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Deblois v. Warden

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 31, 2014

RICHARD DeBLOIS, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, et al., Respondent.

MEMORANDUM

CATHERINE C. BLAKE, District Judge.

Richard DeBlois, a Maryland prisoner, seeks relief under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254. A response to his petition has been filed, to which DeBlois has replied. The matter is now ready for dispositive review. The court finds no need for a hearing. See Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, Rule 8(a); Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons to follow, the petition will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Richard DeBlois pleaded guilty to one count of first degree assault on March 17, 2008, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. ( See Response, Ex. 2, Plea Tr., ECF No. 10-2.) The State indicated that it would request a ten-year sentence and that the defense could argue in favor of any sentence it felt was appropriate. ( See Plea Tr. 4.) During the plea colloquy, DeBlois's counsel and the court repeatedly advised DeBlois that, notwithstanding the State's recommendation that DeBlois receive a ten-year sentence, the court could impose a sentence of up to 25 years, which DeBlois indicated he understood. ( See Plea Tr. 5, 8-9, 15-17.) During DeBlois's plea colloquy, he emphasized his hope that he would be recommended for drug treatment as part of his sentence. ( See Plea Tr. 12.) The court, however, advised DeBlois that it was making no promises regarding recommendation for drug treatment, and DeBlois acknowledged he might not receive such treatment. ( See Plea Tr. 13-14.) DeBlois asked to enter an Alford [1] plea, acknowledging that the evidence against him was "overwhelming." (Plea Tr. 9-10.) The court agreed to entry of an Alford plea, and found his plea "free, knowing, voluntary and intelligent." ( See Plea Tr. 9, 18.)

The facts proffered in support of the guilty plea indicated that on June 7, 2007, Baltimore County Police responded to a call of a "suspicious subject, " later identified as DeBlois. (Plea Tr. 18.) Officer Jason Gensel observed DeBlois walking down Old Eastern Avenue with his face inside a brown paper bag. ( See Plea Tr. 19.) Gensel approached DeBlois and twice requested he stop and turn around. ( See Plea Tr. 19.) Gensel then moved closer to DeBlois, who "turned and threw liquid on to the officer's face." (Plea Tr. 20.) The liquid was later identified as paint thinner. ( See Plea Tr. 20.)

Gensel struck DeBlois with his baton, which DeBlois knocked away before throwing more paint thinner in the officer's face. ( See Plea Tr. 20.) Gensel tackled DeBlois but, blinded by the paint thinner, he was unable to fully subdue DeBlois, who attempted to take Gensel's gun. ( See Plea Tr. 20.) Bystanders then intervened to assist Gensel in gaining control over DeBlois until other officers arrived. ( See Plea Tr. 20.) Those bystanders were prepared to testify at trial as to the event described. ( See Plea Tr. 20-22.) Gensel injured his right wrist and suffered irritation to both eyes as a result of the altercation. ( See Plea Tr. 22.) The defense offered no additions or corrections to the facts as read into the record, and the court found the facts supported DeBlois's plea of guilty to first degree assault. ( See Plea Tr. 22.) After accepting the guilty plea, the court took a victim impact statement from Gensel, who testified that he believed that his fight with DeBlois was a fight for his life. ( See Plea Tr. 25.)

At sentencing on September 3, 2008, the State proffered that DeBlois had 21 prior convictions, including seven for assault and three for resisting arrest. ( See Response, Ex. 3, Sentencing Tr. 12, ECF No. 10-3.) During allocution, DeBlois characterized himself as a victim because he suffered serious injuries during the altercation. ( See Sentencing Tr. 14-15.) He stated he was sorry, but added that he did not deserve to be punished for the offense, opining that the State's request for a ten-year sentence was "outrageous." (Sentencing Tr. 15.) Reviewing the facts of the case, DeBlois's record, and his lack of remorse, the court sentenced DeBlois to 25 years in prison. ( See Sentencing Tr. 17-21.)

Petitioner noted a timely application for leave to appeal, arguing solely that the sentence imposed was excessive. ( See Response, Ex. 4, ECF No. 10-4.) The application for leave to appeal was summarily denied by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland on March 22, 2010. ( See Response, Ex. 5, ECF No. 10-5.) The court's mandate issued on April 22, 2010.[2]

On October 3, 2008, while his application for leave to appeal was pending, DeBlois initiated post-conviction proceedings. (Docket 8; Response, Ex. 6, ECF No. 10-6.) The initial pro se petition, as supplemented by two additional filings drafted by counsel, alleged (A) that counsel was ineffective for failing (1) to file for post-sentence relief; (2) to move to withdraw his guilty plea based on violation of Maryland Rule 4-243(b); and (3) to raise a violation of Maryland Rule 4-243(b) in the application for leave to appeal the entry of guilty plea; and (B) that his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntarily entered due to the court's noncompliance with a Maryland Rule requiring the court to inform petitioner that he could not withdraw his plea if his sentence exceeded the prosecutor's recommendation. ( See Response, Exs. 6-8, ECF Nos. 10-6, 10-7, 10-8.) The post-conviction court issued an order granting DeBlois the right to file a belated motion for reconsideration of his sentence, but otherwise denied relief. ( See Response, Ex. 10, Md. Post-Conviction Op. 9, ECF No. 10-10.) DeBlois filed an application for leave to appeal the denial of post-conviction relief, which the Court of Special Appeals denied summarily on March 1, 2012. ( See Response, Exs. 11-12, ECF Nos. 10-11, 10-12.) The court's mandate issued on April 2, 2012.

In this petition, DeBlois maintains (A) that counsel was ineffective (1) for failing to file adequate pleadings to undo the result of the guilty plea, including via a post-sentence motion to withdraw his plea or via an appropriate application for leave to appeal, and (2) for manipulating him into entering a guilty plea; (B) that he should have been found not criminally responsible for the crime; (C) that the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney misled him into entering a plea and the trial court breached the plea agreement by sentencing him to the maximum 25 years in prison; (D) that the guilty pleas was defective because he was intoxicated; and (E) that the trial court was biased and discriminated against him. (Petition, ECF No. 1; Supp. Petition, ECF No. 5.)

Respondents argued that, unless DeBlois waived review of certain unexhausted claims, the petition should be dismissed in its entirety because it contained both exhausted and unexhausted claims. ( See Response, ECF No. 10.) On April 12, 2013, the court issued an order advising DeBlois that there was no indication that he had exhausted available state court remedies regarding his claims: that he was manipulated into entering a guilty plea by his lawyer; that he should have been found not criminally responsible; that the plea was defective because he was intoxicated; and that the trial court was biased. ( See Order 3, ECF No. 13.) The order directed DeBlois to advise the court how he wished to proceed. ( See Order 4-5.) In response, DeBlois waived the unexhausted claims and proceed to a substantive review of the remaining claims. ( See Reply, ECF No. 14.)

Accordingly, the court directed respondents to file a supplemental response to the merits of DeBlois's exhausted claims. ( See Order, ECF No. 16.) The court is in receipt of that supplemental response, (ECF No. 16), and DeBlois's reply, (ECF No. 17).

ANALYSIS

I. Standard of ...


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