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Abuse of Discretion – Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

WI Court of Appeals – District II

Case Name: State of Wisconsin v. Ronell N. Hibbler

Case No.: 2018AP1876-CR

Officials: Neubauer, C.J., Reilly, P.J., and Davis, J.

Focus: Abuse of Discretion – Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Ronell N. Hibbler appeals from a judgment convicting him after a jury trial of three drug-related charges and two counts of felony bail jumping and from an order denying his motion for postconviction relief. We affirm the judgment and order. Pursuant to information provided by two paid informants, City of Racine police executed a no-knock search warrant shortly after 5:00 a.m. at the home of Hibbler’s girlfriend, GS, where he also resided. Hibbler and GS were asleep in a bedroom in which police found $2075 in a dresser drawer, a Samsung flip phone belonging to Hibbler, and $480 in a pocket of Hibbler’s pants. GS plausibly accounted for $247 found in the closet. A digital gram scale and a plastic baggie containing what proved to be marijuana were on an end table in the living room. A zipped case containing substances that tested positive for cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana was discovered beneath the front porch.

After Investigator Donald Nuttall read Hibbler his Miranda rights, Hibbler acknowledged being aware of the cocaine found in the case under the porch. Nuttall asked if the amount was approximately one ounce; Hibbler responded that it was “about an ounce.” Nuttall believed the 42.7 grams of crack cocaine (“the cocaine evidence”) found in the case, which had an approximate street value of $4270, was a high amount for personal use and that the amount of marijuana was greater than that for a casual user. Hibbler was charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine (>15-40 grams), possession with intent to deliver THC (<=200 grams), maintaining a drug-trafficking place, and two counts of felony bail jumping, all as a repeater.

Hibbler’s defense theory was that the drugs were not his and that the informants’ credibility was questionable because they were being paid by the police. The jury found him guilty as charged. He filed a postconviction motion alleging that the trial court erroneously exercised its discretion regarding a ruling on the cocaine evidence and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. He sought either a new trial or a Machner hearing. The trial court denied the motion without requiring a response from the State and without a hearing. This appeal followed. Additional facts will be supplied as the issues warrant.

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Derek A Hawkins is trademark corporate counsel for Harley-Davidson. Hawkins oversees the prosecution and maintenance of the Harley-Davidson’s international trademark portfolio in emerging markets.

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