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Dent v. Kerestes

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 3, 2014

ROBERT WILSON DENT, Petitioner,
v.
JOHN KERESTES, et al., Respondents.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Robert Wilson Dent has filed a pro se petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his conviction in the Court of Common Pleas of Clinton County, Pennsylvania, for aggravated assault under 18 Pa. Con. Stat. Ann. § 2702(a)(1). The conviction resulted from a plea of guilty. Petitioner is serving a sentence of seventy-eight months to twenty years.

The petition contains four grounds for relief. In ground one, Petitioner claims his trial counsel was ineffective when he: "failed to obtain discovery, to evaluate merits of the case, investigate alibi defense, interview witnesses, notify of his conflict with victim, lied regarding plea agreement to induce plea, failed to file a requested direct appeal, and failed to warn of rights waived by plea." (Doc. 1, ECF p. 5, 2254 petition). In ground two, Petitioner claims his "PCRA was the result of unconstitutional coercion." ( Id., ECF p. 6). In ground three, Petitioner claims his "conviction was based on [a] guilty plea obtained without knowledge and appreciation of its consequences." ( Id., ECF p. 8). And in ground four, Petitioner claims he was "convicted on the basis of a guilty plea that was the product of ineffective assistance of counsel." ( Id., ECF p. 9). Grounds two, three and four contain identical supporting allegations: "counsel misrepresented the terms of a non-existent plea agreement, [and] the Commonwealth failed to follow through on its promise to recommend a sentence of the minimum of the standard range." ( Id., ECF pp. 6, 8 and 9).

In opposition to the petition, Respondents argue that the claims lack merit, they are not exhausted, and that grounds two, three and four are untimely.

II. Background

On April 20, 2009, Petitioner executed a written guilty-plea statement. (Doc. 23-1). On May 4, 2009, Petitioner pled guilty to aggravated assault. In connection with the plea, a guilty-plea colloquy was held. (Doc. 23-2, guilty-plea transcript). On June 8, 2009, he was sentenced to seventy-eight months to twenty years' imprisonment. Petitioner took no direct appeal. On November 12, 2009, he filed a pro se petition under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA). 42 Pa. Con. Stat. Ann. § 9541-9546. Counsel was appointed to represent him and on April 16, 2010, PCRA counsel filed an amended PCRA petition raising the following claims of trial counsel ineffectiveness:

a. failing to obtain discovery from the Commonwealth;
b. failing to adequately investigate Petitioner's alibi defense;
c. failing to interview potential fact witnesses;
d. failing to notify Petitioner of a conflict of interest arising from a prior legal relationship with the victim;
e. lying to Petitioner regarding the plea agreement in order to induce him to plead guilty;
f. failing to file a motion to withdraw the guilty plea based on inducement and on the failure of the Commonwealth to comply with its promise to recommend a sentence at the minimum of the standard ...

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