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[U] Commonwealth v. Price

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 21, 2014



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence entered on March 12, 2013 in the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, Criminal Division, No. CP-45-CR-0000609-2012




Clayton Price ("Price") appeals from the judgment of sentence imposed following his convictions of two counts of robbery, and one count each of simple assault and harassment.[1] See 18 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 3701(a)(1)(iv), (v); 2701(a)(1), 2709(a)(1). We affirm.

On March 3, 2012, Randy Cruz ("Cruz"), an employee of Burger King, was standing in front of a stall in the men's bathroom when he was approached by Price from behind. Price grabbed Cruz around the neck and choked him. Price then took approximately $700 from Cruz's pocket and fled the restaurant. Cruz and his co-workers were able to apprehend Price outside of the Burger King; however, Price continued to fight with Cruz and ultimately fled the scene. Cruz provided a description of Price to the police, who subsequently arrested him.

Price was charged with two counts each of robbery and simple assault, and one count of harassment. On August 21, 2012, Price pled guilty to simple assault and an amended count of theft in exchange for the Commonwealth agreeing to nolle pros the remaining charges. However, on October 22, 2012, prior to sentencing, Price made an oral Motion to Withdraw his Guilty Plea due to his innocence. The trial court granted the Motion and scheduled a jury trial. On December 14, 2012, the Monroe County Public Defender's Office, on Price's behalf, filed a Motion to Appoint Conflict Counsel. The Motion alleged that Price and his counsel, an attorney in the Public Defender's Office, had developed irreconcilable differences due to Price's allegation that counsel had coerced him into pleading guilty. The trial court denied the Motion without a hearing on December 17, 2012.

Following a jury trial, the jury found Price guilty of two counts of robbery and one count each of simple assault and harassment. On March 12, 2013, the trial court sentenced Price to 30 to 60 months in prison. Price filed a Motion for Reconsideration of Sentence, which the trial court denied.

Price filed a timely Notice of Appeal. The trial court ordered Price to file a Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1925(b) concise statement. Price filed a timely Concise Statement and the trial court issued an Opinion.

On appeal, Price raises the following question for our review: "Was the [trial] court's decision to deny trial counsel's motion to withdrawal [sic] without a hearing an abuse of discretion?" Brief for Appellant at 4.

Price contends that after he withdrew his guilty plea, the attorney-client relationship deteriorated to a point that counsel was compelled to attempt to withdraw as counsel based upon a conflict of interest. Id. at 8. Price argues that the trial court should have held a hearing to resolve the issues with counsel. Id. Price asserts that his interests, as well as the ethical concerns of counsel, should have led to the withdrawal of counsel. Id. Price seeks a new trial with new counsel. Id. at 8-9.

Here, the trial court addressed Price's claims, finding that counsel never filed a motion to withdraw. See Trial Court Opinion, 6/28/13, at 1, 4. The trial court further found that there was no merit to the allegations presented in the Motion to Appoint Conflict Counsel. See id. at 1-4. We agree with the sound reasoning of the trial court and affirm on this basis. See id. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of sentence.

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

Judgment Entered.


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