Court rejects detainee’s request for lawyers | News, Sports, Jobs
An Altoona man who is being held at Huntingdon State Correctional Facility has failed to prove his trial attorneys were ineffective in their representation, according to a Pennsylvania Superior Court opinion last week.
Joshua James Park, 42, is in jail after pleading guilty to six drug-related offenses in 2019.
Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan sentenced Park to three to 15 years in jail.
He also found that Park was eligible to participate in the Department of Corrections’ Re-Offending Risk Reduction Incentive Program.
According to the judge, Park’s minimum will be 27 months if he successfully completes the program.
Despite agreeing to an apparent plea deal that included jail time, in 2020 Park filed a post-sentencing petition in which he claims his two trial attorneys were ineffective.
His first problem was that he was entitled to a reduced sentence because his lawyer at the original trial told him that the prosecution would recommend a minimum sentence of six months if he agreed to cooperate in the case against two associates.
He also argues that he was entitled to extra credit for time served because the judge told him his sentence was to begin on the day he was sentenced – April 8, 2019 – which meant that an additional sentence he was sentenced to ‘he allegedly received for a parole violation would run concurrently, not consecutively, with his new sentence.
At a post-conviction hearing before Sullivan, Park said he agreed to testify against his co-defendants, but they ended up pleading guilty and he never had to cooperate with prosecutors.
However, he maintained that his minimum sentence should have been only six months.
Reviewing Park’s appeal, the judge said there was no evidence that Park ever accepted the plea offer that would have resulted in a minimum of six months.
During the post-conviction hearing, Park said he never testified against his co-defendants and that he “Did not cooperate in any way with the Commonwealth”, in Sullivan’s opinion.
And, the judge reported that a plea offer for only a minimum of six months was never made to him.
“No plea agreement exists unless and until it is presented to the court”, Sullivan said in the 16-page opinion that he wrote denying Park’s request for a lower minimum sentence.
The judge also reported that Park, during his plea hearing, admitted that his general counsel had negotiated a plea deal with a sentence of three to 15 years.
Sullivan concluded his comments on the first issue of Park by stating “We found absolutely no legal basis to support (Park’s) claim that the six-month minimum sentence agreement should have been implemented.”
As to Park’s second question – that his new sentence and his parole violation sentence should be served concurrently – was inapplicable since the parole violation sentence is under the control of the Probation and Parole Board of Pennsylvania.
“A parolee must serve the remainder of his initial prison sentence if he had not been paroled without credit for time spent on the street” Sullivan said.
He found that Park had failed to prove that his lawyers “Ineffective in assisting the lawyer in any way with his advocacy”.
Considering Judge Sullivan’s opinion, a Superior Court panel consisting of Judith F. Olson, Carolyn H. Nichols and James G. Colins stated that the judge’s findings of fact were supported by the record of the case and that Sullivan’s legal conclusions “are free from error.”
For the second time in a week, a Superior Court panel said it adopted Sullivan’s opinion as his own.
The park notice was filed on September 30.
On September 27, the Superior Court upheld Sullivan’s dismissal of an appeal in a murder case in Blair County, Commonwealth v. John Stiver.
The Superior Court panel in the Stiver case also adopted Sullivan’s opinion.