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State v. Price

Superior Court of Delaware

December 20, 2019

STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLEN J. PRICE, a.k.a. ALLEN PRINCE, Defendant.

          Submitted: September 4, 2019

          Anna Currier, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for the State.

          Allen J. Price, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, pro se.

          Peter W. Veith, Esquire.

         COMMISSIONER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION THAT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR POST CONVICTION RELIEF SHOULD BE DENIED.

          Lynne M. Parker Commissioner.

         This 20th day of December 2019, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Postconviction Relief, it appears to the Court that:

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         1. On July 10, 2017, Defendant Allen J. Price was indicted on multiple drug and weapons offenses.[1]

         2. Price was eligible to be sentenced as a habitual offender. He was facing at least a 34-year minimum-mandatory sentence and a possibility of life sentences if convicted of the indicted charges at trial.

         3. On May 22, 2018, Price entered into a guilty plea to two counts in the indictment: Tier 4 Drug Dealing, a Class B felony, and Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited ("PFBPP"), a Class C felony. All remaining counts of the indictment were dismissed as part of the plea.

         4. As part of the plea agreement, the parties agreed that the State would recommend a sentence of a total of forty years of Level V incarceration (twenty-five years for Drug Dealing and fifteen years for PFBPP), suspended after a total of twelve years minimum-mandatory Level V incarceration (two years for Drug Dealing and ten years for PFBPP), followed by decreasing levels of supervision.

         5. As part of the plea, the State agreed to not to seek enhanced sentencing as a habitual offender.

         6. Following the entry of Price's guilty plea, Price was immediately sentenced to the parties agreed upon recommended sentence.

         7. On direct appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court.[2]

         8. On August 10, 2018, Price filed a motion for sentence modification, which was denied by the Superior Court by Order dated October 4, 2018. In denying the motion, the Superior Court held that the sentence was appropriate for all the reasons stated at the time of sentencing.[3]

         FACTS

         9. In the spring of 2017, multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Delaware State Police ("DSP") and the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") were conducting a drug investigation into Marshall L. Person.[4]

         10. On March 7, 2017, an undercover drug transaction was arranged with Person. Price drove Person to the predetermined location for the undercover drug transaction. Person accompanied by Price sold 9.1 grams of heroin to the undercover officer in exchange for $2000.

         11. Another undercover drug transaction was arranged to take place on or about April 6, 2017. On that date, the police observed Price carrying a plastic bag under his arm, entering his vehicle, driving to Person's residence, and observed Person getting into Price's vehicle. The police then arrested both Price and Person.[5]

         12. Following Price's arrest, he was found to be in possession of a black bag containing 17.5 logs of heroin, a cell phone and a large amount of U.S. currency. Officers then secured a search warrant for Price's vehicle and found an additional 22.5 logs of heroin. In total, 36.4 grams of heroin was found on Price's person and vehicle.[6]

         13. Officers subsequently executed search warrants at Price's residence and his ex-girlfriend's home. At Price's residence, officers recovered a Sig Sauer .45-caliber handgun loaded with eight rounds of ammunition, numerous plastic baggies commonly used to package heroin, and documentation bearing Price's name. At Price's ex-girlfriend's residence, officers recovered a S&W 9mm firearm loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition, a box containing additional rounds of ammunition, and additional documents bearing Price's name.[7]

         PRICE'S RULE 61 MOTION

         14. Price filed the subject Rule 61 motion on May 9, 2019. In the subject motion, Price raises two claims: 1) counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress the search warrants for the two residences; and 2) the sentence on the drug dealing charge was illegal.

         15. Price also filed a motion for the appointment of counsel. By Order dated June 10, 2019, Price's motion for the appointment of counsel was denied and a briefing schedule was established for the briefing of this motion.[8]

         16. The record was enlarged and Price's trial counsel was directed to submit an Affidavit responding to Price's ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Thereafter, the State filed a response to the motion and Price filed a reply thereto.[9]

         Price's Illegal Sentence Claim

         17. Turning first to Price's claim that his sentence on the drug dealing charge was illegal, it is first noted that an illegal-sentence claim is not a cognizable ...


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