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VASQUEZ v. SENKOWSKI

June 3, 1999

CANDELARIO VASQUEZ, PETITIONER,
v.
DANIEL SENKOWSKI, SUPERINTENDENT, CLINTON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chin, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Petitioner Candelario Vasquez petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his March 22, 1993 conviction on twelve counts of robbery in the first degree, six counts of rape in the first degree, four counts of burglary in the first degree, two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, one count of sodomy in the first degree, and one count of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. For the following reasons, I find petitioner's claims to be without merit. Accordingly, the petition is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

A. The Facts

Petitioner's convictions arise from his participation in a series of crimes between September 20 and October 12, 1991, during which he and two accomplices, Jose Luis Javier and Jose Ramon Torres, forced their way into the apartments of several families in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan and robbed them at gunpoint. The evidence adduced at trial revealed that, during three of the incidents, petitioner and his accomplices ransacked their victims' apartments looking for jewelry, money, and other property to steal, after which petitioner tied up most of the family members with coat hangers while Javier raped at least one of the women in the household. During a fourth incident, petitioner sent Javier and Torres to the apartment of another family to collect a sum of money he claimed was owed to him or to someone he knew. While petitioner waited downstairs in a car, Javier and Torres forced their way into the apartment and robbed the family at gunpoint, and Javier subsequently raped one of the female members of the household.

Petitioner was apprehended on October 16, 1991 at approximately 1:00 a.m., after a fingerprint discovered at one of the crime scenes, an apartment on Isham Avenue in upper Manhattan, was identified as his. Police detectives thereafter went to petitioner's home, and petitioner voluntarily accompanied them to the 34th Precinct station house, unhandcuffed. Petitioner made numerous incriminating statements at the station house, including a videotaped confession in which he admitted his involvement in the robberies but vigorously denied any involvement in the sexual assaults. In addition, petitioner gave the detectives permission to search his apartment for property stolen during the robberies. Several items of stolen property were recovered from petitioner's apartment as a result of the search.

Petitioner was positively identified by two witnesses in a line-up conducted the day after he accompanied the detectives to the 34th Precinct station house. Based on the fingerprint evidence and the positive identification, petitioner was placed under arrest and charged with numerous counts of burglary, robbery, rape, sodomy, sexual abuse, and criminal possession of a weapon. Petitioner was positively identified by additional witnesses in two separate line-ups conducted several weeks after his arrest.

B. Prior Proceedings

Prior to trial, petitioner moved to suppress the incriminating statements he made, as well as the victims' identifications of him and the physical evidence seized from his apartment. Justice Rothwax of the New York State Supreme Court, New York County, held a hearing on petitioner's motion on March 11-12, 1993, at which the following facts were adduced.

Upon his arrival at the 34th Precinct station house at approximately 1:30 a.m. on October 16, 1991, petitioner was taken to one of the interview rooms by detectives Erroll Santos and Robert Ledee. Detective Santos began conversing with petitioner in Spanish, informing him that they knew petitioner had been present at the Isham Avenue apartment at which a robbery and several rapes had occurred because a fingerprint that had been lifted from the scene had been identified as petitioner's, and telling him, in substance, that he should tell the officers who he had been with at the apartment; otherwise, petitioner would "take the blame for everything." (H. at 85, 128, 131).*fn1 According to Santos's testimony, the detectives then left petitioner alone in the interview room to "[l]et him think for a few minutes." (H. at 130-31; see also H. at 85).

Detective Santos returned to the interview room a few minutes later, at which time he read petitioner his Miranda warnings in Spanish. Petitioner waived his Miranda rights and agreed to talk to Detective Santos. Santos reminded petitioner of the fingerprint that had been found at the Isham Avenue apartment and stressed to petitioner that, unless he revealed the names of the other individuals involved in the incident, petitioner would likely take full blame for the crimes committed. Thereafter, petitioner admitted his participation in that particular incident, but insisted that he had nothing to do with the sexual assaults perpetrated on three female victims. He further informed Detective Santos that Javier had committed the rapes, and then provided the detective with Javier's address. Detective Santos then placed petitioner in a holding cell.

Shortly thereafter, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Detective Santos returned to the station house with Javier in custody and transported Javier and petitioner, unhandcuffed, to the 20th Precinct. Petitioner was placed in another interview room, and approximately an hour-and-a-half later, Detective Santos read petitioner his Miranda rights in Spanish again. Petitioner again waived his rights, and acknowledged his receipt of the warnings by signing the bottom of the Miranda card. Petitioner reiterated that he had accompanied Javier and had participated in the robbery at the Isham Avenue apartment, and again stated that it was Javier who had committed the rapes. Petitioner then also told Detective Santos about his participation in one of the other robberies mentioned above.

The next morning, at approximately 11:40 a.m., after the line-up at which two of the female victims identified petitioner as the perpetrator, petitioner said in Spanish to Officer Suarez, who was acting as one of the stand-ins in the line up, "I was the one waiting downstairs. I went to use the phone but I didn't call a cab." (H. at 154). This statement was not made in response to any question posed by the officer, but was simply blurted out spontaneously. After the identification, petitioner was formerly placed under arrest.

Several hours later, at approximately 2:00 p.m., Detective Rivera of the 20th Precinct encountered petitioner while going for coffee in the station house. Although Detective Rivera said nothing to petitioner, petitioner asked the detective whether he was "being charged with the rapes." (H. at 157). Petitioner then volunteered that "the two other guys committed the rapes" and that he was "just there." (H. at 157). Some time later that afternoon, between approximately 2:30 and 3:00 p.m., petitioner made another unsolicited statement to yet another detective, Detective Savino. This time, petitioner blurted out that he had told Javier that "they were a family and that he [petitioner] didn't touch the girls. [Petitioner] has a kid also and that [Javier] was the one that touched the girls." (H. at 56).

Late that afternoon, at approximately 5:30 p.m., an assistant district attorney obtained a videotaped statement from petitioner at the 20th Precinct station house. Prior to giving his statement, petitioner was given Miranda warnings for the third time. In this statement, petitioner described in detail the events that occurred at the Isham Avenue apartment. Petitioner also provided a full account of one of the other three incidents in which he had participated. The prosecutor asked petitioner whether he had participated in any other crimes with Javier and/or Ramon. Initially, petitioner denied having participated in any other crimes, but eventually recounted details of the two other crimes as well. At the conclusion of his videotaped statement, petitioner repeatedly insisted that he had not sexually assaulted any of the women.

With the exception of certain physical evidence from his apartment that is not relevant to the instant petition, petitioner's motion to suppress was denied on March 12, 1993. Petitioner's jury trial before Justice Rothwax followed immediately.

On March 22, 1993, the jury convicted petitioner on twelve counts of robbery in the first degree, six counts of rape in the first degree, four counts of burglary in the first degree, two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, one count of sodomy in the first degree, and one count of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. On May 7, 1993, he was sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of from 296 to 598 years.

Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Appellate Division, First Department. The First Department unanimously affirmed petitioner's conviction on January 23, 1997. See People v. Vasquez, 235 A.D.2d 322, 652 N.Y.S.2d 962 (1st Dep't 1997). Thereafter, petitioner sought and was granted leave to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals. On October 21, 1997, the Court of Appeals also unanimously affirmed ...


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