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Wallace R. Schrom v. the People

March 26, 2012

WALLACE R. SCHROM, PETITIONER,
v.
THE PEOPLE, RESPONDENT.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Wallace R. Schrom ("Schrom" or "Petitioner") has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging that he is being held in state custody in violation of his federal constitutional rights. Schrom is incarcerated pursuant to a judgment of conviction entered on March 6, 2007, in Ontario County Court of New York State, following a guilty plea to one count of Burglary in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law ("P.L.") § 140.25(2)).

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

On December 4, 2005, Schrom and his friend Wayne Hickson ("Hickson") drove to the apartment building where Schrom used to live in Farmington, New York. Without permission, they entered the apartment of Thomas Ninos ("Ninos"), which was empty. Schrom bore a grudge against Ninos for having vandalized his property when they were neighbors, and Hickson was angry at Ninos for past insults. Schrom took Ninos' clothes and put them in a bag, and Hickson took several personal items of Ninos'. Schrom and Hickson then drove to a creek and threw Ninos' belongings into the water. Schrom and Hickson*fn1 were subsequently arrested.

After waiving his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 486 (1966), Schrom gave a statement to the police detailing both his and Hickson's criminals actions with regard to Ninos. See Respondent's Exhibit ("Resp't Ex.") A at 1-3, submitted in connection with Respondent's Answer to the Petition.

On February 13, 2007, directly before the commencement of a suppression hearing to determine whether Schrom's statement to the police would be admissible at trial, Schrom elected to plead guilty to second degree burglary in exchange for a sentence of five years of imprisonment, to be followed by five years of post-release supervision, and payment of restitution.

In response to the court's questions, Schrom stated that he had discussed the matter with his counsel, was satisfied with counsel's advice, was in good physical and mental health, and was not under the influence of alcohol, prescription medication or any other substance that might affect his ability to understand the proceedings. P.3-4.*fn2

The court informed Schrom of the constitutional rights he was giving up by pleading guilty, including the right to remain silent, have an attorney represent him free of charge, and proceed to a jury trial where he could confront the witnesses against him, present evidence on his own behalf, and hold the prosecution to its burden of proof. P.4. Schrom stated that he understood that he was waiving these rights, and told the judge that no one had promised him anything and had not threatened, forced, or coerced him into pleading guilty. P.4-5. Schrom stated that he understood that pleading guilty would result in a violent felony record which could form the basis of more serious penalties if he were convicted of other crimes in the future. Schrom confirmed his understanding that a conviction following a guilty plea is the legal equivalent of a guilty verdict returned by a jury. P.5-6.

Defense counsel then announced that she would withdraw her motion for a suppression hearing, after which the following colloquy ensued between the judge and Schrom:

THE COURT: [I]s it your claim that the police have taken anything from you in violation of your constitutional rights; any statement, confession, or physical evidence? (OFF-RECORD ATTORNEY/CLIENT DISCUSSION HELD.) [PETITIONER]: Your Honor, I do believe that my rights were violated, but I do not feel that I can be successful at a hearing. That is why I'm accepting this plea. . . .

THE COURT: [In] [w]hat respect do you believe your rights have been violated? [PETITIONER]: I was threatened to be arrested if I was not told what they want to hear.

THE COURT: All right. So that was with regard to the statement you made? [PETITIONER]: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: However, your lawyer's withdrawn the application to have the statement suppressed, so may I assume that although that is your feeling, that after discussing the matter with your attorney, you are not asserting that your constitutional rights have been violated ...


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