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Laws v. Giambruno

July 14, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge



Petitioner, Ryan J. Laws ("Laws") filed this petition pro se for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("§ 2254") challenging his conviction in New York State County Court, Ontario County, on one count of Assault in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law ("P.L.") § 120.05(1)) and one count of Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree (P.L. § 190.25(1)). Laws was convicted by a jury and sentenced to a determinate state prison term of four years for the assault and a concurrent determinate one-year sentence for the criminal impersonation. He is presently incarcerated at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility pursuant to other charges. For the reasons set forth below, Laws' § 2254 petition is dismissed.


By Ontario County Indictment No. 99-10-211, the petitioner, Ryan J. Laws was charged with Assault in the Second Degree (P.L. § 120.05(1)), Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree (P.L. § 190.25(1)), Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree (P.L. § 145.00(1)), and Endangering the Welfare of a Child (P.L. § 260.10(1)). Laws proceeded to a jury trial before the Honorable Craig Doran on May 10, 2000.

The charges stemmed from an incident that occurred in the early morning hours of December 3, 1999, at the trailer-home of Christopher Fowler ("Fowler") and Paula Farrell ("Farrell"). Prior to the incident, Laws and his companion, Angie Hunt ("Hunt"), had been living at Fowler and Farrell's trailer for approximately a month-and-a-half, baby-sitting minor children in return for living there. T.*fn1 173, 302. On the night of December 2, 1999, however, Laws and Hunt decided to quickly move out of the trailer and turned the radio to mask the sounds of their packing. T. 304. Around 12:30 a.m., Laws "cranked the tunes" in an attempt to awaken Fowler and Farrell and tell them that he and Hunt were moving out. Id. When Fowler was roused by the loud music, he went to ask Laws to turn the music down. T. 174. When Laws refused to turn down the music, Fowler went back to his bedroom to ask Farrell to "take care" of the situation. T. 175. As Farrell went out into the living room, Laws was "babbling" about how Fowler and Farrell were "nothing" and their trailer was "nothing." T. 215. At this point, Fowler entered the living room and was pushed by Laws. T. 176-77, 215. Fowler then attempted to leave the trailer and seek assistance from a next-door neighbor, Jason Perri, but Laws shoved him out the door. T. 177. Fowler went running back into the house and a fight ensued. Id. Fowler testified at trial that Laws threw him against the wall, shattering the window, and threw him onto the coffee table, breaking the coffee table. T. 177-179. During the fight, Laws admitted that he "threw [Fowler] in a head-lock," but stated that he did not intend to harm him. T. 314. It is disputed whether Fowler's four-year old son was present during the fight.

T. 181, 306.

Meanwhile, Farrell had left the house and went to the corner gas station to call the police. T. 218-19. Upon returning to the trailer, Farrell observed Fowler to be injured and took him to the hospital. T. 219, 221. At the hospital, Fowler was treated for a broken collarbone, a chipped tooth, a black eye, and various scratches and bruises. T. 186-91. Fowler's injuries made it difficult for him to breathe, and rendered him unable to work.

T. 186-87, 195. At the time of the trial, Fowler's collarbone had not completely healed and required surgery to repair it. T. 187. Fowler, however, was unable to afford the required surgery. Id.

In response to Farrell's 9-1-1 call, Deputy Paul Vanderlike, a Ontario County Sheriff's road deputy, went to the hospital to interview Fowler and arranged for photographs to be taken of his injuries. T. 236-38. Vanderlike also transmitted a description of Laws to Sergeant Frasca of the Ontario County Sheriff's department, who ran a check on Laws and found a photo of Laws along with an open arrest warrant. T. 262. Sergeant Frasca requested assistance from two other officers and went to the trailer park. Id. At the trailer park, the officers approached a neighboring trailer and Sergeant Frasca saw a male who he believed was Laws. T. 264. As Sergeant Frasca knocked on the door of the trailer, the male jumped off the couch and ran towards the back room. Id. Sergeant Frasca quickly located the man, who was hiding under a cot, and asked for him to identified himself. T. 268. While Laws claims that he did not respond and stated that he had no identification on him, Sergeant Frasca asserts that Laws identified himself at that point as "Jarrett Elmore." T. 268, 310. Sergeant Frasca proceeded to frisk him and found a wallet containing Jarrett Elmore's*fn2 identification. T. 269. Since Sergeant Frasca had no evidence that the male was actually Laws, he left the trailer. T. 272.

A few hours later, Sergeant Frasca learned that the male inside the trailer was in fact Laws, and he conducted a second search of the area following which Laws was placed under arrest at the Mobil Mart. Tr. 272-74. Sergeant Frasca did not observe any evidence of injuries on Laws, nor did Laws complain that he was injured. T. 276, 281.

At trial, Laws' motion to dismiss the case based on the prosecution's failure to prove a prima facie case was denied in its entirety. T. 297-99. The jury then found Laws guilty of Assault in the Second Degree and Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree, while finding him not guilty of Criminal Mischief and Endangering the Welfare of a Child. T. 490-91. On May 26, 2000, Laws was sentenced to a determinate term of four years incarceration for the assault conviction along with a concurrent determinate term of one year for his criminal impersonation conviction. S.*fn3 14-15. The New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department unanimously affirmed his conviction. See People v. Laws, 286 A.D.2d 991 (4th Dept. 2001). The New York Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal on January 28, 2002. See People v. Laws, 97 N.Y.2d 706 (2002). Laws did not seek a writ of certiorari from the United States Supreme Court.

On December 10, 2004, Laws moved to vacate the judgment of conviction pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law ("C.P.L.") § 440.10. See Petitioner's pro se C.P.L. § 440.10 motion (Docket No. 8, Exhibit F). In support of his motion, Laws claimed that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and that the prosecution failed to disclose Brady material. The trial court denied the motion in its entirety based on Laws' failure to raise the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal and Laws' argument regarding the Brady violation was directed at information from witnesses that were called by the defense, not the People. See County Court Order dated January 14, 2002, p. 2 (Docket No. 8, Exhibit H).

Finally, Laws filed a motion for a writ of error coram nobis in May of 2002. See Petitioner's pro se motion for writ of error coram nobis (Docket No. 8, Exhibit I). In his motion, Laws argued that he received ineffective assistance from his appellate counsel based on his appellate counsel's failure to challenge Laws' trial counsel as ineffective. This motion was denied by the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth ...

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