(Resp't Ex. D) at 8.) The trial court noted that during the plea proceeding, the petitioner was aware of what he was doing and his answers to questions were responsive and direct, that the petitioner's background in criminal law suggested that he was familiar with the proceeding, and that subsequent to his guilty plea, the petitioner admitted to the Probation Department that he had murdered Mr. Watkins. (Tr. of Sentencing (Resp't Ex. D) at 7-8.) The Appellate Division, First Department affirmed the petitioner's conviction, holding that "the court properly denied, without a hearing, defendant's pro se motion made at sentencing to withdraw his guilty plea, his claim that the plea was not knowing and voluntary having been belied by the record of the plea proceedings and the two CPL article 730 reports that found him competent to stand trial, and unsupported by any evidence that he was suffering any of the negative side effects associated with his medication." Thomas, 200 A.D.2d at 374, 608 N.Y.S.2d at 71 (citations omitted).
The petitioner argues that because he was a schizophrenic and under the influence of heavy anti-psychotic drugs at the time of the plea proceeding, his plea of guilty was not knowing, willing, and intelligent. However, the petitioner has not presented any evidence to counter the well supported factual findings of the state court that he was fully competent to plead and that his plea was knowing and voluntary. Accordingly, because the petitioner has failed to present any evidence, much less clear and convincing evidence, to rebut the finding by the trial court, this claim has no merit.
The petitioner also argues that the trial court should have, at the very least, conducted an evidentiary hearing. "With respect to a motion to withdraw a guilty plea, 'the nature and extent of the fact-finding procedures requisite to the disposition of such motions rest largely in the discretion of the Judge to whom the motion is made. Only in the rare instance will a defendant be entitled to an evidentiary hearing; often a limited interrogation by the Court will suffice. The defendant should be afforded reasonable opportunity to present his contentions ....'" Fluitt v. Superintendent, 480 F. Supp. 81, 85 (S.D.N.Y. 1979) (Weinfeld, J.) (quoting People v. Tinsley, 35 N.Y.2d 926, 927, 365 N.Y.S.2d 161, 162, 324 N.E.2d 544 (1974)). In this case, the trial court afforded the petitioner such an opportunity, but neither the petitioner nor his attorney indicated that they wished to present anything further other than the fact that the petitioner had been under unspecified medication at the time of the plea proceeding. They did not present any evidence that the petitioner had suffered any negative side effects associated with his medication or that the psychiatric reports were incorrect in concluding that he was fit to proceed despite the fact that he was being treated with such medication. On this record, the trial court's failure to conduct an evidentiary hearing did not violate the petitioner's due process rights.
Accordingly, the petitioner's first claim for relief is denied.
In his second claim, the petitioner argues that his sentence was excessive under the circumstances of his condition at the time of the plea and the sentence. This claim is without merit.
It is well established that, when a sentence falls within the range prescribed by state law, the length of the sentence may not be raised as grounds for federal habeas relief. See White v. Keane, 969 F.2d 1381, 1383 (2d Cir. 1992) ("No federal constitutional issue is presented where ... a sentence is within the range prescribed by state law."); see also Diaz v. LeFevre, 688 F. Supp. 945, 949 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) ("Because [the petitioner's] sentence did not exceed the maximum sentence permissible for a felony conviction under N.Y. Penal Law ... there is no ground for habeas relief."); Moreno v. Kelly, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2722, No. 95 Civ. 1546, 1997 WL 109526, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 11, 1997). Thus because the petitioner's sentence falls within the range prescribed by state law, see N.Y. Penal Law § 70.00(a), (a)(i), there is no grounds for habeas relief.
Moreover, the petitioner has not shown that his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment, which provides that "excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
The Amendment is interpreted as prohibiting only sentences that are "grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime." Rummel v. Estelle, 445 U.S. 263, 271, 63 L. Ed. 2d 382, 100 S. Ct. 1133 (1980). Rummel has been interpreted as holding that "federal courts should be reluctant to review legislatively mandated terms of imprisonment and that successful challenges to the proportionality of particular sentences should be exceedingly rare." United States v. Santos, 64 F.3d 41, 45 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing Hutto v. Davis, 454 U.S. 370, 374, 70 L. Ed. 2d 556, 102 S. Ct. 703 (1982)), vacated on other grounds, 116 S. Ct. 1038 (1996); see also Moreno, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2722, 1997 WL 109526, at *7; Moore v. Irvin, 908 F. Supp. 200, 206-07 (N.D.N.Y. 1995).
The petitioner presents no reasonable argument that his sentence was at all disproportionate for the crime for which he was convicted. The petitioner was a career criminal with a history of violent behavior. (Resp't Ex. M at Ex. C.) The record shows that on June 4, 1990, the petitioner, with the intent to cause the death of 76 year old Bernard Watkins, caused his death by putting a .357 Magnum to Mr. Watkins' jaw, shooting him on a public street, and then taking his money. (Tr. of Guilty Plea (Resp't Ex. C) at 3-5.) The sentence the petitioner received was the very sentence the trial court had stated at the plea proceeding that it would impose. (Tr. of Guilty Plea (Resp't Ex. C) at 5.) The sentence was well within the statutory limits. In view of all the circumstances, the petitioner's sentence was not excessive.
Accordingly, the petitioner's second claim for relief is denied.
Because the Court finds that the petitioner's claims are without merit, the petitioner's motion for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is denied in its entirety. The Court declines to issue a certificate of appealability pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253 because the petitioner has not "made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
Dated: New York, New York
July 7, 1997
John G. Koeltl
United States District Judge