A state appellate court has upheld the conviction and sentence of a prison inmate who possessed heroin while incarcerated at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility.
Allen Morris, 47, is serving a two-year prison sentence at Collins Correctional Facility after pleading guilty in August 2010 in Jefferson County Court to third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
He had entered his plea as potential jurors were being called in for a trial to determine whether he possessed about six grams of heroin at the Cape Vincent prison in July 2009. Prior to sentencing in October 2009, he made a motion to withdraw his plea and have his attorney, Jason F. Poplaski, Watertown, replaced.
Judge Kim H. Martusewicz denied the motion and proceeded with sentencing, stating that Mr. Morris had entered a voluntary guilty plea and that Mr. Poplaski had done a good job representing him. Mr. Morris vowed to appeal and did so to the state Appellate Division, Fourth Department. In his appeal, Mr. Morris argued that County Court abused its discretion by not allowing him to withdraw his plea on the grounds that he was misinformed regarding the negotiated sentence that would be imposed.
In a ruling released Friday, the appellate court unanimously affirmed the lower courts judgment, stating there was no evidence that the court abused its discretion.
Rather, the record establishes that the court properly informed defendant that the negotiated sentence was required to run consecutively to the prior undischarged sentence that defendant was serving at that time, and that any jail time credit to be applied would be determined by the Department of Correctional Services, the appellate court wrote in its decision.
Mr. Morris also contended that County Court did not make an appropriate inquiry into his two requests for a new lawyer. The first was contained in a brief notation in his lawyers status report to the court, but no reason was given for the request and Mr. Morris never repeated the request at subsequent court appearances, including when he entered his plea. Regarding his second request at sentencing, the appellate court determined that County Court had sufficiently considered the request and appropriately concluded that it was without merit.
According to the state Department of Correctional Services website, Mr. Morris is serving the latter portion of a 10- to-30-year term given him in the Bronx in 1987 for first-degree counts of assault, rape and sodomy. He was paroled for an unspecified amount of time, and was returned to prison in June 2010.