The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Pro se Petitioner Priscilla Gumpton ("Petitioner") has filed a timely petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of her custody pursuant to a judgment entered August 26, 2009, in New York State, County Court, Niagara County, convicting her, upon a plea of guilty, of one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (N.Y. Penal Law ("Penal Law") § 155.35), three counts of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (Penal Law § 155.30), and one count of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree (Penal Law § 165.50). Petitioner was sentenced to an indeterminate aggregate prison term of from seven and one-half to fifteen years.
II. Factual Background and Procedural History
On October 24, 2008, a Niagara County grand jury charged Petitioner, and others, with three counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, and one count each of third-degree grand larceny and third-degree possession of stolen property. See Indictment No. 2008-491 at Resp't Ex. E. The charges arose from incidents in August and September 2008, in which Petitioner, and several others, stole thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from a Walmart and a Blockbuster video store in Lockport, New York and other locations. Id.
On March 18, 2009, Petitioner and her attorney appeared before Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy, III, and pleaded guilty to all counts of the indictment in exchange for the prosecutor's agreement not to seek sentencing as a persistent felony offender. Plea Mins. [P.M.] 7. Petitioner admitted that, on or about September 5, 2008, she, and others, exited the Lockport Walmart store with over $1,000 worth of merchandise without paying for it. P.M. 27-28. She also admitted that on August 28, 2008, she, and others, gathered approximately $3,000 worth of merchandise in the Lockport Walmart and left the store without paying for it. P.M. 28-29. Finally, she admitted that on or about August 2, 2008, she, and others, exited the Lockport Blockbuster video store with over $1,000 worth of merchandise without paying for it. P.M. 29-30.
C. Petitioner's Pro Se Correspondence to the County Court and the Motion to Withdraw the Plea Following the entry of her guilty plea, Petitioner submitted several letters to the County Court, including one dated April 20, 2009 in which she sought to withdraw her guilty plea. See Niagara County Court Clerk Minutes at Resp't Ex. E.
On June 25, 2009, Petitioner filed a formal pro se motion to withdraw her guilty plea. See Pet'r Notice of Motion and Affidavit dated 06/05/2009 at Resp't Ex. E. In it, she argued that she was not guilty, but had pleaded guilty because she felt intimidated by the presence of investigators in the court room, one of whom had told her that he had listened to her phone calls and would keep her truck, and that he was out to get her because she was "the ring leader." Id. at 19. She also alleged that the attorney assigned to represent her, Alan J. Roscetti, had "laughed in [her] face," was uninterested in her case, and told her that he "could win the case but the Wal-mart employees are lying or being told what to say." Id. The People opposed the motion, noting, inter alia, that Petitioner had "previously plead guilty to crimes in New York State more than 25 times, three times to felonies." People's Response to Defendant's Motion to Withdraw Plea at p 2 at Resp't Ex. E.
On July 22, 2009, Petitioner appeared in county court with her newly-assigned counsel, attorney Yvonne Vertlieb, for oral arguments on the motion. Mins. of 07/22/2009. On August 25, 2009, the county court denied Petitioner's motion in a written order.
See Decision and Order of the Niagara County Court dated 08/25/2009 at Resp't Ex. E.
On August 26, 2009, Petitioner appeared for sentencing, admitted her previous conviction of fourth-degree grand larceny, and was adjudicated a second ...