Submitted: August 27, 2018
Lindsay Taylor, Esquire
Marie Stevens, Esquire
Jeffrey J Clark, Judge.
William Purnell (hereinafter "Mr. Purnell") moves
for an emergency modification of his sentence pursuant to
Superior Court Criminal Rule 35(b) (hereinafter "Rule
35(b)"). He seeks suspension of his Level V time to
enable him to support a family member who has a serious
medical condition. On June 23, 2017, the Court sentenced him
to eight years at Supervision Level V, suspended after two
years and successful completion of the Key program,
to be followed by Crest and then Crest Aftercare.
Court Criminal Rule 35(b) permits the consideration of an
application for modification of sentence outside the ninety
day window only upon a showing of extraordinary circumstances
or pursuant to the mechanism provided in 11 Del.C.
§ 4217. Extraordinary circumstances are such that
(1) justify the delay; (2) are entirely beyond the
petitioner's control; and (3) prevented the defendant
from seeking the modification on a timely
case, the Court finds that Mr. Purnell's family member is
seriously ill and at the time of the initial filing was
awaiting an urgent, necessary, and serious medical procedure.
Based on a timely and comprehensive update by his counsel,
Mr. Purnell's family member is now recovering at home.
The full nature of the person's condition did not
materialize until July 2018, well after Rule 35(b)'s
ninety day procedural bar expired. The Court finds that those
circumstances were certainly outside Mr. Purnell's
control. The Court also finds that this case involves
sufficiently extraordinary circumstances to warrant a review
of sentence outside the ninety day window.
Mr. Purnell is a little over one year into the Level V
portion of his sentence. He entered the Key Program on May
25, 2018, so he is approximately three months into that drug
treatment program. In Mr. Purnell's case, given his two
prior violent felony convictions, SENTAC recommendations
provided for up to eight and one-half years of Level V time
for the instant offenses. His sentence, on the lower end of
the recommended range, included a minimum of two years Level
V time and a requirement that he complete Key before flowing
down to Level IV Crest. Notably, the Court issued this
sentence even after finding multiple aggravating factors
justifying a departure in excess of SENTAC guidelines.
Furthermore, Mr. Purnell's plea agreement in this case
acknowledged that he was subject to sentencing as a habitual
offender pursuant to 11 Del. C. §4214(d), but
the State agreed not to file a habitual offender petition.
the Court acknowledges the well supported petition filed by
Mr. Purnell as well as the State's response indicating
that it does not oppose reducing his sentence to provide for
Level IV home confinement. Nevertheless, when the Court
sentenced Mr. Purnell after a presentence investigation it
considered many factors before sentencing him. One of the
Court's primary concerns included structuring his
sentence to receive the fullest array of Department of
Correction provided drug treatment available. Mr.
Purnell's conduct in this case included extremely violent
conduct following drug use. He assaulted and injured a police
officer and the circumstances involving the incident could
easily have resulted in more serious injury or even death.
Furthermore, at sentencing, the Court had heightened concerns
regarding his substance abuse because seven years prior to
the offenses at issue, he attempted to run a victim over with
his vehicle. Three years before the offenses at issue, he
attacked an alleged victim for not properly caring for a
family member. Most tellingly, one year prior to the offenses
at issue, Mr. Purnell suffered a drug overdose and exhibited
very similar paranoid and violent behavior to that which he
exhibited in this case. Fortunately, in the 2015 incident he
did not injure the law enforcement officer as he did in the
matter at hand.
Purnell's consistent drug use not only endangers himself,
but also endangers others. The Court was not satisfied,
through the time of his sentencing, that he had addressed his
substance abuse issues in any meaningful way. Namely, the
Court saw no evidence that Mr. Purnell had focused on his
treatment despite numerous opportunities to do so.
Court recognizes that Mr. Purnell is close with this family
member, but notwithstanding the difficult circumstances, if
Mr. Purnell does not receive treatment for and address his
substance abuse issues, he will continue to put himself and
others in danger. Given the fact that he has not yet
completed the substance abuse treatment ordered by the Court
and in light of the nature of his offenses, the Court does
not find that these significant and difficult circumstances
warrant a reduction of his sentence.
consideration of the matter, since the family member has been
discharged from an out-of-state hospital and has returned
home to recuperate, the Court recommends that the Department
of Correction permit Mr. Purnell to participate in a
scheduled bed-side visit with the family member.