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State v. Pickle

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

December 4, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
ROBERT J. PICKLE, Defendant.

          Submitted: November 17, 2017

         Upon Defendant's Amended First Motion for Postconviction Relief Denied.

          Susan G. Schmidhauser, Esquire, Department of Justice, Dover, Delaware; attorney for the State.

          Robert J. Pickle, pro se

          Kathleen K. Amalfitano, Esquire, Office of the Public Defender, Dover, Delaware; attorney for Defendant.

          ORDER

          HON. WILLIAM L. WITHAM, JR. RESIDENT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is an Amended First Motion for Postconviction Relief filed by Defendant Robert J. Pickle on his own behalf. The Court has also considered the Affidavit of Defense Counsel's Reply Brief, the State's Response to Defendant's Motion for Post-Conviction Relief, and Defendant's Reply Brief to the State's Response. The Court has also considered the arguments of Mr. Pickle and his defense counsel, Kathleen Amalfitano, at a hearing held on this motion on November 17, 2017. After careful consideration of the above, the Court concludes that Mr. Pickle's Amended First Motion for Postconviction Relief must be summarily DENIED.

         FACTS

         Mr. Pickle was convicted of five counts of Rape in the Third Degree. During the seven-month span of the offenses to which he pled guilty, Mr. Pickle was forty-five years old and his young male victim was initially fourteen years old. The victim turned fifteen during the course of the crimes. Mr. Pickle was first indicted by a grand jury on twenty-six counts of Rape in the Third Degree, one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and one count of Providing Alcohol to an Underage Person.

         According to the affidavit supporting the arrest warrant, Mr. Pickle and the victim's relationship began when the victim downloaded a social networking app for persons seeking same-sex relationships. The two began to chat and text with each other and soon thereafter, according to the officer's affidavit, the victim would sneak out of his home on foot to meet Mr. Pickle, who would drive him to his own home in Harrington, Delaware or to Slaughter Beach, Delaware. The relationship between the two began in February 2013 and lasted until September 2013, during which time they would engage in oral or anal sex at least weekly and, on other occasions, masturbate. According to the affidavit, Mr. Pickle admitted to police that he had oral and anal sex with the victim several times but could not recall how many times it had occurred.

         Mr. Pickle eventually pleaded guilty to five counts of Rape in the Third Degree as part of a plea agreement with the State. In the Plea Agreement, Mr. Pickle pleaded guilty to each of the charges and accepted a sentencing recommendation of twenty-five years for each count, suspended after five years at Level V for each count, followed by six months at Level IV home confinement for the first count, followed by two years at Level III for each count. The State agreed to enter a nolle prosequi for the remaining charges. Both Mr. Pickle and his attorney signed the plea agreement form.

         Mr. Pickle also completed a Truth-in-Sentencing form. The form indicated that he had never been a patient in a mental hospital, had completed college, was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time, was entering into the plea freely and voluntarily, had not been promised anything outside of the written agreement, and had not been threatened or forced to enter the plea by anyone, including his lawyer. The form indicated that he was satisfied with his lawyer's representation and that his lawyer had fully advised him of his rights and discussed the sex offender registration requirements. Both Mr. Pickle and his attorney signed the Truth-in-Sentencing form.

         At his plea hearing on April 2, 2014, Mr. Pickle was sworn and the Court engaged him in a colloquy. The Court reminded him of the trial rights he was giving up, and then proceeded to ask Mr. Pickle:

THE COURT: ... I have in front of me several documents. They're called the plea agreement and truth-in-sentencing forms. Do you have these documents in front of you as well?
THE DEFENDANT: That's correct, sir.
THE COURT: Thank you. Did you sign both documents?
THE DEFENDANT: That is correct, sir, I did.
THE COURT: Have you reviewed both documents with your attorney?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.[1]

         The Court then discussed the potential penalties with Mr. Pickle and made sure that he understood them.

THE COURT: The truth-in-sentencing guilty plea form itself requires you to check off the appropriate yes and no blocks as they correspond to questions asked of you on the page. You are to carefully review these questions with your attorney, your attorney should answer any question you may have about the questions and then each block should be checked off correctly. Did you have your attorney check the blocks off for you?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I did.
THE COURT: Did you instruct her accordingly and you reviewed this to make sure she checked off each block correctly?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir, I did.
THE COURT: Very well. Likewise, you should also read and understand that you will be waiving some very important rights which are covered in Paragraphs 1 through 7. These rights are called your Constitutional Rights or trial rights.

         Do you understand you waive these rights?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Has anyone forced or threatened you to enter this plea?
THE DEFENDANT: No, sir.
THE COURT: Are you in fact guilty of these five separate ...

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