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Kemet Allah, A/K/A, Ben Lofton v. Harold D. Graham

May 10, 2012

KEMET ALLAH, A/K/A, BEN LOFTON, PETITIONER,
v.
HAROLD D. GRAHAM, RESPONDENT.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Background

Pro se petitioner Kemet Allah, a/k/a Ben Lofton ("Petitioner" or "Allah") seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on the basis that he is being unconstitutionally detained in Respondent's custody. Petitioner is incarcerated pursuant to a judgment entered against him on August 5, 1994, in Monroe County Court (Connell, J.) of New York State, following a jury verdict convicting him of multiple counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a weapon, as well as one charge each of first degree robbery and fourth degree grand larceny. Petitioner was sentenced to

After the enactment of New York's Drug Law Reform Act of 2004 and 2005 ("the DLRA"), Petitioner applied for resentencing and requested that he be resentenced to determinate terms of imprisonment equal to or less than the time already served. The prosecution requested that Petitioner be resentenced, as a first-time felony drug offender, to determinate terms of 20 years on his conviction for first degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and six years for second degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. On January 18, 2006, the County Court (Geraci, J.) resentenced Petitioner as requested by the prosecution, and issued a written decision on January 20, 2006, memorializing its ruling. See Respondent's Exhibit ("Resp't Ex.") N (County Court Resentencing Order) & O (Transcript of Resentencing Hearing). The resentencing court stated on the record and its order that Petitioner was resentenced to 20 years incarceration and 5 years of post-release supervision ("PRS") on his conviction for first degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and 6 years incarceration and 5 years PRS on his conviction for second degree criminal possession of a controlled substances, those sentences "to run concurrent with each other." Resp't Ex. N at 4. Neither in its oral ruling nor in its decision and order did the resentencing court explicitly mention any of the sentences imposed with regard to Petitioner's other convictions. See id.

The clerk of the court signed an amended sentence and commitment order, along with a certificate of conviction, reflecting the resentences on the two drug-related convictions. These documents stated that "[a]ll other terms of the sentence stand". Resp't Ex. P (Commitment Papers).

Petitioner did not file a direct appeal with regard to the resentencing but instead, through counsel, moved by order to show cause filed February 24, 2009, in Monroe County Court for a writ of mandamus to compel the clerk of the court to issue a revised sentence and commitment order and certificate of conviction stating that all of Petitioner's sentences were to run concurrently with each other. Petitioner noted that the resentencing court did not affirmatively state that the former sentences were to run consecutively to the latter sentences. Petitioner essentially argued that the resentencing court direction that the two drug sentences were to be served concurrently, and its silence as to the remainder of the sentences, meant that all of the sentences (including those for the non-drug offenses) were now to run concurrently with each other. Petitioner contended that the certificate of conviction prepared by the clerk improperly described the sentences for the non-drug convictions as running consecutively to the drug sentences.

The Monroe County District Attorney's Office received permission to intervene in the action, and submitted opposition papers arguing that Petitioner had failed to state a viable cause of action and that a mandamus proceeding did not lie because Petitioner could have raised his claim on direct appeal or in a motion to set aside the sentence pursuant to C.P.L. § 440.20.

Following oral argument on May 8, 2009, the County Court issued an oral ruling denying the petition and holding that nothing in the resentencing proceeding altered the sentences for the non-drug convictions. Thus, they were to run consecutively to the sentences for the drug convictions, as originally ordered by the sentencing court in 1994.

Petitioner's appeal of the denial of mandamus was unsuccessful. Allah v. Hendricks, 73 A.D.3d 1436 (4th Dept. 2010). The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, noted that the sentences originally imposed on the drug charges were set to run concurrently with each other and consecutively to the sentences imposed on the robbery charges. The Fourth Department agreed with Petitioner that during resentencing, the court did not explicitly state whether the drug sentences would continue to run consecutively to the sentences imposed on the non-drug charges. Allah, 73 A.D.3d at 1437. However, even assuming that the resentencing court had the authority to order the non-drug sentences to run concurrently with the amended drug sentences, the extraordinary remedy of mandamus did not lie because the issue of whether the commitment papers accurately reflected the new sentences could have been raised on direct appeal from the resentencing. Id. The New York Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. Allah v. Hendricks, 15 N.Y.3d 704 (2010).

Petitioner filed the instant habeas petition on May 15, 2011, raising the same claim he argued in support of his motion for a writ of mandamus--namely, that the clerk of the County Court improperly amended his certificate of conviction so as to cause his revised sentences on the two felony drug convictions to run consecutively to, rather than concurrently with, the sentences on his remaining 1994 convictions. Petitioner does not challenge the constitutionality of his underlying convictions. Respondent answered the petition, asserting that it is untimely under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1); that the sole claim raised in the petition is unexhausted; and that even if the Court were to reach the merits of the unexhausted claim under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2), it should be dismissed as not cognizable on habeas review. Petitioner did not file any reply papers.

As discussed further below, the petition is dismissed as untimely.

II. Timeliness of the Petition

A. Timeliness Calculation and Statutory Tolling

Title I of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), Pub. L. No. 104-132, § 101, 110 Stat. 1214, 1217 (codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2244), imposes a one-year time limit for filing habeas petitions. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A)-(D). The ...


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