United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge
matter is before the court on respondent's motion for
summary judgment (DE 19) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56. The issues raised have been fully briefed and
are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, this
court grants respondent's motion.
OF THE CASE
18, 2016, petitioner, an inmate in the custody of the North
Carolina Department of Public Safety, filed the instant
petition for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in state
custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner asserts
that his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution have been
violated. See Pet. (DE 1).
November 15, 2016, this court reviewed the petition pursuant
to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the
United States District Courts. This court determined that it
did not clearly appear from the face of the petition that
petitioner was entitled to no relief. This court allowed the
matter to proceed and directed the Clerk of Court to maintain
management of the matter.
January 6, 2017, respondent filed its answer and a motion for
summary judgment. In support of its motion, respondent relies
upon the following: statement of material facts (DE 20);
State indictments (DE 21-1, 21-2); correspondence between
petitioner and counsel (DE 21-3); transcript of plea (DE
21-4); felony judgment findings of aggravating and mitigating
factors (DE 21-5); worksheet for prior record level for
felony sentencing (DE 21-6); judgment and commitment
(DE-21-7); MAR (DE 21-8); MAR order (DE 21-9); petition for
writ of certiorari (DE 21-10); and order dismissing petition
for writ of certiorari (DE 21-11).
February 2, 2017, petitioner filed a memorandum in opposition
(DE 24), an opposing statements of material facts (DE25), and
an appendix to his statement of the facts (DE 26). To support
his statement of the facts, petitioner relies upon the
following documents: letter to Judge “Ammonds”
(DE 26-1) at 1; February 10, 2016, incident report (DE 26-1)
at 3-4; Magistrate's Order, Case No. 15CR 052689 (DE
26-1) at 5-6; arrest warrant, Case No. 01CR 059288 (DE 26-1)
at 7; CCDC Disciplinary Committee Inmate Hearing Decision (DE
26-1) at 9-10; N.C. Judicial Standards Commission letter (DE
26-1) at 12; motion for probable cause hearing (DE 26-1) at
13-14; Memorandum from Judge Ammons (DE 26-1) at 15; letter
from counsel (DE 26-1) at 16-18; case supplemental report (DE
26-1) at 19-20; letter to Clerk of Court (DE-26-1) at 21;
letter to counsel (DE-26-1) at 22-24; letter from counsel
(DE-26-1) at 25-26; Fayetteville Police Department notes
(DE-26-1) at 29; Magistrate's Order, Case No. 15CR 052690
(DE-26-1) at 30-31; indictments (DE-26-1) at 32, 34-35,
37-44; victim letter (DE-26-1) at 45; and affidavit from
Taneisha Dennings (DE-26-1) at 46-50.
OF THE FACTS
facts, as established by the record before this court, are as
follows: On February 9, 2015, a grand jury in Cumberland
County, North Carolina indicted petitioner with one count of
burning personal property, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 14-66; one count of misdemeanor resisting, delaying or
obstructing a public officer, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 14-223; and one count of having attained the status of
habitual felon, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. §
14-7.1. All charges were based on an incident taking place on
May 25, 2014. See App. (DE 21) Ex. 1 (State v.
Jennings, No. 14 CRS 56224 indictments).
September 14, 2015, a grand jury in Cumberland County, North
Carolina indicted petitioner with two counts of possession of
a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 14-415.1; and two counts of having attained the
status of a habitual felon, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 14-7.1. All charges were based on an incident taking
place on March 4, 2015. See App. (DE 21) Ex. 2
(State v. Jennings, No. 15 CRS 52689-90
plea offer that was pending when appointed counsel took over
petitioner's case was an active sentence of 101 months to
134 months incarceration. See App. (DE 21) Ex. 3 at
4. Petitioner's appointed counsel, Eric L. Johnson,
negotiated an agreed upon disposition to the charges, which
consisted of a consolidated sentence of 76 months minimum and
104 months maximum active incarceration. See App.
(DE 21) Ex 3. This agreed upon sentence fell at the
bottom of the mitigated range for a Class C felony.
See App. (DE 21) Ex 3.
State had evidence, a video of a March 3, 2015 incident,
which could have supported additional charges and resulted in
a longer period of incarceration for
petitioner. S e e App. (DE 21) at 4. The
State agreed, however, to forego additional charges in
exchange for petitioner's plea. See App. (DE 21)
Ex. 3 at 4. The State also agreed to forego consecutive
sentences in exchange for petitioner's plea. See
App. (DE 21) Ex. 3 at 4. The State agreed to forego proof of
aggravating factors, and even agreed to the existence of a
mitigating factor. See App. (DE 21) Ex. 3 at 4; Ex.
5. Finally, the State agreed to a sentence at the very lowest
end of the mitigated range for petitioner's felony grade
and prior record level. See App. (DE 21) Ex. 3 at 4.
State agreed to dismiss one count of misdemeanor resisting,
delaying or obstructing a public officer, in violation of
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-223, and also agreed to a
consolidated minimum sentence of 76 months and a maximum
sentence of 104 months of active incarceration. See
App. (DE 21). The State agreed to the existence of one
mitigating factor. See App. (DE 21) at Ex. 5. In
particular, the State agreed that petitioner had
“accepted responsibility for [his] criminal
conduct.” See App. (DE 21) Ex. 5 at 3. With
respect to sentencing, the parties agreed that petitioner had
16 prior record points and a Prior Record Level of V.
See App. (DE 21) at Ex. 6. The parties agreed to a
consolidated single active sentence in the mitigated range
for a habitualized Class G felon with a Prior Record Level of
V. See App. (DE 21) Ex. 6.
March 10, 2016, petitioner pleaded guilty, before Superior
Court Judge Claire V. Hill (“Judge Hill”), in
accordance with his plea agreement. S e e App. (DE 21)
Ex. 4 (transcript of plea). Judge Hill described the charges
against petitioner, including the maximum punishments and
mandatory minimum punishments he faced, and the possibility
of consecutive sentences. See App. (DE 21) Ex. 4
¶ 12. Judge Hill specifically asked petitioner if he
was, in fact, guilty, and he acknowledged that he was.
See Stat. Mat. Facts (DE 21) Ex. 4 ¶ 14.
admitted, both in writing and under oath, that he had been
asked the legally-required questions in open court and his
responses were accurately transcribed in the Transcript of
Plea; no one had told him to give false answers in order to
have the court accept his plea; and the terms and conditions
of the plea, as stated in the ...