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State v. White

Superior Court of Delaware

May 15, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
RICHARD C. WHITE, Defendant.

         Cr. A. No. 17-04-0905

          Submitted: May 3, 2019

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REDUCE SENTENCE

          PAUL R. WALLACE, JUDGE.

         This 15th day of May, 2019, upon consideration of the Defendant Richard C. White's pro se Motion for Sentence Reduction (D.I. 32), his post-appeal supplement thereto (D.I. 37), the State's response (D.I. 38), and the record in this matter, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) In September of 2017, a grand jury indicted White for 11 counts of Rape in the Second Degree, one count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of Child, one count of Dangerous Crime Against a Child, five counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Child, one count of Dealing in Child Pornography, and six counts of Possession of Child Pornography.[1]

         (2) These 25 felonies arose from a five-year course of sexual abuse that began when the victim, an acquaintance of one of White's children, was just twelve years-old. The victim described how their contact began in November 2012 when White-then a 36-year-old father of twin boys-started texting her. Within a few months, White began to regularly pick the prepubescent victim up from her home or school, take her back to his house, and engage in multiple acts of intercourse and sexual penetration with her. White would use still photography and cellphone video to record what became weekly sessions. Eventually, when White lost his home, he would take his victim to parking lots, parks, and other public places for sexual encounters. As the victim got older and more resistant to White's actions, he would use manipulation or threats to continue having sex with her. The victim was terrified to tell anyone of White's exploitation. She explained that she felt trapped for the five years of abuse and simply did not how to get out; every time she would mention stopping the sexual routine with White, he would threaten to tell people about their "relationship," threaten suicide, or threaten to publish the videos and photographs. The abuse ended in March 2017 when the victim finally confided in her softball coach what White had been doing.

         (3) White pleaded guilty to a single count of Rape in the Second Degree.[2]He did so in exchange for dismissal of all of the remaining charges and the State's favorable sentencing recommendation.[3] The guilty plea colloquy confirms that White's decision to enter his guilty plea was knowing, voluntary, and the product of an intelligent decision made with an adequate opportunity to discuss all aspects of his case with counsel.[4] Most importantly here, White confirmed both verbally and in writing that he was well-aware he faced a minimum mandatory term of 25 years imprisonment and the potential of a life sentence.[5]

         (4) Following a presentence investigation, White was sentenced on May 18, 2018. The Court considered White's counsel's presentation, his background, his expressions of remorse both before and at sentencing, the devastation visited on White's family by his acts, the many letters of familial support, and "every piece of sentencing information in this case."[6] The Court considered those many factors in light of the aggravators present and determined that White should serve the rest of his natural life in prison.[7] And the Court, as it should, articulated then its reasons for such sentence.[8]

         (5) White docketed a timely direct appeal.[9] White then timely filed a pro se motion under Superior Court Criminal Rule 35(b)[10] requesting reduction of the Level V term of his sentence.[11] The Court stayed and deferred decision on White's motion while his appeal was pending.[12] In November 2018, White's conviction and sentence were affirmed.[13]

         (6) Now that White's appeal has been decided and he has had the opportunity to supplement his sentence reduction request, the Court will address White's Rule 35(b) motion. According to White, his term of imprisonment should be reduced "to anything other than natural life" because: (a) he believes he has now been properly diagnosed and medicated for mental health issues; (b) he believes there were irregularities in the presentence process; (c) he is truly remorseful; (d) he believes he received ineffective assistance of counsel in accepting his plea and at sentencing; (e) his family has experienced great hardship; and (f) his rough comparison of what he believes to be comparable cases suggests his is a disproportionate sentence.[14]

         (7) White's allegations that he received "ineffective representation," i.e., that the integrity of his guilty plea might now be questioned, is not cognizable under Rule 35. A motion to reduce a sentence under Rule 35 presupposes a valid conviction.[15] So if relief for such a claim is even available to White, it would only be so via postconviction proceedings which provide a procedure for a criminal defendant to seek to set aside a conviction.[16] So too if White seeks to attack his sentence as supposedly a product of ineffective assistance.[17]

         (8) The Court may consider the remaining discernable claims of White's sentence reduction motion "without presentation, hearing or argument."[18] The Court will decide this motion on the papers filed. When considering motions for sentence reduction, the Court addresses any applicable procedural bars before turning to the merits.[19] As White's motion was timely filed, the Court finds there are no bars to the consideration his request under Rule 35(b).

         (9) The purpose of Superior Court Criminal Rule 35(b) historically has been to provide a reasonable period for the Court to consider alteration of its sentencing judgments.[20] Where a motion for reduction of sentence of imprisonment is filed within 90 days of sentencing, the Court has broad discretion to decide if it should alter its judgment.[21] "The reason for such a rule is to give a sentencing judge a second chance to consider whether the initial sentence is appropriate."[22]

         (10) White's core claim - i.e., his request that the Court reconsider and decide if, on further reflection, its sentence now seems unduly harsh - has been on the merits. A request for leniency and reexamination of the sentencing factors is precisely the stuff of which a proper and timely Rule 35(b) motion is made.[23] And under every iteration of Delaware's criminal rules governing motions to reduce sentences, such entreaties are addressed to the sound discretion of this Court.[24]

          (11) To guide it in exercising this discretion, the Court has fully reviewed White's application, the record of his case, White's prior criminal history, all pre-sentence ...


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