Van Sellner v. State, Appellate Case No. 2014–002472

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtJUSTICE HEARN
Citation787 S.E.2d 525,416 S.C. 606
PartiesDidier Van Sellner, Petitioner, v. State of South Carolina, Respondent.
Decision Date29 June 2016
Docket NumberOpinion No. 27644,Appellate Case No. 2014–002472

416 S.C. 606
787 S.E.2d 525

Didier Van Sellner, Petitioner,
v.
State of South Carolina, Respondent.

Appellate Case No. 2014–002472
Opinion No. 27644

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Submitted May 17, 2016
Filed June 29, 2016


Appellate Defender Laura R. Baer, of Columbia, for Petitioner.

Attorney General Alan M. Wilson, and Assistant Attorney General Megan H. Jameson, both of Columbia for Respondent.

JUSTICE HEARN :

416 S.C. 608

Didier Van Sellner pled guilty to armed robbery and later applied for post-conviction relief (PCR), asserting his counsel was ineffective for advising him to take a plea deal when the State could not demonstrate all of the elements of armed robbery. The PCR court denied him relief, finding he received effective assistance of counsel. We reverse.1

FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Van Sellner was charged with armed robbery. After consulting with counsel, he learned he could be subject to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole due to his prior convictions in New Jersey and New York for robbery and various drug offenses. See S.C. Code Ann. § 17–25–45 (2015). As a result of counsel's advice, Van Sellner decided to accept the plea offered by the State.

At the plea hearing, the State explained that Van Sellner entered the South Carolina Bank and Trust (the Bank) in Orangeburg and waited in line to speak with a teller. When it was his turn, he handed the teller a note “requesting her to give him [$3,000] in used bills, indicating to her not to give him any dye packs, and that if she did not comply he would shoot her.”2 The teller partially complied by giving Van Sellner $492. After receiving the money, Van Sellner fled the scene.

416 S.C. 609

The police captured Van Sellner that day wearing the same clothes he had on during the robbery. Van Sellner confessed to the police and the FBI.

Following the State's presentation of facts, trial counsel informed the court that she believed the plea was in Van Sellner's best interest based on his prior record and the potential that the State could seek life without the possibility of parole. The trial court asked Van Sellner whether he understood the elements of armed robbery and confirmed the State had not influenced his plea. Van Sellner informed the trial court that he wanted to plead guilty because he was trying to avoid returning to jail for a prolonged period of time.

Ultimately, the trial court accepted the plea, stating, “I find that there is a factual basis for you to plead guilty to this charge, and so I am going to accept your guilty plea at this time.” The trial court sentenced Van Sellner to twelve years' imprisonment.

Van Sellner subsequently filed for PCR, alleging that because he did not display a weapon during the robbery, trial counsel incorrectly advised him to plead to armed robbery. At the PCR hearing, Van Sellner testified the research he conducted during incarceration revealed his counsel did not properly advise him on the law. In support, he pointed to other available charges for robbery crimes. He testified trial counsel

787 S.E.2d 527

told him he was “stuck,” and armed robbery was the only possible crime he could be charged with under the circumstances. Van Sellner testified it was a “take it[,] or leave it[ and] get life” situation because the armed robbery charge and sentence could not be reduced given his prior record. Van Sellner repeatedly testified he did not have a weapon or make any physical indication that he had a weapon on his person at the time of the robbery.

Trial counsel testified that there was no evidence that Van Sellner had a gun during the robbery or made any representation of a weapon. Moreover, she testified that police reports stated Van Sellner was not armed.

The PCR court found trial counsel was not deficient for advising Van Sellner to plead guilty to armed robbery. In denying relief, the PCR court explained Van Sellner “failed to meet his burden of establishing any deficiency” because “[b]y

416 S.C. 610

passing the teller a note threatening her with a deadly weapon, [Van Sellner's] conduct comported to the armed robbery statute by alleging with words that he was armed with a deadly weapon.” Further, the PCR court found Van Sellner could not establish prejudice from the alleged deficiencies “as there [wa]s no reasonable likelihood that the result of proceeding would have been different or that [Van Sellner] would...

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23 practice notes
  • Smalls v. State, Appellate Case No. 2016-001079
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 7, 2018
    ...us. We defer to a PCR court's findings of fact and will uphold them if there is evidence in the record to support them. Sellner v. State , 416 S.C. 606, 610, 787 S.E.2d 525, 527 (2016) (citing Jordan v. State , 406 S.C. 443, 448, 752 S.E.2d 538, 540 (2013) ). We review questions of law de n......
  • Garren v. State, Appellate Case No. 2015-000756
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 25, 2018
    ...will uphold the [factual] findings of the PCR court when there is any evidence of probative value to support them." See Sellner v. State , 416 S.C. 606, 610, 787 S.E.2d 525, 527 (2016).As to Garren's claim that his plea was involuntary, I agree with the majority the PCR court erred as a mat......
  • Mangal v. State, Opinion No. 27726.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 19, 2017
    ...We defer to a PCR court's findings of fact and will uphold them if there is any evidence in the record to support them. Sellner v. State , 416 S.C. 606, 610, 787 S.E.2d 525, 527 (2016) (citing Jordan v. State , 406 S.C. 443, 448, 752 S.E.2d 538, 540 (2013) ). We do not defer to a PCR court'......
  • Thompson v. State, Appellate Case No. 2014-001611
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 21, 2018
    ...will uphold the PCR court's factual findings if there is any evidence of probative value in the record to support them. Sellner v. State , 416 S.C. 606, 610, 787 S.E.2d 525, 527 (2016). However, this Court gives no deference to the PCR court's conclusions of law, and we review those conclus......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • Smalls v. State, Appellate Case No. 2016-001079
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 7, 2018
    ...us. We defer to a PCR court's findings of fact and will uphold them if there is evidence in the record to support them. Sellner v. State , 416 S.C. 606, 610, 787 S.E.2d 525, 527 (2016) (citing Jordan v. State , 406 S.C. 443, 448, 752 S.E.2d 538, 540 (2013) ). We review questions of law de n......
  • Garren v. State, Appellate Case No. 2015-000756
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 25, 2018
    ...will uphold the [factual] findings of the PCR court when there is any evidence of probative value to support them." See Sellner v. State , 416 S.C. 606, 610, 787 S.E.2d 525, 527 (2016).As to Garren's claim that his plea was involuntary, I agree with the majority the PCR court erred as a mat......
  • Mangal v. State, Opinion No. 27726.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 19, 2017
    ...We defer to a PCR court's findings of fact and will uphold them if there is any evidence in the record to support them. Sellner v. State , 416 S.C. 606, 610, 787 S.E.2d 525, 527 (2016) (citing Jordan v. State , 406 S.C. 443, 448, 752 S.E.2d 538, 540 (2013) ). We do not defer to a PCR court'......
  • Thompson v. State, Appellate Case No. 2014-001611
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 21, 2018
    ...will uphold the PCR court's factual findings if there is any evidence of probative value in the record to support them. Sellner v. State , 416 S.C. 606, 610, 787 S.E.2d 525, 527 (2016). However, this Court gives no deference to the PCR court's conclusions of law, and we review those conclus......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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