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Woodason v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 20, 2014


Stephen M. Smith, New Orleans, LA, for the Petitioner.

Benjamin Sirota, U.S. Department of Justice, New York, NY, for the Respondent.


DENISE COTE, District Judge.

On March 26, 2013, James Woodason ("Woodason") filed a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for a writ of habeas corpus. Woodason asserts that his defense counsel, a member of the Federal Defender's Office in this district, provided ineffective assistance of counsel to him. Because his petition was filed more than a year after the one-year statute of limitations for the filing of habeas petitions and because he has failed to demonstrate a basis for equitable tolling, his petition is denied.


On August 3, 2010, a criminal complaint was filed against Woodason. On November 19, he pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to a four-count Information charging him with a scheme to defraud his former employer, Con Edison. The plea agreement contained a customary waiver of appellate rights and the right to bring a habeas petition, conditioned on the sentence not exceeding the sentencing guidelines range.

On December 9, 2011, Woodason was sentenced principally to 70 months' imprisonment, which was at the bottom of his guidelines range. Judgment was entered on December 15. His conviction became final on December 29, when his time to file an appeal expired.

On January 17, 2013, Woodason's attorney requested a 60-day extension to file a § 2255 petition. The request was denied on January 23, in an order that cited Green v. United States , 260 F.3d 78, 82 (2d Cir. 2001), and explained that, because the Court lacked jurisdiction to consider Woodason's request, the timeliness of any § 2255 petition Woodason chooses to file would be considered in due course.

On March 26, 2013, Woodason's petition and supporting memorandum of law were docketed. In an Order of April 1, the Court, having concluded that the timeliness of the petition should be addressed before reaching the merits, ordered the Government to file a response to the petition. The Government filed its response on May 29, and Woodason his reply on July 12.


AEDPA provides a one-year period of limitations for a federal inmate to file a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which begins to run from the latest of a number of triggering events, including "the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review, " id. § 2244(d)(1)(A), and "the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence, " id. § 2244(d)(1)(D). The appropriate triggering event here is the expiration of Woodason's time for seeking appellate review: December 29, 2011. Accordingly, his time to file a habeas petition expired on December 29, 2012. Woodason's petition was not docketed until March 26, 2013 - almost three months after the one-year deadline had passed.

The one-year limitations period for § 2255 petitions may be equitably tolled "where the petitioner shows (1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing." Rivas v. Fischer , 687 F.3d 514, 538 (2d Cir. 2012) (citing Holland v. Florida , 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010)). The determination that circumstances faced by petitioner were "extraordinary" "depends not on how unusual the circumstance alleged to warrant tolling is among the universe of prisoners, but rather how severe an obstacle it is for the petitioner endeavoring to comply with AEDPA's limitations period." Id . (citation omitted). As a general matter, "a garden variety claim of excusable neglect, " id. (citation omitted), and "the usual problems inherent in being incarcerated" are insufficient to warrant equitable tolling. Baldayaque v. United States , 338 F.3d 145, 152 (2d Cir. 2003).

"[M]edical conditions, whether physical or psychiatric, can manifest extraordinary circumstances, depending on the facts presented." Harper v. Ercole , 648 F.3d 132, 137 (2d Cir. 2011). Generally, however, "a party seeking equitable tolling based on a medical condition or hospitalization would be expected to provide corroborating evidence of the condition and its severity." Id . at n.4.

In addition to demonstrating the existence of extraordinary circumstances, petitioner "must further demonstrate that those circumstances caused him to miss the original filing deadline." Id . at 137. The requisite causal link may be lacking "where the identified extraordinary circumstances arose and concluded early within the limitations period, " because in such cases "a diligent ...

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