Judge asks court to reject appeal by cocaine dealer

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County President Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle has asked a state appeals court to reject arguments that her 33- to 66-year sentence imposed on a convicted cocaine dealer five years ago was excessive and that she had “abused her discretion.”

Derrick D. Dawson, 31, a native of Philadelphia, received the lengthy sentence from Doyle on June 13, 2012, after his conviction in April on multiple drug offenses.

Since his sentence, Dawson has filed several appeals claiming that his trial and appeals attorney mishandled his case and that the judge imposed a harsh sentence without considering his need for rehabilitation.

Doyle has now sent an opinion to the Pennsylvania Superior Court outlining why she sentenced Dawson to a lengthy prison term and pointing out that his present appeal should be dismissed because his complaints have already been heard and rejected by the

Superior Court.

“Thus, this court views this (Dawson’s appeal) as an attempt to relitigate the discretionary aspects of his sentence in front of the appellate courts which, being previously litigated, cannot be raised now on appeal,” Doyle concluded.

“Based on this opinion, the court suggests that no error was committed,” the judge said of an opinion issued in June dismissing Dawson’s latest appeal.

Dawson was convicted by a Blair County jury on four counts of possession with intent to deliver cocaine, three counts of possession of cocaine and three counts of criminal use of a communication facility.

The defendant had a record of selling drugs from the time he was 14 years old.

His prior record was not only lengthy but after serving two to four years in a state correctional facility, Dawson, who had been selling illegal drugs in Altoona, returned to set up another drug operation.

Blair County Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks emphasized that Dawson, when released from prison, was to live in Philadelphia, but instead he returned to Altoona.

The judge declared he was a danger to the community and had a history of violence.

Dawson, in his most recent appeals, contends his Hollidaysburg attorney was ineffective in representing him because he failed to advise him to take a plea deal offered by the prosecution.

His attorney, he claims, failed to advise him of the possible sentences he could receive if convicted, and he charges his attorney failed to properly review evidence in his case and pressured him to stand trial despite the likelihood he would be convicted.

Doyle rejected those arguments and referred to a prior Superior Court decision, which stated, “We (the three-judge hearing panel) discern no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s determinations.”

Dawson’s sentence was among the highest ever imposed by a Blair County judge on a defendant charged with drug crimes.