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Coleman v. City of New York

March 14, 2009

DAWSON COLEMAN, PRO SE, PETITIONER,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

In the instant action, petitioner Dawson Coleman, pro se, seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The court construes the petition and supporting correspondences from the petitioner as raising two claims.*fn1 For the reasons set forth more fully below, the petition is denied in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

On June 16, 2003, the police stopped petitioner while he was driving a vehicle and conducted a computer search on his license, which revealed that the state had suspended his license on at least 10 occasions in the past. (Ross Aff. ¶ 5.) Petitioner was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 511(3)(a)(ii)), aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the second degree (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 511(2)(a)(iv)), aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 511(1)(a)), and as an unlicensed operator (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 509(1)). (Ross Aff. ¶ 6.)

Petitioner waived his right to counsel and represented himself with an assigned attorney present at proceedings as a legal advisor. On October 18, 2004, petitioner pled guilty to aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree. (Ross Aff. ¶ 7; Resp.'s Ex. A.) Pursuant to the plea agreement, petitioner waived the right to appeal his conviction, and was sentenced to five years of probation and fined $500.00. (Resp.'s Ex. A. at 6.) Petitioner, pro se, then moved to withdraw his guilty plea, contending that (i) he did not voluntarily enter into the guilty plea, (ii) his conviction violated the Eighth Amendment, the Double Jeopardy Clause, and res judicata, and (iii) the statutory crime with which he was charged was invalid on its face. (Resp.'s Ex. B.) At the sentencing hearing, petitioner indicated that he did not want to withdraw his guilty plea; rather, he wanted to plead guilty to a non-felony traffic violation. (Resp.'s Ex. C. at 5.) After argument on the motion, the trial court denied his request and sentenced him in accordance with the plea agreement. (Resp.'s Ex. C. at 6-7.)

Petitioner, pro se, moved to vacate judgment, pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. L. § 440.10. (Resp. Ex. D.) The motion can be construed as challenging his conviction on the grounds that it was obtained in violation of (i) state criminal discovery rules, and (ii) the Fifth Amendment, Double Jeopardy Clause, and other state constitutional protections. (Resp. Ex. D.) The trial court rejected petitioner's motion, holding that petitioner should have raised the claims on direct appeal, pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Pro. L. § 440.10(2)(c), and that his failure to comply with this procedural rule barred collateral review of the claims. See People v. Coleman, Indict. No. 5189/03, slip op. at 5-7 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. King's Co. Apr. 27, 2006). The court also rejected the claims as "meritless." See id. The Appellate Division, Second Department denied leave. See People v. Coleman, Indict. No. 5189/03, Decision & Order (2d Dep't Aug. 15, 2006).

Petitioner, pro se, filed the instant action on September 15, 2006, challenging his sentence on the same grounds. (See Petition, Docket Entry No. 1.) Respondent opposes the instant action in its entirety as procedurally barred and meritless. (See Response, Docket Entry No. 5.)

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standards

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") narrowed the scope of federal habeas review of state convictions, when state courts have adjudicated a petitioner's federal claims on the merits. Under the AEDPA standard, which governs review of petitions challenging state convictions filed after 1996, such as this petitioner, federal courts may grant habeas relief only if the state court's adjudication on the merits:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or

(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). A decision is "contrary to" federal law "if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme Court] has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000) (O'Connor, J., concurring and writing for the majority). An "unreasonable determination" is one in which "the state court identifie[d] the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applie[d] that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413.

A federal court may not grant relief "simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state court-decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Id. at 411. Rather, the state court's application must have been "objectively unreasonable." Id. at 409. "[A] determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct," and "[t]he applicant shall have the ...


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