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Leon Webb v. Superintendent Griffin

August 24, 2011

LEON WEBB, PETITIONER,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT GRIFFIN, RESPONDENT.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner Leon Webb("Webb" or "Petitioner") has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his detention in Respondent's custody. Webb is currently incarcerated as the result of a judgment of conviction entered against him on August 8, 2007, following a jury trial in Erie County Court, on two counts of robbery in the first degree, one count of robbery in the second degree, one count of attempted robbery in the first degree, one count of attempted robbery in the second degree, and one count of assault in the second degree.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

At trial, the prosecution presented proof that on June 19, 2006, Petitioner walked into a deli in the City of Buffalo and pointed a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun at the clerk, Almontaser Fadel ("Fadel"). Fadel recognized Petitioner as a regular customer but did not know his name. Petitioned demanded money, and Fadel gave him about $200 from the register. Petitioner then ordered Fadel to turn around and stand in the corner. Fadel complied, and Petitioner fled.

On July 29, 2006, Petition, accompanied by Alfred Molina ("Molina") and Chez Boyland ("Boyland") approached Ahmed Musa ("Musa") and Sheriff Dover ("Dover") as they were walking down Herkimer Street in Buffalo. Petitioner pointed a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun at them and demanded their money. Musa complied. Dover, on the other hand, refused. He backed way and was able to call the police. Petitioner and his cohorts fled the scene.

When police officer Anthony Figueroa responded, he observed Petitioner, Molina, and Boyland running up Herkimer Street. As soon as Petitioner and his friend spotted Officer Figueroa, they ran behind 159 Herkimer, which happened to be where Petitioner's girlfriend lived.

Minutes later, the police apprehended Petitioner, Molina, and Boyland, who were hiding in an abandoned house at 15 Auchinvole, located behind 159 Herkimer. Officer Figueroa found a shotgun that had been discarded in a garbage tote in the front yard of 159 Herkimer.

During a show-up procedure conducted a short time after Petitioner's arrest, he was identified by Musa and Dover. Later that day, the deli clerk, Fadel, identified Petitioner in a photo array.

While he and Boyland were housed together at the jail following their arrests, Petitioner punched Boyland in the face, breaking his nose. Boyland agreed to cooperate with the prosecution and testified against Petitioner at trial.

Petitioner testified that he merely had been meeting some friends at an abandoned house to smoke some marijuana when he unfortunately got caught up in a nearby robbery incident. Petitioner claimed that he was hiding because he knew he was trespassing and because he had marijuana in his possession. Petitioner testified that he had never possessed a gun and did not like guns, having been shot in the face three times during a robbery and also shot in the knee in a separate incident.

The prosecution introduced several photographs of Petitioner posing with a sawed-off shotgun, identified by one of the responding police officers as the gun he recovered from the garbage tote. The prosecution also introduced letters that Petitioner wrote to his girlfriend from jail in which he discussed the why he committed the robberies and that he had beat up several inmates for saying that he had committed a robbery.

The jury rejected Petitioner's defense and convicted him as charged in the indictment. He was sentenced, as a second felony offender, to a determinate term of imprisonment of twenty yearsfollowed by five years of post-release supervision on count one, a determinate term of imprisonment of fifteen years followed by five years of post-release supervision on counts two through four, and a determinate term of imprisonment of five years followed by five years post-release supervision on counts five and six. Counts two through five were to run concurrently with each other and consecutively to count one. Count six was to run consecutively to all of the other counts.

After his conviction was unanimously affirmed on direct appeal, People v. Webb, Petitioner filed an unsuccessful pro se motion to vacate the judgment in the trial court pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law ("C.P.L.") § 440.10.

This habeas petition followed in which Petitioner raises the following arguments: his due process rights were violated by the trial court's admission into evidence of photographs and personal letters; the trial court erroneously denied his motion to sever the indictment; Petitioner's unexhausted claim is not a ground for habeas corpus relief since he has failed to cite any authority or facts to support his vague and conclusory allegation; his sentence was harsh and excessive; .

For the reasons that follow, the petition is dismissed.

III. Discussion

A. Erroneous Evidentiary Rulings

Only violations of federal law are cognizable in a federal habeas corpus proceeding; a violation of state law provides no basis for habeas relief. 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254(a); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67--68 (1991) ("[F]ederal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state law. . . . {I]t is not the province of a federal habeas court to re-examine ...


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