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Clark v. Dolce

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 9, 2014

WILLIAM J. CLARK, JR., Petitioner,
v.
SANDRA DOLCE, Superintendent, Orleans Correctional Facility, [1] Respondent.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

JAMES K. SINGLETON, Jr., District Judge.

William J. Clark, Jr., a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus with this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Clark is in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and is incarcerated at Orleans Correctional Facility. Respondent has answered, and Clark has replied.

I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

The Appellate Division recounted the facts of this case as follows:

In October 2006, [Clark] was convicted of numerous crimes, including stalking in the third degree, arising out of his harassment of the victim, his former girlfriend. Thereafter, County Court issued an order of protection directing [Clark] to stay away from her home and place of employment, and refrain from all contact with her. The present case involves [Clark's] almost immediate disregard of that order and his ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation of the victim.
According to the victim, on December 8, 2006, [Clark]-acting in violation of the order of protection-placed a letter on her car windshield while she was at work and telephoned her six times, with one conversation ensuing. On December 11, 2006, [Clark] reached the victim twice by telephone, during which time he related details of the victim's recent activities and demanded intimate information about her relationship with another man. The first telephone call ended when the victim hung up and, during the second call, [Clark] warned the victim not to hang up on him again. Nevertheless, the victim advised [Clark] in no uncertain terms that she wanted to be left alone and that he was violating the order of protection, and she promptly reported the contact to law enforcement officials.
[Clark] next accosted the victim at a gas station four days later, on December 15, 2006. The victim agreed to speak to him in order to tell him face-to-face that she wanted to be left alone. As the victim sat in her locked car with her window cracked open, [Clark] indicated again that he was aware of the details of her recent activities, as well as the activities of her family, revealing that he had improperly obtained private and confidential information about her father's finances. The victim reported the incident to law enforcement officials on the following business day.
On December 26, 2006, [Clark] made two more telephone calls to the victim, who again told him that he was violating the order of protection and that she wanted to be left alone. More disturbingly, when the victim arrived at work that same night, [Clark] ran up to her car and began screaming and pounding on the driver's side window, demanding to know how she could "do this to" him. It was dark outside at the time, and [Clark] was wearing dark clothes and a dark hat. The victim called 911 on her cell phone and frantically shouted to a coworker for help, and [Clark] fled before police arrived.
A few days after that encounter, the victim entered a locked house into which she was planning to move and discovered various items allegedly left by [Clark] for her in the kitchen. Among other things, [Clark] had allegedly left a gift card purchased in the store where the victim worked-the same store at which he had pounded on her car window on December 26, 2006, as she arrived for work. Subsequently, a number of documents were discovered in [Clark's] residence that belonged to the victim or her family, and were obtained either from inside the victim's home and workplace or from the garbage outside of those locations. [Clark] also had a list of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the victim and her family members, as well as photographs of the victim in which her head had been cut out.
[Clark] was thereafter charged in an indictment with numerous counts relating to the above incidents. Following a jury trial, during which [Clark] represented himself, he was convicted of six counts of criminal contempt in the first degree, one count of stalking in the second degree and six counts of criminal contempt in the second degree. [Clark] was sentenced as a second felony offender to an aggregate prison term of 8 to 16 years.

People v. Clark, 883 N.Y.S.2d 824, 825-26 (N.Y.App.Div. Aug. 13, 2009) (citation and footnote omitted).

Through counsel, Clark directly appealed, arguing that: 1) the evidence was insufficient to support all of his convictions; 2) the prosecutor committed misconduct in commenting on Clark's refusal to take the stand; and 3) the sentence was exceedingly severe. The Appellate Division affirmed in a reasoned opinion. Clark, 883 N.Y.S.2d at 828.

Clark filed a counseled application for leave to appeal, arguing that: 1) the people improperly relied on a crime that was not before the jury and upon events that occurred after the offenses charged to sustain convictions for felonies that were actually misdemeanors; 2) certain comments by the prosecutor violated his right to silence and right to self-representation; and 3) his consecutive sentences were illegal. Clark additionally submitted a pro se application for leave to appeal raising arguments including the following: 1) there was insufficient evidence to support 4 of his convictions; and 2) his sentence was exceedingly severe. The Court of Appeals denied relief.

Clark then filed a pro se motion to set aside his sentence pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law ("CPL") § 440.20, in which he argued that his prior felony conviction was unconstitutionally obtained and was the result of coercion on the part of his attorney. The trial court denied this claim on the ground that it had been raised and rejected at Clark's sentencing hearing. Clark filed a pro se application for leave to appeal the denial of his CPL § 440.20 motion, which the Appellate Division summarily denied.

Clark then filed a pro se motion for writ of error coram nobis, claiming that appellate counsel was ineffective for a host of reasons. He claimed, inter alia, that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise on direct appeal the claim that the trial court failed to conduct a "searching inquiry" of Clark's request to represent himself. He further claimed that the prosecutor violated ...


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