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[U] Commonwealth v. Lebrun-Williams

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

August 14, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
ROGER LEBRUN-WILLIAMS, Appellant COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
ROGER LEBRUN-WILLIAMS, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order entered January 29, 2013, in the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, Criminal Division, at No(s): CP-45-CR-0000517-2010, CP-45-CR-0001902-2010.

BEFORE: ALLEN, COLVILLE, [*] and STRASSBURGER, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

ALLEN, J.

In these consolidated appeals, Roger Lebrun-Williams ("Appellant") claims that the PCRA court erred by denying his first petition filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"). 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9541-46. We affirm.

The pertinent facts and procedural history are as follows: On January 10, 2011, Appellant pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to deliver (heroin) at two separate docket numbers. In return, the Commonwealth agreed to withdraw similar drug charges at three other criminal docket numbers, and to not object to the imposition of concurrent sentences. At docket number CP-45-CR-0001902-10, the plea agreement acknowledged that the Commonwealth would request a five-year mandatory sentence. During the guilty plea hearing, the Commonwealth also agreed to afford Appellant an opportunity to become eligible for the state intermediate punishment program ("SIP"). Sentencing was continued, and Appellant's bail was modified so that he could address outstanding charges in New Jersey.

On June 8, 2011, the Commonwealth filed a motion to revoke bail. Within this motion, the Commonwealth averred that, on May 6, 2011, New Jersey placed Appellant on a four-year period of probation that subsequently was transferred to Pennsylvania. When Appellant reported to Pennsylvania State Parole, he tested positive for opiates during the intake process, and later admitted to using opiates. Because this conduct constituted a bail violation, the Commonwealth sought to revoke Appellant's bail. After an evidentiary hearing at which Appellant admitted to using heroin, the trial court revoked his bail.

Appellant appeared for sentencing on July 19, 2011. At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence at docket CP-45-CR-0001902-10 of the mandatory minimum of five to ten years of imprisonment. At docket CP-0000517-10, the trial court imposed a consecutive sentence of two to four years of incarceration, for an aggregate term of seven to fourteen years of imprisonment. The trial court further noted that Appellant was deemed RRRI eligible. Appellant filed a timely motion to reconsider sentence, which the trial court denied. Appellant did not file a direct appeal.

On August 8, 2012, Appellant filed a pro se PCRA petition, in which he asserted that his trial counsel misrepresented the plea agreement, failed to object to the Commonwealth's breach of its terms, and failed to file a notice of appeal as requested. The PCRA court appointed counsel, and PCRA counsel filed an amended petition raising the same claims. The PCRA court held an evidentiary hearing on January 29, 2013. By order entered that same date, the PCRA court denied Appellant's petition. This timely appeal followed. Both Appellant and the PCRA court have complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

Appellant raises the following issue:
Was it ineffective assistance of counsel to fail to inform Appellant that sentencing was in the discretion of the judge and there was no sentencing agreement?

Appellant's Brief at 4.

In reviewing the propriety of an order granting or denying PCRA relief, an appellate court is limited to ascertaining whether the record supports the determination of the PCRA court and whether the ruling is free of legal error. Commonwealth v. Johnson, 966 A.2d 523, 532 (Pa. 2009). We pay great deference to the findings of the PCRA court, "but its legal determinations are subject to our plenary review." Id. Furthermore, to be entitled to relief under the PCRA, the petitioner must plead and prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the conviction or sentence arose from one or more of the errors enumerated in section 9543(a)(2) of the PCRA. One such error involves the ineffectiveness of counsel.

To obtain relief under the PCRA premised on a claim that counsel was ineffective, a petitioner must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that counsel's ineffectiveness so undermined the truth-determining process that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place. Id. "Generally, counsel's performance is presumed to be constitutionally adequate, and counsel will only be deemed ineffective upon a sufficient showing by the petitioner." Id. This requires the petitioner to demonstrate that: (1) the underlying claim is of arguable merit; (2) counsel had no reasonable strategic basis for his or her action or inaction; and (3) petitioner was prejudiced by counsel's act or omission. Id. at 533. A finding of "prejudice" requires the petitioner to show "that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been ...


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