Court denies conviction relief to Hartly woman

DOVER — A Hartly woman’s claims that she was improperly counseled and over-sentenced after pleading guilty to second-degree rape without consent two years ago were dismissed in Kent County Superior Court Wednesday.

Melissa Tegano was seeking relief from a conviction that brought a 10-year prison sentence for admitting to having sex with a 14-year-old runaway she met while playing online video games in 2013. According to facts of the case referenced in the in a two-page order, Tegano traveled to Virginia to pick up the boy and drove him back to her home in Hartly.

At the time of her arrest on Nov. 29, 2014, Tegano told Delaware State Police she thought the runaway as 19 years old.

Regarding her plea, Tegano claimed her inexperience with the justice system and faulty advice from her defense attorney led her to reject a plea to three counts of third-degree rape that would have brought six years incarceration.

Tegano compared her 10-year sentence to two other cases she deemed similar that received two yeas and 48 weekends of work release. She also claimed to be errantly sentenced as a habitual offender by Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr.

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clark, however, upheld an earlier ruling by Commissioner Andrea Freud that validated the sentence issued.

Commissioner Freud examined the record and found that Tegano was facing the possibility of 30 years minimum in prison if convicted and “the sentence and plea were reasonable under all the circumstances, especially in light of the evidence against her.”

Also, the commissioner found that Tegano acknowledged that she was aware of the ramifications of the plea and had discussed them fully with her attorney William Deely.

The court described Tegano’s bid for post-conviction relief as “meritless,” according to court papers.

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