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Dalton v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 13, 2019

RANDY B. DALTON
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs September 25, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Grainger County Nos. 5641, 5782-83 James L. Gass, Judge.

         In 2016, the Petitioner, Randy B. Dalton, pleaded guilty to offenses contained in three indictments: aggravated robbery, theft of a vehicle valued at more than $1, 000, escape from a penal institution, harvesting ginseng out of season, and harvesting ginseng out of season with less than three prongs. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the trial court imposed partial consecutive sentencing with a total effective sentence of eighteen years of confinement. In 2017, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court's judgment.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed.

          Robert M Burts, Rutledge, Tennessee, for the appellant, Randy B. Dalton.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew C. Coulman, Senior Assistant Attorney General; James B. Dunn, District Attorney General; and George C. Ioannides, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas T. Woodall and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE.

         I. Facts and Background

         A. Guilty Plea

         This case originates from the Petitioner's robbing a drugstore, from which he stole prescription narcotics after telling the store clerk that he had a bomb. For these offenses, the Petitioner was indicted in case no. 5641 with aggravated robbery and possession of a hoax device. While on work release, the Petitioner escaped custody and stole a vehicle belonging to the Grainger County Board of Education. For these offenses, the Petitioner was indicted in case no. 5782 for theft of property valued at more than $1, 000 and felony escape from a penal institution. Following his escape, the Petitioner was found to be in possession of wild ginseng outside of harvesting season, to which he admitted he had harvested with "less than three prongs." For these offenses, the Petitioner was indicted in case no. 5783 with harvesting ginseng in closed season and harvesting ginseng with less than three prongs. In July of 2016, in case no. 5641, the Petitioner pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery with a sentence of twelve years of confinement to be served at 85%; the possession of a hoax device charge was dismissed by the State; in case no. 5782, the Petitioner pleaded guilty to theft of property valued at more than $1, 000 with a sentence of six years of confinement to be served at 35% and to escape from a penal institution with a sentence of four years of confinement to be served at 35%; and in case no. 5783, the Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of harvesting ginseng out of season and one count of harvesting ginseng with less than three prongs with sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days of confinement for each of these convictions. The total effective sentence to serve was eighteen years.

         Following the imposition of his sentences, the Petitioner filed a motion to reconsider his sentence. The Petitioner requested that the trial court order his sentence in case no. 5782 (theft and escape) to be served on probation in light of his family members' medical conditions and minor daughter. The trial court denied the motion.

         B. Post-Conviction

         The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, pro se, in which he alleged that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to investigate the monetary value of the stolen truck, which he contended was an issue of utmost importance to his case. An attorney was appointed for the Petitioner, and a hearing was held, during which the following evidence was presented: Trial counsel ("Counsel") testified that she was employed as an assistant public defender and represented the Petitioner in these three indictments. Counsel testified that she visited the Petitioner in jail, once accompanied by an investigator, and exchanged letters with the Petitioner. Counsel testified that she took the District Public Defender with her to a meeting with the Petitioner, hoping to communicate to the Petitioner the seriousness of his charges. Counsel and the Petitioner shared legal research and "look[ed] into the value of the ...


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