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Sanchez v. Connell

June 9, 2009

DAVID SANCHEZ, PETITIONER,
v.
SUSAN CONNELL,*FN1 SUPERINTENDENT, ONEIDA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James K. Singleton, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Petitioner David Sanchez, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Sanchez is currently in the custody of the New York Department of Correctional Services, incarcerated at the Oneida Correctional Facility. Respondent has answered, to which Sanchez has replied.

I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

Sanchez was convicted on September 16, 2005, in the Ulster County Court, upon a guilty plea, of one count of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree (New York Penal Law § 130.65(2)). The Ulster County Court sentenced Sanchez to a determinate term of five years' imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Sanchez did not appeal his conviction.

On January 19, 2006, Sanchez filed a motion to vacate his conviction under New York Criminal Procedure Law § 440.10 in the Ulster County Court, which motion was denied in a reasoned decision on March 30, 2006. The Appellate Division, Third Department, denied leave to appeal on June 7, 2006, without opinion or citation to authority. The Court of Appeals denied Sanchez's application for a certificate of appeal on September 1, 2006, as unappealable, and denied reconsideration on October 30, 2006. Sanchez timely filed his petition in this Court on November 24, 2006, and his amended petition on February 6, 2007.

II. GROUNDS RAISED/DEFENSES

In his amended petition Sanchez raises two grounds: (1) he was denied effective assistance of counsel in that counsel at both the preliminary hearing and at the time of entering his plea; and (2) fraud and lack of full disclosure of documents, exhibits, and testimony.*fn2 In his traverse Sanchez raises an additional point: that the felony complaint was defective in that it did not meet the requirements of New York law. Therefore, Sanchez contends, counsel was ineffective in failing to move for its dismissal on that ground.

Respondent asserts that Sanchez's second claim, fraud and failure to disclose, is unexhausted and procedurally defaulted. Respondent does not assert any other affirmative defense.*fn3

Sanchez requests this Court dismiss the indictment and order him released from prison. That relief this Court cannot grant. This Court can only direct the Ulster County Court to vacate the guilty plea upon which the conviction was based; however, that would not preclude the State from further prosecution of the charges.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Because Sanchez filed his petition after April 24, 1996, it is governed by the standard of review set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Consequently, this Court cannot grant relief unless the decision of the state court was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" at the time the state court renders its decision or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding."*fn4 The Supreme Court has explained that "clearly established Federal law" in § 2254(d)(1) "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court] as of the time of the relevant state-court decision."*fn5 Thus, where holdings of the Supreme Court regarding the issue presented on habeas review are lacking, "it cannot be said that the state court 'unreasonabl[y] appli[ed] clearly established Federal law.'"*fn6 When a claim falls under the "unreasonable application" prong, a state court's application of the Supreme Court precedent must be "objectively unreasonable," "not just incorrect or erroneous."*fn7 The Supreme Court has made clear that the objectively unreasonable standard is a substantially higher threshold than simply believing the state court determination was incorrect.*fn8 In a federal habeas proceeding, the standard under which this Court must assess the prejudicial impact of constitutional error in a state court criminal trial is whether the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict.*fn9

In applying this standard, this Court reviews the last reasoned decision by the state court.*fn10 Under AEDPA, the state court's findings of fact are presumed to be correct unless the petitioner rebuts this presumption by clear and convincing evidence.*fn11

To the extent that Sanchez raises issues of the proper application of state law, they are beyond the purview of this Court in a federal habeas proceeding. It is a fundamental precept of dual federalism that the States possess primary authority for defining and enforcing the criminal law.*fn12 A federal court must accept that state courts correctly applied state laws.*fn13 A petitioner may not transform a state-law issue into a federal one by simply asserting a violation of due process.*fn14 A federal court may not issue a habeas writ based upon a perceived error of state law unless the error is sufficiently egregious to amount to a denial of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.*fn15

IV. DISCUSSION

The facts of this case are well known to the parties and are repeated here in abbreviated form only to the extent necessary to enable the parties to understand the decision of this Court. Sanchez was charged in a felony complaint of Rape in the First Degree (New York Penal Law § 130.35(4)), Sexual Abuse in the First Degree (New York Penal Law § 130.65(2), and Endangering the Welfare of a Child (New York Penal Law § 260.10(1)). A preliminary hearing was held in which the victim, T.M., testified. At the end of the hearing, the court found reasonable cause to believe that Sanchez had committed a felony, and ordered ...


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