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David Singleton v. James T. Conway

November 1, 2011


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


I. Introduction

David Singleton ("Singleton" or "Petitioner") has filed a pro se habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on the basis that he is being held in state custody in violation of his federal constitutional rights. Petitioner's detention is the result of a judgment of conviction entered on August 5, 2005, in the Monroe County Court of New York State Supreme Court, following a jury trial, of first degree robbery (N.Y. Penal Law § 160.15(4)) and first degree burglary (N.Y. Penal Law § 140.30(4)). Petitioner is presently serving his sentence at the Attica Correctional Facility.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

On June 25, 2004, Dinesh Patel ("Mr. Patel"), an Indian immigrant, worked as a desk clerk at the 490 Motel in Rochester with his wife, Jagruti Patel ("Mrs. Patel"), also an Indian immigrant. The Patels and their four-month old child lived in an apartment adjoining the office at the motel. At approximately 6:00 p.m., the Patels were preparing dinner when three black men arrived in the motel parking lot in a black car. All three men wore white hospital gloves. Petitioner, who was the driver, got out of the car, entered the motel office and asked Mr. Patel about the price of a room.

While Mr. Patel was talking to Petitioner, one of the accomplices, who was tall and heavy, used a metal bar to break through the door of the Patels' apartment. The other accomplice, who was shorter and thinner, held a handgun.

A passing motorist saw the heavy man beat against the door and then enter the motel with the thin man. The motorist called 911 on his cell phone to report the break-in and the police were dispatched to the motel.

The heavy man grabbed Mr. Patel by the back of the collar, took him into the kitchen of his apartment, and ordered him to drop to the floor. Meanwhile, Mrs. Patel had been knocked to the floor when the heavy man forced open the apartment door; the thin man stood over her with a gun to her head.

Meanwhile, Linda Vereen ("Vereen"), the motel's live-in housekeeper, was in her room and heard a banging noise from the office. She thought that someone was trying the get candy from the candy machine, disregarded the noise, and turned on her TV.

Petitioner emptied the cash register, handed the money to the heavy man, and announced that this was not enough money. The heavy man then took Mr. Patel from the kitchen back to the office and demanded more money. When Mr. Patel denied having any more money, the heavy man threatened to kill his wife unless they received additional money. As the heavy man said this, the thin man held a gun to Mrs. Patel's head. Mr. Patel opened the bedroom closet and surrendered a bag inside which contained $3,000.

The assailants then bound the Patels with duct tape, placed them in the bathroom, and told them that if they came out, they would be killed. Petitioner pulled the cables out of the cable box in the office.

When the cable TV went out, Vereen walked into the office where she encountered Petitioner, who told her that if she stayed where she was and did not speak, she would not get hurt. Glancing through the window, Petitioner saw the police arriving. He yelled through the office's customer window, "Hurry up, the police are coming, let's go." As Petitioner left the office, he told Vereen, "Stay where you are and don't follow me." Petitioner walked outside, pulled off the one white glove he was wearing, put the glove in his pocket, got into the driver's seat of his car, put the car in reverse without putting on his seat belt, and began to pull out of the parking lot.

Less than a minute later, Vereen went outside and pointed out Petitioner to the arriving officers. The Patels, still bound with duct tape, emerged from their apartment just as the police were apprehending Petitioner. The Patels identified Petitioner soon thereafter in separate show-up identification procedures conducted at the motel.

The police did not find Petitioner's accomplices despite conducting a canine search of the vicinity. Although the police found white latex gloves in Petitioner's pocket at the time of his arrest, they did not voucher those gloves as evidence immediately and Petitioner apparently was able to dispose of them in the bathroom at the police station.

Petitioner was convicted as charged in the indictment and sentenced, as a second felony offender, to concurrent prison terms of 20 years, followed by ...

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