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Fifield v. Hunt

December 4, 2009

DARWIN FIFIELD, SR., PETITIONER,
v.
CARL B. HUNT, SUPERINTENDENT OF GROVELAND CORRECTIONAL FACILITY RESPONDENT.



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

ORDER

I. Introduction

Petitioner Darwin Fifield, Sr. ("Petitioner") filed this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his custody pursuant to a judgment entered March 16, 2004 in New York State, County Court, Niagara County, convicting him, upon his plea of guilty, of Attempted Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance (New York Penal Law §§ 110.00, 263.05) and Rape in the Third Degree (Penal Law § 130.25 [2]). Following his guilty plea, Petitioner was sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of two and one-third years to seven years on the Attempted Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance conviction, and one and one-third to four years on the Rape conviction, to be served concurrently.

For the reasons stated below, the petition is denied.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

On May 8, 2003, Petitioner was charged with seven counts of Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance, seven counts of Rape in the Third Degree, three counts of Sodomy in the Third Degree, and two counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. The charges arose from allegations that Petitioner photographed and had sexual relations with the victim, a sixteen year old girl and the sister of Petitioner's wife.

On December 23, 2003, Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of Attempted Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance and one count of Rape in the Third Degree. In exchange for the plea, the People dismissed the remaining counts of the indictment and also charges of endangering the welfare of a child and aggravated harassment that were pending in Lockport City Court. P. 3.

The court ensured that Petitioner pleaded guilty "freely and voluntarily after full consultation with [his] attorney," and informed him that by pleading guilty, he relinquished important constitutional rights, such as the right to a jury trial on the issue of guilt and the right to confront witnesses who have accused him. Plea ["P."] 9-10. Petitioner also waived his right to appeal his conviction as part of his plea agreement. P. 9.

In violation of the terms of his plea agreement, Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department alleging (1) insufficient allocution; (2) error in denying a pro se motion to withdraw guilty plea; (3) the sentence was unduly harsh and excessive; and (4) the waiver of right to appeal was invalid.*fn1

On December 22, 2005, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, unanimously affirmed Petitioner's conviction. People v. Fifield, 24 A.D.3d 1221 (4th Dep't 2005), lv. denied 6 N.Y.3d 775 (N.Y. 2006).

This habeas petition followed in which Petitioner raises four grounds for relief. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.

III. General Principles Applicable to Habeas Review

A. The AEDPA Standard of Review

Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), a federal court may grant habeas relief to a state prisoner only if a claim that was "adjudicated on the merits" in state court "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," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), or if it "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding." § 2254(d)(2). A state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established 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, 413 (2000). The phrase, "clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," limits the law governing ...


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