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State v. Ryle

Superior Court of Delaware

June 27, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
ALEX RYLE, Defendant.

          Submitted: March 12, 2019

         COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION THAT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF SHOULD BE DENIED AND RULE 61 COUNSEL'S MOTION TO WITHDRAW SHOULD BE GRANTED

          John S. Taylor, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.

          Edward F. Eaton, Esquire, The Eaton Law Firm, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Defendant Alex Ryle.

          Dade D. Werb, Esquire, Michael W. Modica, Esquire

          Janine M. Salomone, Commissioner

         This 27th day of June, 2019, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief, it appears to the Court as follows:

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         1. On April 2, 2014, Defendant Alex Ryle ("Mr. Ryle" or "Movant") was arrested in Wilmington, Delaware for drug and weapons charges and violations of probation. On July 7, 2014, Mr. Ryle was indicted on the following charges: (i) three counts of Possession of a Firearm By a Person Prohibited ("PFBPP"); (ii) Possession of Ammunition By a Person Prohibited ("PABPP"); (iii) Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon ("CCDW"); and (iv) Possession of a Controlled Substance ("Poss CS").

         2. On July 15, 2014, seemingly unaware of the indictment, Mr. Ryle filed a, pro se Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Indictment. The Motion was referred to his appointed counsel, Dade Werb, Esq. ("Mr. Werb" or "trial counsel").

         3. On September 9, 2014, Mr. Ryle filed a Motion to Dismiss Current Counsel and/or Appoint New Counsel because Mr. Werb failed to file certain motions requested by Mr. Ryle, including motions for "dismissal, speedy trial, discovery, severance, and suppression." Shortly thereafter, Mr. Werb filed a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel.

         4. On October 27, 2014, the Motions to Withdraw as Counsel and Dismiss Current Counsel were presented to Commissioner Lynne Parker. After a thorough and lengthy colloquy with Mr. Ryle, the Motions were granted and Mr. Ryle was to proceed pro se.

         5. After the Court's approval of Mr. Ryle proceeding pro se, he began filing the motions that he had previously requested be filed by Mr. Werb. By letter dated October 28, 2014, Mr. Ryle requested discovery from the State. On November 5, 2014, he filed a Motion to Suppress. On November 10, 2014, he filed a Motion to Sever. On November 26, 2014, he filed a Motion to Disclose the Identity of a Confidential Informant. The latter three motions were considered by Judge Mary Johnson on January 23, 2015 at which time both the disclosure and suppression motions were denied.[1] The severance motion was ultimately denied as moot.

         6. On December 8, 2014, a final case review was held before Judge Charles Butler at which time Mr. Ryle rejected the plea offer from the State.

         7. On December 22, 2014, Mr. Ryle was reindicted on the same charges: PFBPP (3 counts), PABPP, CCDW and Poss CS.

         8. On December 29, 2014, Mr. Ryle filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of a Speedy Trial, Delay in Filing an Information, and Due Process Violations.

         9. On January 20, 2015, Mr. Ryle was arraigned on the reindicted charges and, after another colloquy with Commissioner Parker, signed a second Waiver of Counsel Form and confirmed his desire to proceed pro se.

         10. On January 23, 2015, Mr. Ryle filed a Motion to Dismiss, which was heard and dismissed by Commissioner Mark Vavala on January 26, 2015.

         11. On February 3, 2015, Mr. Ryle filed a Motion in Limine. On February 4, 2015, the State filed a Motion to Exclude Inadmissable Evidence. Both Motions were addressed by Judge Fred Silverman at a pretrial conference held on February 9, 2015. Mr. Ryle's Motion was dismissed as untimely and the State's evidentiary issues were discussed.

         12. A jury trial was held before Judge Paul Wallace on February 10 and 11, 2015. Prior to the commencement of the trial, Judge Wallace precluded the State from introducing a toxicology report into evidence because it was not provided to Mr. Ryle in a timely manner. As a result, the State did not purse the drug offense. The State also entered a nolle prosequi on two counts of PFBPP and the Poss CS charge. In order to avoid introducing evidence at trial regarding his prior convictions, Mr. Ryle stipulated that he was a person prohibited from possessing a firearm and ammunition.

         13. On the second day of trial, Mr. Ryle requested the appointment of standby counsel, which was denied by the Court.

         14. Following the two-day trial, the jury found Mr. Ryle guilty of PFBPP, PABPP and CCDW.

         15. On February 16, 2015, the State moved to declare Mr. Ryle a habitual offender. That same day, Mr. Ryle filed a Motion for a New Trial under Superior Court Rule 33. Ten days later, Mr. Ryle requested leave to amend the motion, which was granted by Judge Wallace.

         16. On August 14, 2015, Judge Wallace issued an Opinion denying the Motion for a New Trial.[2]

         17. On August 18, 2015, Mr. Ryle was scheduled for sentencing at which time he renewed his request for the appointment of standby counsel. The Court granted Mr. Ryle's request and ordered the appointment of Mr. Werb as standby counsel for sentencing. The sentencing was rescheduled for September 18, 2015 and then later postponed again at Mr. Ryle's request.

         18. On September 30, 2015, Mr. Ryle filed a Motion for Assistance of Counsel, objecting to the appointment of Mr. Werb as standby counsel and seeking substitute counsel.

         19. On October 2, 2015, Mr. Werb informed the Court regarding certain issues raised by Mr. Ryle, including Mr. Ryle's request for a merger of several charges and his objection to being sentenced as a habitual offender. That same day, the Court entered an Order Appointing Counsel and denied Mr. Ryle's request to exclude Mr. Werb as counsel. The Court advised Mr. Ryle that it would not permit "hybrid" representation nor would the Court accept any further pro se filings under Superior Court Criminal Rule 47.

         20. On October 8, 2015, the Superior Court granted the State's motion and ordered that Mr. Ryle to be sentenced as a habitual offender with respect to the charges of PFBPP and CCDW. On the charge of PFBPP, the Court imposed the minimum mandatory sentence required under the habitual offender statute of fifteen (15) years of incarceration at Level V, with a credit of 159 days for time previously served, with no probation to follow. On the charge of CCDW, the Court also imposed the minimum mandatory sentence required under the habitual offender statute of eight (8) years of incarceration at Level V, with no probation to follow. On the charge of PABPP, the Court imposed a sentence of eight (8) years of incarceration at Level V, suspended for decreasing levels of supervision.

         21. On October 19, 2015, Mr. Werb filed a Notice of Appeal with the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware. On January 8, 2016, a Stipulation of Counsel was filed in the Delaware Supreme Court entering the appearance of Michael W. Modica, Esq. ("Mr. Modica" or "appellate counsel"), as counsel for Mr. Ryle.

         22. On March 23, 2016, Mr. Modica filed an Opening Brief with respect to Mr. Ryle's direct appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court in which he raised two issues on appeal: (i) the Superior Court Commissioner lacked the authority to grant Mr. Ryle's request to proceed pro se and (ii) despite having a colloquy with the Commissioner about the risks of proceeding without counsel, Mr. Ryle did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his right to counsel. The State filed its Answer on April 18, 2016 and a Reply was filed on May 3, 2016. On October 11, 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court determined that the appeal was without merit and affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court.[3]

         23. On August 16, 2017, Mr. Ryle filed a pro se Motion for Postconviction Relief, alleging, inter alia, ineffective assistance of counsel, as well as a Motion for Appointment of Counsel.[4]

         24. Mr. Ryle raised three grounds in support of his Motion for Postconviction Relief which are summarized as follows:

         Ground One: Ineffective Assistance of Appellate Counsel

         Mr. Ryle asserts that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge "the Trial Court's sanction of the State's discovery violation" and that the outcome of the appeal would have been different if appellate counsel had done so.

         Ground Two: Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel

         Mr. Ryle asserts that trial counsel's (i) refusal to file the numerous pre-trial motions requested by Mr. Ryle and (ii) failure to properly explain to Mr. Ryle his legal situation, legal options and legal rights, forced Mr. Ryle to proceed pro se. According to Mr. Ryle, if he had ...


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