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Rydelle Lewis v. Dawson Brown

December 12, 2011


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


I. Introduction

Petitioner pro se Rydelle Lewis ("Lewis" or "Petitioner") seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on the basis that he is being detained in state custody in violation of his federal constitutional rights. Lewis's custody stems from a judgment of conviction entered against him on July 31, 1979, following a jury trial in New York Supreme Court (Erie County), on charges of Murder in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law ("P.L.") § 125.25) and Manslaughter in the First Degree (P.L. § 125.20). Petitioner was sentenced to an aggregate prison term of 20 years to life, and his conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. People v. Lewis, 105 A.D.2d 1079 (4th Dept. 1984), lv. denied, 64 N.Y.2d 782 (1986).

On August 28, 2006, Petitioner was released to parole, but his parole was revoked about a year later after he was found to have violated certain conditions of release. The instant habeas petition challenges the propriety of Lewis' parole revocation proceeding.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

A. The Parole Revocation Hearing

When he was released to parole, Lewis signed a form agreeing, inter alia, to refrain from behaving "in such a manner as to violate the provisions of any law . . . [or] threaten the safety or well-being of [himself] or others." Conditions of Parole, Rule 8, Respondent's Exhibit ("Resp't Ex.") B.

On August 21, 2007, at the Buffalo office of the New York State Division ("NYSDOP"), Petitioner caused a disturbance in the waiting room, refused to comply with the orders of two parole officers, assaulted Parole Officer Charles Sears, and resisted arrest. Later that day, the NYSDOP issued a parole violation warrant charging Lewis with violating Rule 8 of his parole release conditions by (1) causing a disturbance in the parole office's waiting room; (2) refusing to place his hands behind his back as ordered by Officers Sears; (3) resisting the attempts of several parole officers to arrest him; and (4) assaulting Officer Sears. At the direction of his senior officer, Officer Sears filed a criminal complaint against Petitioner in Buffalo City Court, charging him with resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, disorderly conduct, and harassment in the second degree.

Petitioner waived a preliminary hearing, and after several adjournments, the final parole revocation hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") with the NYSDOP on October 16, 2007. Before the hearing commenced, Petitioner's counsel requested that the ALJ adjourn the hearing until after the resolution of the related criminal case. The ALJ denied the application, reasoning that dismissal of the criminal charges would not bar the NYSDOP from revoking Lewis's parole.

The hearing proceeded, at which several officers testified for the NYSDOP regarding the incident which occurred while Petitioner was in the waiting area of the Buffalo NYSDOP office. Officer Mata related that Petitioner had approached him, loudly complaining that he had been waiting to see his parole officer for "over three fucking hours." Resp't Ex. I at 8-10, 12, 38, 50. Officer Mata told Petitioner that he would be seen shortly and ordered him to sit down, but Petitioner refused. Resp't Ex. I at 10, 39, 50.

Officer Sears then entered the waiting room and, after observing Petitioner yelling at Officer Mata, also ordered Petitioner to sit down. Again Petitioner refused to do so. Resp't Ex. I at 10-11, 40, 50.

Officer Sears ordered Petitioner to go to the reporting area located in the back of the office, and attempted to guide him to the locked doorway which led out of the waiting room into a hallway. Resp't Ex. I at 11, 50. In response, Petitioner stormed past Officer Sears, yelling that Sears was not "his fucking parole officer." Resp't Ex. E at 68-70.

When Officer Sears attempted to grab Petitioner's arm as they left the waiting room, Petitioner grabbed Officer Sears by the shirt collar and pushed him against a wall in the hallway. Resp't Ex. I at 50, 70-72. Upon hearing the scuffle, Officer Fuchs unlocked the door and entered the hallway to find Petitioner choking Officer Sears. Id. at 11. When Petitioner ignored Officer Fuchs's order to release Officer Sears, Officer Fuchs forced Petitioner to the ground, restrained him in handcuffs, and placed him in a holding room. Id. at 11, 50-51.

Lewis's sister, Velveeta Lewis, testified on his behalf as a character witness. Lewis did not take the stand.

On October 29, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision revoking Lewis's parole and recommending a time assessment of 24 months. On February 27, 2008, the criminal charges against Petitioner were dismissed, for reasons ...

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