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Beauharnois v. Chappius

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 2, 2015

JASON BEAUHARNOIS, Petitioner,
v.
PAUL CHAPPIUS, Superintendent, Respondent.

JASON BEAUHARNOIS Alden, New York Petitioner pro se.

PAUL B. LYONS, AAG, OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL, New York, New York, Attorneys for Respondent.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

FREDERICK J. SCULLIN, Jr., Senior District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in which he challenged a 2008 judgment of conviction for Sexual Abuse in the First Degree, see N.Y. Penal Law § 130.65(3); Course of Sexual Conduct Against a Child in the First Degree, see N.Y. Penal Law § 130.75(1)(b); Predatory Sexual Assault Against a Child, see N.Y. Penal Law § 130.96; and Endangering the Welfare of a Child, see N.Y. Penal Law § 260.10(1). Petitioner was sentenced to an aggregate prison term of thirty-two years to life, followed by twenty years of post-release supervision. On June 16, 2009, the Appellate Division, Third Department, unanimously vacated Petitioner's conviction on first degree Course of Sexual Conduct Against a Child and affirmed the judgment of conviction as modified, which reduced Petitioner's term of post-release supervision to ten years. On October 26, 2009, the New York Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. See People v. Beauharnois, 64 A.D.3d 996 (3d Dep't), lv. denied, 13 N.Y.3d 834 (2009).

On September 5, 2013, Magistrate Judge Baxter issued a Report-Recommendation and Order in which he recommended that the Court deny and dismiss Petitioner's petition and not issue a Certificate of Appealability in this case. See Dkt. No. 24 at 49-50. Both Petitioner and Respondent filed objections to those recommendations. See Dkt. Nos. 25, 26.

II. BACKGROUND

In late May of 2007, just prior to his twelfth birthday, Petitioner's stepson told a fellow student that he did not like Thursdays because, on that day, Petitioner would touch him in a way he disliked. See Trial Transcript ("TT") at 693 (Ward).[1] Following this disclosure, the minor victim met, over the course of several days, with Natalie J. Ward, a school social worker; Carrie Carpenter, a Clinton County Department of Social Services ("DSS") caseworker; a police officer; and family pediatrician, Dr. Clark J. Knutson, who also examined the victim. See TT at 693-94, 702-03, 705-10 (Ward); 742-59 (Carpenter); 808-823 (Dr. Knutson). The minor victim first told his interviewers that Petitioner had touched his genitals on a few occasions in the past; but he later stated that Petitioner had been anally sodomizing him on a weekly basis for more than a year. See id.

In July 2007, Petitioner was arrested on two counts of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree. Attorney Daniel G. Gaudreau was assigned to represent Petitioner in Beekmantown, New York town court. See Dkt. No. 14, Exhibit "A, " Appellant's Brief, at 7; Hearing Testimony ("HT") at 37.[2] Following unsuccessful plea negotiations with the District Attorney's Office, Petitioner was indicted on December 10, 2007, on the charges set forth above. See Dkt. No. 14 at 5, 7-8.

On March 10, 2008, the parties proceeded to trial before Acting Supreme Court Justice Lawliss and a jury. The minor victim, then age twelve, testified for the People. He recounted a detailed history of the sexual abuse he suffered starting with Petitioner's touching of his genitals, at age seven, and progressing to weekly anal sodomy, which began when the victim was between ten and eleven years old. See TT at 512-29, 531-58. Petitioner's counsel's crossexamination reflected his strategy of suggesting that the victim fabricated the claims of abuse because he resented that his stepfather disciplined him and that the victim's testimony was improperly influenced by the authorities who interviewed him. See id. at 488-92 (Defense Opening); 571, 576, 587, 588-92 (Victim cross-examination). Petitioner's counsel's questioning focused on the considerable inconsistencies in the victim's trial testimony and his various prior statements. See id. at 572-75, 577-86, 607-10. As Petitioner's brief on direct appeal succinctly summarized, the victim's testimony regarding what he previously had said to the authorities about the alleged abuse was clearly inaccurate in many respects. See Dkt. No. 14 at 30-34.

The victim's grandfather, Thomas G. Stuart, also testified for the People about the circumstances under which Petitioner was periodically home alone with his stepson after school. Mr. Stuart also described changes in the victim's behavior and demeanor during the period of time he was allegedly being sodomized, including a recurring problem with soiling his pants. See TT 631-37, 639-51. School social worker Ward and DSS caseworker Carpenter testified about their interviews of the victim regarding the alleged abuse, and Petitioner's counsel crossexamined them extensively about inconsistencies in the victim's prior statements and trial testimony. See id. at 693-94, 702-11 (Ward direct examination); 726-32 (Ward crossexamination); 745-59 (Carpenter direct examination); 768-87 (Carpenter cross-examination).

Dr. Knutson testified for the People about his interview and examination of the victim and provided an expert opinion that damage to the victim's anus was caused by involuntary anal intercourse. See id. at 808-25.

Petitioner called two witnesses Petitioner's mother and the victim's mother, who was also Petitioner's wife. See id. at 878-895. The victim's mother testified that she never suspected Petitioner of abuse and that she could not recall a time when he would have been home alone with her son or in her son's bedroom. See id. at 908, 910-11, 919-20. Both defense witnesses testified that the victim had a long history of chronic constipation and fecal soiling of his pants, which Petitioner's counsel offered to rebut Dr. Knutson's opinion that the victim's anus had been damaged by penile penetration. See id. at 1026-28, 1032-33, 1036-37. Although Petitioner initially intended to testify, he did not do so. See id. at 493, 996-97.

After judgment was entered, Petitioner, with the assistance of new counsel, filed a direct appeal, see Dkt. No. 14, Exhibit "A, " which resulted in the dismissal of one charge and a reduction in the term of his post-release supervision.

On December 21, 2010, Petitioner filed a pro se application for a writ of error coram nobis in the Appellate Division, arguing that his appellate counsel's representation was deficient because he did not argue that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to consult with an independent medical expert to counter Dr. Knutson's testimony. See Dkt. No. 14-11, Exhibit "G." On January 28, 2011, the Appellate Division summarily denied Petitioner's motion. See Dkt. No. 14-17, Exhibit "J." On July 12, 2011, the Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. See Dkt. No. 14-22, Exhibit "N."

On July 15, 2011, Petitioner moved pro se to vacate the judgment of conviction under New York Criminal Procedure Law § 440.10, claiming that his trial counsel's representation was constitutionally deficient in a number of specified ways. See Dkt. No. 14-23, Exhibit "O." Petitioner was allowed to amend his motion to add several other specifications of alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel. See Dkt. No. 14-25, Exhibit "Q"; Dkt. No. 14-31, Exhibit "W." The trial judge conducted an evidentiary hearing at which Petitioner, represented by a new attorney, and Petitioner's former trial counsel both testified. See Dkt. No. 15. The state court ultimately found that Petitioner failed to sustain any of his claims of ineffective assistance. See Dkt. No. 14-32, Exhibit "X"; Dkt. No. 14-33, Exhibit "Y." On July 16, 2012, the Appellate Division denied Petitioner leave to appeal the trial court's denial of his § 440.10 motion. See Dkt. No. 14-4, Exhibit "CC." Petitioner also filed a motion to renew his § 440.10 motion. See ...


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