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Gregory v. Racette

United States District Court, N.D. New York

May 29, 2014

STEVEN RACETTE, Superintendent, Clinton Correctional Facility, [1] Respondent.


JAMES K. SINGLETON, Jr., Senior District Judge.

Todd Michael Gregory, a New York state prisoner represented by counsel, filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus with this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Gregory is currently in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and is incarcerated at Clinton Correctional Facility. Respondent has answered, and Gregory has not replied.


On direct appeal of his conviction, the Appellate Division described the following facts underlying Gregory's case:

After attending a good touch/bad touch presentation at school in December 2008, the victim (born in 1998) revealed that [Gregory], her stepfather, had engaged in sexual contact with her. The abuse allegedly had begun in August 2005 and continued until September 2007, when marital discord developed between [Gregory] and the victim's mother resulting in [Gregory] moving out by January 2008. As part of the investigation of the victim's allegations, police questioned [Gregory]. During the questioning, he acknowledged in a written statement various sexual activity with the victim, including masturbating in her presence, viewing pornography on his computer with her, having her touch his penis, being naked in bed with the victim and touching her vagina with his penis. [Gregory] was indicted for the crimes of rape in the first degree, sexual abuse in the first degree, course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree and endangering the welfare of a child. A jury found him guilty of all four counts. County Court sentenced [Gregory] to concurrent terms of 25 years in prison with 20 years of postrelease supervision on the rape and course of sexual conduct counts, a concurrent one-year term for endangering the welfare of a child and, consecutive to those three counts, seven years in prison with 10 years of postrelease supervision on the sexual abuse count.

People v. Gregory, 910 N.Y.S.2d 295, 296-97 (N.Y.App.Div. 2010).

Through counsel, Gregory appealed his conviction, arguing that: 1) the trial court erred by permitting the police investigator to testify concerning prior disclosures of sexual acts alleged by the victim; 2) the trial court erred in admitting expert testimony on child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome ("CSAAS"); 3) the trial court deprived Gregory of a fair trial when it rejected his proffered jury charge regarding CSAAS; 4) the trial court erred when it admitted the expert testimony of a physician and a pediatric medical report; 5) the trial court abused its discretion by allowing the prosecution to use leading and suggestive questions to elicit the victim's testimony; 6) the trial court erred in admitting an "irrelevant" and "prejudicial" letter from social services; 7) the evidence was legally insufficient and against the weight of the evidence; 8) the trial court erred when it failed to suppress his statement to the police; and 9) his sentence was unduly harsh and excessive. The Appellate Division affirmed his conviction in a reasoned opinion. Gregory, 910 N.Y.S.2d at 299. Gregory sought leave to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals, which was summarily denied on March 23, 2011. People v. Gregory, 946 N.E.2d 183 (N.Y. 2011).

Gregory subsequently filed a counseled motion to vacate the judgment pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law ("CPL") § 440.10 dated April 3, 2012. He argued that his judgment should be vacated because: 1) the trial court improperly admitted his confessions to the police; 2) he received ineffective assistance of counsel; and 3) his sentence was harsh and excessive. Gregory also filed an affidavit in support of the motion. The county court denied the motion in a reasoned opinion.

Gregory filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus to this Court on February 17, 2013.


In his counseled Petition before this Court, Gregory raises four grounds for relief. First, he argues that his confession was coerced and thus improperly admitted. He next contends that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction. He additionally asserts that his trial counsel was ineffective for a litany of reasons. Finally, he claims that his sentence was harsh and excessive.


Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), this Court cannot grant relief unless the decision of the state court was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, " § 2254(d)(1), or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding, " § 2254(d)(2). A state-court decision is contrary to federal law if the state court applies a rule that contradicts controlling Supreme Court authority or "if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision" of the Supreme Court, but nevertheless arrives at a different result. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 406 (2000).

To the extent that the Petition raises issues of the proper application of state law, they are beyond the purview of this Court in a federal habeas proceeding. See Swarthout v. Cooke, 131 S.Ct. 859, 863 (2011) (per curiam) (holding that it is of no federal concern whether state law was correctly applied). It is a fundamental precept of dual federalism that the states possess primary authority for defining and enforcing the criminal law. See, e.g., Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991) (a federal habeas court cannot reexamine a state court's interpretation and application of state law); Walton v. Arizona, 497 ...

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