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Todd v. Superintendent

December 30, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, Chief United States District Judge



Petitioner Karla Todd, a New York State prison inmate as a result of a 2006 conviction following her guilty plea to the crime of attempted criminal facilitation in the second degree, has commenced this proceeding seeking federal habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In the habeas application filed by counsel on behalf of petitioner, Todd asserts three separate grounds in support of her request for federal habeas intervention. See Habeas Corpus Petition (Dkt. No. 1) ("Petition"). Respondent has answered Todd's petition, arguing both that as a procedural matter Todd's petition is untimely and additionally that the grounds advanced in the pleading lack merit. See Respondent's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Petition (Dkt. No. 7) ("Resp. Mem.").

The Court finds that although Todd's petition was timely filed, the substance of her claims does not entitle her to the relief she seeks by the present application. This Court therefore denies her habeas application with prejudice.


A. State Court Proceedings

The state court records reflect that on October 12, 2005, Todd, knowing that Jeffrey Moore was armed with a firearm and wished to kill Alan Kuhn, intentionally and knowingly engaged in conduct which provided Moore with the means or opportunity to commit the crime of murder in the second degree, by providing him with transportation from Fine, New York to Canton, New York and thereafter leaving Moore in close proximity to Kuhn's residence. See Dkt. No. 6-2, Exh. A at p. 36. Moore then shot and killed Kuhn -- who was the father of one of Todd's children -- and Moore later committed suicide by shooting himself. Id.

By Indictment No. 2006-168, a St. Lawrence County Grand Jury charged Todd with Criminal Facilitation in the Second Degree (contrary to N.Y. Penal Law § 115.05), and Making a Punishable False Written Statement (in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 210.45). See Dkt. No. 6-2 at pp. 28-29 ("Indictment").

On December 14, 2006, following negotiations between Todd's counsel and the St. Lawrence County District Attorney, Todd appeared before St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards and pleaded guilty to Attempted Criminal Facilitation in the Second Degree, with the understanding that she would receive an indeterminate sentence of one and one-third to four years in prison in full satisfaction of the charges against her in the Indictment. See Transcript of Change of Plea (12/14/06) ("Plea Tr.") at p. 2. At that time, Judge Richards engaged in a colloquy with Todd which established that she was knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily pleading guilty to the charge. Id. at pp. 5-9. The court then accepted her guilty plea. Id. at p. 9.

On April 23, 2007, in accordance with the terms of her guilty plea, the County Court sentenced petitioner to an indeterminate prison term of one and one-third to four years. See Transcript of Sentencing of Karla Todd (4/23/07) at p. 17. Todd did not file a direct appeal regarding her conviction, however on December 31, 2007, she filed, through counsel, a motion to vacate her judgment of conviction pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law ("CPL"), Section 440.10 ("CPL Motion"). See Petition at ¶ 4. By Order dated February 21, 2008, Judge Richards denied Todd's CPL Motion in its entirety. See Dkt. No. 6-2 at pp. 134-36 ("February, 2008 Order"). On June 25, 2008, the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department denied Todd's application for leave to appeal the February, 2008 Order. See People v. Todd, No. 101803 (3d Dept. June 25, 2008).

B. This Action

On November 10, 2008, counsel filed a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Todd. See Petition. In such pleading, counsel argues that Todd's conviction should be vacated because: i) the plea was involuntary; ii) she received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and iii) her sentence was "harsh and excessive." Id.

The Office of the Attorney General for the State of New York, acting on respondent's behalf, subsequently filed an answer and memorandum of law in opposition to the petition, and has provided the Court with various records associated with the relevant state court proceedings. Dkt. Nos. 5-7. In opposing Todd's petition, respondent initially argues that it was not timely filed by her within the one year limitations period that governs federal habeas petitions. See Resp. Mem. at p. 11-15. Respondent alternatively contends that the claims raised in the petition are without merit. Id. at pp. 15-25.


A. Timeliness of Petition

Enactment of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") brought about a number of changes to the prisoner litigation landscape. One of those was the institution of a one-year statute of limitations for habeas corpus petitions filed after April 24, 1996.

28 U.S.C. § 2244(d).*fn1

In light of respondent's claim that this action was not timely commenced by Todd, the Court briefly reviews the chronological history of petitioner's state court proceedings.

Under New York law, a criminal defendant has thirty days after imposition of sentence to file a notice of appeal with the Appellate Division. See Bethea v. Girdich, 293 F.3d 577, 578 (2d Cir. 2002) (per curiam) (citing CPL § 460.10(l)(a)). As noted above, Todd was sentenced by the trial court on April 23, 2007. Since she did not file an appeal of that conviction or sentence, her conviction became final, for purposes of calculating the commencement of the AEDPA's limitations period, on Wednesday, May 23, 2007. E.g., Bethea, 293 F.3d at 578 (AEDPA's "one-year limitations period began running ... when [petitioner's] time for filing a notice of appeal from his judgment of conviction expired") (citing CPL § 460.10(1)). Thus, in light of the one year statute of limitations imposed by the AEDPA, Todd was required to have filed her habeas corpus petition by May 23, 2008 for such application to have been timely filed, unless the limitations period was tolled by the filing of a state court challenge regarding her conviction.

As noted above, Todd filed her CPL Motion on December 31, 2007. By that time, 222 days of the AEDPA's limitations period had already run. The filing of that application, however, tolled the AEDPA's statute of limitations. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 2244(d)(2). Such tolling continued until June 25, 2008, the day the Third Department denied Todd's application for leave to appeal the denial of her CPL Motion. Thus, Todd had one hundred forty-three days from that date, or until Monday, November 17, 2008, within which to timely file her federal habeas corpus petition. Since Todd's counsel filed the present action on ...

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