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Castillo v. United States

December 1, 2009

FRANK SMITH CASTILLO, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, U.S.D.J.

OPINION AND ORDER

In 2004, Petitioner Frank Smith Castillo ("Petitioner") was convicted of one count of illegally possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). Petitioner, acting pro se, files the instant petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("Section 2255"), asking the Court to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence on the grounds that (1) his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, and (2) delays in his trial violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Petitioner's habeas corpus petition.

I. Background

A. Petitioner's Arrest and Conviction

On July 4, 2003, two New York City police officers, Officer Marilyn Diaz and Officer Joseph Flores, observed Petitioner setting off fireworks during an outdoor party. When Officer Diaz approached Petitioner, he extinguished the fireworks and ran. While Officer Diaz was chasing Petitioner, she saw him throw an object through an open window. Police officers searched the area around the window and recovered a 9mm handgun, and a small white object with an attached fuse. Petitioner was arrested and charged with illegal gun possession under New York state law.

In 1992, Petitioner had been convicted for criminal possession of a loaded firearm in the third degree, which is a felony. After his July 4, 2003 arrest, he was transferred into federal custody on a federal criminal complaint charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).

On August 11, 2003, a grand jury in the Southern District of New York returned an indictment against Petitioner (the "Indictment"), charging him with: (1) possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a felony; and (2) possessing an unregistered improvised explosive device. On August 18, 2003, Petitioner was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to both counts.

In anticipation of trial, Petitioner and the Government entered into two stipulations (the "Stipulations") that would be admissible at trial. First, the parties stipulated that the handgun Petitioner was charged with possessing "had been shipped and transported in interstate commerce" (the "Interstate Nexus Stipulation"). Second, the parties stipulated that Petitioner had been convicted of a previous felony (the "Prior Conviction Stipulation"). The Prior Conviction Stipulation did not state that Petitioner's previous conviction was for illegal gun possession.

On October 15, 2003, the Court held a scheduling conference and set Petitioner's trial for January 12, 2004. On January 7, 2004, the Government requested an adjournment until June 2004, because Officer Diaz, an essential Government witness, was in a high-risk pregnancy and would be unable to testify if the trial proceeded in January. Petitioner's attorney objected to the Government's request. The Court excluded time through February 2, 2004*fn1 while the Government explored alternative ways for Officer Diaz to testify, none of which proved to be feasible. On February 5, 2004, the Court issued an Order scheduling trial for May 17, 2004, and excluding time through that date based on Officer Diaz's unavailability.

On March 23, 2004, Petitioner's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the Indictment on speedy trial grounds. On April 30, 2004, the Court denied Petitioner's motion.

Petitioner's trial commenced on May 17, 2004. On May 21, 2004, the jury convicted Petitioner of illegally possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a felony.

B. Petitioner's Post-Conviction Appeal

Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Second Circuit on two grounds: (1) that the conviction was obtained by unconstitutional failure of the prosecution to disclose evidence favorable to the defendant; and (2) that Petitioner was denied effective assistance of counsel. On April 20, 2006, the Second Circuit affirmed Petitioner's conviction. Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court ...


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