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Thomas Ladd v. Supt. Mark L. Bradt

January 31, 2011

THOMAS LADD,
PETITIONER,
v.
SUPT. MARK L. BRADT, RESPONDENT.



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

02-B-2484,

ORDER

I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner Thomas Ladd ("petitioner") has filed a timely petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his conviction in Chemung County Court of three counts of Burglary in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal L. ("P.L.") § 140.25(2)) and three counts of Petit Larceny (P.L. § 155.25), following a jury trial before Judge James T. Hayden. Petitioner was sentenced as a persistent felony offender to concurrent, indeterminate prison terms of 20 years to life on each of the burglary counts, and a concurrent 1-year jail term on each petit larceny count.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

On September 27, 2001, petitioner and two other men, Jason Congers ("Congers") and Kenneth Thompson ("Thompson") burglarized three homes in Chemung County, New York, and drove off in petitioner's car.*fn1 A postal carrier who was delivering a package to one of the homes observed a car with its engine running in the driveway and two men inside the house with objects scattered about the room. The witness called 911 and reported the description of the car. After hearing a radio transmission regarding the vehicle involved in the burglary, a sheriff's deputy observed the described car and followed it. Petitioner led the officer on a high-speed chase that ended with petitioner crashing into a ditch and the occupants of the car fleeing on foot until they were apprehended. The car was impounded and subsequently searched, resulting in the recovery of various items stolen from the homes of the burglary victims. Trial Tr. 50-55, 65-67, 70-80, 82-88, 108-109, 118-130, 135-139, 142-158, 166, 188, 192-194, 200-201, 207-222, 237-39, 241.

Petitioner testified on his own behalf at trial, asserting that he, Thompson, Congers, and another man, Chris Haynes ("Haynes")*fn2 were transporting marijuana the day of burglaries. Petitioner and Congers drove Haynes' Jeep to an unknown location while Thompson and Haynes, at that point driving petitioner's car, went to buy the marijuana. According to petitioner, Haynes drove petitioner's car because his Jeep was "known" in that area.

Following the transaction, petitioner and Haynes switched vehicles again, petitioner driving his own car with Congers and Thompson as passengers. While petitioner was driving, he noticed a police car following him and did not stop because he thought that he would be implicated in the marijuana purchase. After a high-speed chase, petitioner drove the car into a ditch, and the three men ran from the crashed vehicle. Petitioner, Congers, and Thompson were later apprehended by police, and petitioner denied any involvement in the burglaries. Trial Tr. 259-278.

The jury found petitioner guilty of three counts of Burglary in the Second Degree and three counts of Petit Larceny. Trial Tr. 405-406.*fn3 The prosecution subsequently filed a statement pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. L. ("C.P.L.") § 400.20*fn4 seeking an order adjudicating petitioner a persistent felony offender pursuant to P.L. § 70.10*fn5 on the grounds that petitioner had three previous felony convictions.*fn6 Following a hearing, in which petitioner's counsel argued that petitioner should not be adjudicated a persistent felony offender because his criminal history was non-violent, the county court concluded that petitioner was a persistent felony offender and sentenced petitioner to concurrent terms of imprisonment of 20 years to life. Sentencing Tr. 5-20.

Petitioner filed a motion pursuant to C.P.L. § 440.20 to set aside the sentence on the ground that the county court's adjudication of petitioner as a persistent felony offender and his enhanced sentence violated his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, citing Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) (holding that, other than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases penalty for crime beyond prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to jury and proved beyond reasonable doubt). The court denied petitioner's motion on July 10, 2003 without a hearing, relying on People v. Rosen, 96 N.Y.2d 329 (2001), which, as controlling precedent, had previously rejected constitutional challenges to New York's persistent felony offender statute. Ex. I. Petitioner sought leave to appeal the denial of his § 440.20 motion to the Appellate Division, Third Department, which granted leave to appeal and have the matter heard in conjunction with his direct appeal. Ex. L.

Through counsel, petitioner filed a brief in the Appellate Division, Third Department, containing the following issues for appeal: (1) the trial court improperly denied petitioner's suppression motion without a hearing; (2) the trial court erred in finding that the search and seizure of petitioner's car was proper under the automobile and inventory search exceptions; (3) the New York persistent felony offender statute is unconstitutional; and (4) ineffective assistance of counsel. Ex. M. The Third Department unanimously affirmed the judgment of conviction. People v. Ladd, 16 A.D.3d 972 (3rd Dept.),lv. denied, 5 N.Y.3d 764 (2005). This habeas petition followed (Dkt. #1), in which petitioner alleges the following grounds for relief: (1) the Appellate Division improperly applied the inevitable discovery doctrine to his claim that evidence was improperly seized from his vehicle; (2) the trial court improperly applied the inventory exception to the search of his vehicle; (3) the trial court improperly denied his request for a hearing on his motion to suppress the evidence seized from his vehicle; (4) the trial court improperly applied the automobile exception to his claim regarding the search of his vehicle; and (5) New York's persistent felony offender statute is unconstitutional. Petition ("Pet.") ¶ 22, Pet'r Mem. 17-18.

For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that petitioner is not entitled to the writ, and the petition is dismissed.

III. Discussion

A. General Principles Applicable to Federal ...


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