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Szurgot v. Attica Correctional Facility

January 20, 2010

DANIEL SZURGOT, PETITIONER,
v.
ATTICA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner, Daniel Szurgot ("Petitioner"), has filed a timely petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his custody pursuant to a judgment entered April 16, 2002, in New York State, Supreme Court, Monroe County, convicting him, upon a plea of guilty, of Assault in the First Degree (N.Y. Penal Law ("Penal Law") § 120.10[3]), and Resisting Arrest (Penal Law § 205.30).

For the reasons stated below, the writ is denied and the petition is dismissed.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

Petitioner's conviction arises from an incident that occurred just after midnight on April 1, 2001 in the City of Rochester, wherein Petitioner, along with several other individuals, assaulted Michael O'Toole ("O'Toole") outside of his home. Plea Minutes [P.M.] of 03/26/02, 4-10.

On the night of the incident, O'Toole came outside of his home to demand quiet from a group of rowdy teenagers, and an argument ensued. Initially, the conflict only involved O'Toole and Tim Szurgot ("Tim"), Petitioner's brother. However, as the argument escalated, Petitioner and another individual, Brandon Caswell ("Caswell"), came to Tim's aid and all three individuals beat up O'Toole. Petitioner admitted to hitting and kicking O'Toole fifteen times, which included several blows to the head. O'Toole suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the attack. P.M. 6-7.

Petitioner was charged with Assault in the First Degree and Resisting Arrest. While out on bail, he was arrested in August 2001 and charged with Robbery, Assault and Grand Larceny in a separate, unrelated incident. Prior to the commencement of the trial for the incident involving O'Toole, Petitioner, upon the advice of counsel, agreed to a plea deal. In exchange for the guilty plea, the Monroe County Supreme Court agreed to sentence Petitioner to fifteen years for the assault charge and to allow Petitioner to serve the assault and resisting arrest sentences concurrently. The plea negotiations also addressed the likelihood that Petitioner would serve a ten-year concurrent sentence for the unrelated August 2001 incident, should he decide to plead guilty to those charges, which were pending in a different court. P.M. 2-3.

Petitioner was subsequently sentenced to fifteen years for Assault in the First Degree, with one year to be served concurrently for Resisting Arrest. Sentencing Minutes [S.M.] of 04/16/02, 13-14.

Petitioner appealed his conviction on the ground that the sentence imposed was harsh and excessive. The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, unanimously affirmed the conviction, without opinion, on March 18, 2005. People v Szurgot, 16 A.D.3d 1181 (4th Dep't. 2005). Leave to appeal was denied by the New York Court of Appeals. People v Szurgot, 4 N.Y.3d 891 (2005).

Petitioner filed the habeas corpus petition presently before this Court, wherein he seeks relief on the following five grounds:

(1) that the sentence imposed was harsh and excessive; (2) that his guilty plea was unlawfully induced; (3) that the prosecution failed to disclose exculpatory evidence; (4) that his conviction was obtained in violation of his right against self-incrimination; and (5) that he was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel. Petition [Pet.] ¶22A-D.

III. General Principles Applicable to ...


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