 2007, the appellant, Wardell Giles, pled guilty to robbery in the second degree and was sentenced to five years of Level V incarceration immediately suspended for six months of Level IV work release or home confinement followed by three years and six months of Level III probation. This appeal is from Giles' adjudication of guilt and sentencing in 2016 on his sixth violation of probation ("VOP").

         (2) The VOP charge against Giles arose from an incident at the Sussex Community Corrections Center ("SCCC") in Georgetown. The SCCC facility houses several correctional programs, including the Sussex VOP Center and the Sussex Work Release Center. Giles was transferred to the VOP Center in April 2016 to serve the sentence imposed on his fifth VOP.

         (3) Giles was assigned to the kitchen work crew at the SCCC and was working with the crew at the Work Release Center on the morning of August 25, 2016. Giles' duties that morning included reaching through a partially-opened window to retrieve food trays. Correctional Officer Michael Megee was supervising the inmates in the Work Release Center and was standing a few feet away from the window when he observed someone reach through the window and grab the wrist of an inmate, Jennifer Moore, as she returned her tray. Officer Megee immediately opened the window to confront the person, who turned out to be Giles. Office Megee removed Giles to the holding cell at the Work Release Center. Upon questioning by Officer Megee, Giles denied that he touched Moore. Officer Megee then transferred Giles to the sanction pod at the VOP Center.

         (4) As a result of the incident on August 25, 2016, Giles was terminated from the kitchen crew and was charged with three VOP Center program violations: lying to staff, termination of employment, and inappropriate touching of the opposite sex. The violations were heard by the SCCC VOP Center Multi-Disciplinary Team ("MDT") on August 30, 2016, and on September 6, 2016, the MDT recommended that Giles should be returned to a higher level of security and charged with a VOP. After the MDT's recommendation was approved by the head of the SCCC, Amber Welch, a Senior Probation Officer at the VOP Center, filed an administrative warrant on September 8 2016, and a violation report on September 12, 2016.

         (5) The administrative warrant and violation report alleged that Giles had violated Condition #3 of his supervision by failing to "abide by all the rules and regulations of the county community correction center and/or the residential treatment program as described in the orientation manual." In support of the alleged violation of Condition #3, the warrant and report described the factual circumstances of the August 25, 2016 incident involving Giles, the alleged program violations that followed, Giles' appearance before the MDT, and the MDT's recommendation. Moreover, both the warrant and the report charged that "Giles' behavior demonstrates failure to comply with [Condition #3] and with the Rules and Regulations of Sussex Community Corrections Center, which [Giles] signed for and acknowledged receipt of on [April 27, 2016]."

         (6) The Superior Court held a contested VOP hearing on October 14, 2016. The evidence against Giles included the testimony of Officer Megee and Officer Welch, a video recording of the incident on August 25, 2016-namely, Giles' alleged improper contact with Moore at the tray return window, and Giles' signed receipt acknowledging that he received the SCCC orientation manual on April 27, 2016. Officer Welch testified that the orientation manual included the rules and regulations of the VOP Center. Giles' defense counsel cross-examined both Officers Megee and Welch, presented the direct testimony of Giles, and submitted two letters that Moore allegedly kited to Giles, one during the incident on August 25, 2016, and the other after that date. Giles testified that he and Moore were friends and frequently kited letters to each other. According to Giles, he would pass letters to Moore at dinner between slices of bread, and Moore would pass letters to him at breakfast when returning her food tray. Giles testified that his contact with Moore on August 25, 2016 occurred when she passed him the letter as she was returning her tray. Giles testified that he did not tell Office Megee about the letter, because he did not want to get Moore into trouble.

         (7) At the conclusion of the hearing, the Superior Court found Giles guilty of VOP. The court deferred sentencing and ordered a presentence report to get an accurate accounting of Giles' time-served credit and the amount of Level V time remaining on his sentence.[1] On December 9, 2016, the Superior Court sentenced Giles to one year and eight days of Level V incarceration suspended after six months for six months of Level IV home confinement or work release. This appeal followed.

          (8) Giles raises four claims on appeal. He characterizes two claims as violations of due process, challenges the admissibility and sufficiency of the evidence against him at the VOP hearing, and argues that his counsel was ineffective.

         (9) Giles' ineffective counsel claim is not reviewable in this Court in the first instance.[2] And, because Giles did not raise his due process claims in the Superior Court, he has waived review of those claims on appeal in the absence of plain error.[3] Plain error is error so clearly ...

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