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Baldelli v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation & Parole

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

July 31, 2013

Brett C. Baldelli, Petitioner
v.
Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, Respondent

Submitted: June 7, 2013

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge

OPINION

ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge

Brett C. Baldelli (Baldelli) petitions for review of an order of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (Board) that recommitted him to a state correctional institution (SCI) based on his admission to two technical parole violations. Baldelli asserts the Board abused its discretion by recommitting him to an SCI rather than diverting him to a community corrections center (CCC) as required by statute. See former Section 6138(c)(6) of the Prisons and Parole Code, 61 Pa. C.S. §6138(c)(6)[1] (Parole Code). Baldelli also argues the Board abused its discretion in failing to hold a hearing on his claim that he waived his right to a parole violation hearing and admitted to the technical violations in exchange for his parole agent's "off-the-record" promise that the waiver and admissions would result in placement in a CCC. After review, we affirm.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

In 2008, Baldelli received a sentence of three to six years imprisonment based on his guilty plea to the manufacture/sale/delivery or possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. Pursuant to that sentence, Baldelli's maximum sentence date was May 31, 2013.

In May 2009, the Board paroled Baldelli to the community corrections program at Penn Pavilion. Baldelli completed the program at Penn Pavilion and was successfully discharged.

However, less than a year later, Baldelli tested positive for opiates, which led to increased reporting requirements. Thereafter, in late 2010, the Board recommitted Baldelli as a technical parole violator based on his admission to violations of several parole conditions, including use of drugs, possession of drugs, possession of a weapon, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Two months later, in early 2011, the Board re-paroled Baldelli to a CCC. Less than a year later, Baldelli tested positive for opiates, which again led to increased reporting requirements. Shortly thereafter, Baldelli attempted to submit a false urine sample, and he admitted to continued drug use. As a result, the Board placed Baldelli into an inpatient drug treatment program, and it imposed a special condition on Baldelli that he complete the program.

While at the inpatient drug treatment facility, Baldelli tested positive for synthetic marijuana. As a result, the facility discharged Baldelli based on his failure to successfully complete the program. The Board then detained Baldelli and charged him with two technical parole violations, use of drugs and failure to successfully complete the inpatient drug treatment program. Baldelli admitted to parole agents that he used synthetic marijuana while at the inpatient drug treatment facility.

Shortly thereafter, Baldelli executed waivers of a preliminary hearing, a panel hearing and representation by counsel. Baldelli also signed a "Waiver of Violation Hearing and Counsel / Admission Form, " in which he "knowingly, voluntarily and willingly" admitted to the two technical parole violations charged. Certified Record (C.R.) at Item #7. On the form, Baldelli indicated he waived his rights to a preliminary hearing, a violation hearing and his right to counsel at those hearings, "of [his] own free will, without any promise, threat or coercion." Id. In the space provided on the form, Baldelli stated, "I would like to request [CCC placement] …. I have a job to get back to and need the treatment they provide there. I have a drug problem and really want to get it right this time. Thank you." Id. Baldelli had 10 days to withdraw his admission to the parole violations, but he did not do so.

Based on Baldelli's admissions, the Board recommitted him as a technical parole violator to serve his unexpired term of one year, three months and seventeen days in an SCI. The Board's decision stated that diverting Baldelli from confinement posed an undue risk to public safety. Despite his recommitment, Baldelli's maximum sentence date remained May 31, 2013.

Baldelli filed an uncounseled administrative appeal, objecting to the Board's decision recommitting him to an SCI rather than diverting him to a CCC based on his technical parole violations. Baldelli also asserted that he only executed the waiver and admission form in exchange for his parole agent's promise that if he did so he would be placed in a CCC. The Board denied Baldelli's administrative appeal. Baldelli, representing himself, filed a petition for review with this Court. This Court appointed counsel on Baldelli's behalf.

After the filing of Baldelli's petition for review, and the submission of briefs by the parties, Baldelli's maximum sentence date expired. As a result, on June 6, 2013, this Court issued a rule to show cause why this matter should not be dismissed as moot.

Baldelli's appointed counsel filed a response, objecting to dismissal of the case as moot. Despite conceding the case is, in fact, moot based on the passage of Baldelli's maximum sentence date, appointed counsel asserted the case presents an issue of great public importance as well as an issue that is capable of repetition yet evading review. Specifically, appointed counsel argued this case presented an issue of first impression involving the interpretation of former Section 6138(c)(6) of the Parole Code (which was similar to current Section 6138(c)(1)(v)), which required the Board to divert technical parole violators from confinement in an SCI unless such diversion posed an undue risk to public safety. Therefore, appointed ...


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