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State v. Thomas

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

March 28, 2018

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
DEANDRAE THOMAS, Defendant.

         COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

         Upon Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief Pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61

          Kathleen A. Dickerson, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, for the State of Delaware.

          Jonathan Layton, Esquire, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant.

          ANDREA M. FREUD, COMMISSIONER

         The Defendant, Deandrae Thomas ("Thomas") pled guilty on January 26, 2012 to one count of Racketeering, 11 Del. C. § 1503; one count of Trafficking Cocaine > 100 Grams, 16 Del. C. § 4753 A; two counts of Trafficking Cocaine 10 - 50G, 16 Del. C. § 4753A; one count of Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited ("PFBPP"), 11 Del. C. § 1448; one count of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony ("PFDCF"), 11 Del. C. § 1447 A; two counts of Possession of a Deadly Weapon During the Commission of a Felony, 11 Del. C. § 1447; one count of Assault in the Second Degree, 11 Del. C. § 612; one count of Reckless Endangering in the First Degree, 11 Del. C. § 604; one count of Resisting Arrest 11 Del. C. § 1257; and one count of Failure to stop for a Police Signal, 21 Del. C. § 4103. Thomas was also facing an additional eighty-seven counts including multiple counts of Drug Dealing, Trafficking, Robbery, Attempted Murder and weapons charges. Nolle prosequis were entered on the remaining charges in exchange for Thomas' guilty plea. The parties agreed to a presentence office investigation at Thomas' insistence. Had Thomas gone to trial and been found guilty of each of the charges, he faced a minimum mandatory sentence of 62 years in jail up to life incarceration. On March 29, 2012 this Court sentenced Thomas to a total of 58 years incarceration, suspended after serving 37 years, for probation. Thomas filed an appeal to the State Supreme Court in which he argued his twelve year sentence for Racketeering violated the Delaware Constitution prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Thomas also argued his counsel had been ineffective. The Delaware Supreme Court found no merit in Thomas' sentencing argument and affirmed his conviction and sentence. The Court did not address Thomas' claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.[1] On September 26, 2013, Thomas filed a motion requesting to file a Motion for Postconviction Relief pursuant to Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 and he also requested the appointment of counsel. The Court granted the request to appoint counsel. Alexander M. Funk, Esquire was initially appointed to represent Thomas however was unable to continue the representation. Substitute counsel, Jonathan Layton, Esquire ("Appointed Counsel") was appointed on December 21, 2015. Appointed Counsel filed the pending Motion for Postconviction Relief on behalf of Thomas on October 3, 2016 alleging ineffective assistance of Trial Counsel.

         FACTS

         As set forth in the State's Response to the motion for postconviction relief and documented in the State's Appendix, in 2009 the Delaware State Police began an investigation into a drug trafficking ring in Kent County, Delaware. The investigation identified a number of participants including Marquinn Bordley ("Bordley"), William Loper ("Loper") and Thomas. Law enforcement recorded the investigation in police reports (Exhibit D).[2] In furtherance of the investigation Detective Jeremiah Lloyd engaged in four separate hand-to-hand transactions of illicit drugs, primarily crack cocaine, with Thomas. As a result of these drug deals, law enforcement obtained Thomas' phone number and obtained a court ordered Pen Register on his cellular telephone line. As the investigation into the drug trafficking ring continued, including five additional drug transactions between Thomas and Detective Lloyd, law enforcement sought and received a wire intercept, or wiretap order for Thomas' cellular telephone line from the Superior Court. The order permitted the interception of all communication to and from Thomas' cell phone beginning on May 7, 2010. Intercepted communications from this phone line and additional information gathered through police surveillance led to additional wire orders on the phones of Bordley and Loper, among others.

         During the pendency of the wiretap, law enforcement officers monitored the intercepted calls and conducted surveillance to corroborate information from the calls, when practicable. On May 7, 2010, officers intercepted calls from Thomas indicative of extortion. Thomas took a 1996 Pontiac Transport van from a drug client because of an unpaid debt. Additional calls showed Thomas storing the vehicle, directing its use and planning for its disposal. Two days later on May 9, 2010, calls indicated that Thomas, who was a person prohibited from buying or possession firearms or ammunition, was directing one of his drug buyers to purchase ammunition for him.

         On May 12, 2010, intercepted calls showed Thomas delivering either crack cocaine or marijuana to other individuals including Karen Sebastian, Kyle Scott and David Vilone. Later in the month, calls indicated that Thomas was in possession of a firearm.

         Coinciding with the monitoring of Thomas' phone, law enforcement officers intercepted calls between Bordley, Lope and Nathaniel Evans ("Evans"). These calls showed that two kilograms of cocaine were delivered by Juan Carlos Benitez to Bordley and Evans. Conversations from Bordley's phone line showed the distribution network for the cocaine leading law enforcement to conclude that Thomas was part of this network. After Bordley obtained his kilogram of cocaine, call intercepts and surveillance indicated that Thomas obtained approximately 3 ounces of cocaine from him.

         On May 21, 2010, two days after the kilogram deal, Detective Lloyd purchased 3.5 grams of crack cocaine and an amount of marijuana from Thomas. Later that day, intercepted calls showed Thomas concerned about a handgun hidden in his car. Law enforcement executed a stop on this car and the gun was seized. In the days following, intercepted calls and surveillance showed Thomas purchasing drugs from Bordley and then selling them.

         On one occasion intercepted calls indicated that Thomas sold cocaine to Renell Carter ("Carter"). After the sale Thomas discussed the cash he saw in Carter's possession and discussed a plan to rob her at gunpoint. Thomas, realizing that Carter would recognize him, arranged for Rakeem Peace ("Peace") to commit the actual crime by directing him on how to commit the robbery and providing him with a firearm. Calls between Thomas, Peace and Carter indicate that the robbery occurred but was not financially fruitful. Following the robbery, Thomas can be heard arranging for the storage and retrieval of the gun and arranging more drug deals.

         On June 13, 2010, Thomas arranged for Frederick James ("James") to be lured to an area where it would be convenient for Thomas to shoot at him (Exhibit E).[3] Intercepted calls showed Thomas arranging to pick up his gun, ordering someone to wipe fingerprints off of the ammunition and directing others to get James into position. Later in the investigation James informed police that he was shot at by Thomas ...


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