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Koon v. Hooks

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

July 17, 2018

RODNEY A. KOON, Petitioner,
v.
ERIC A. HOOKS, Respondent.

          ORDER

          FRANK D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Rodney A. Koon's amended pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. No. 17.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner is a prisoner of the State of North Carolina who pled guilty on June 2, 2014, in Buncombe County Superior Court to two counts of felony death by motor vehicle and one count of involuntary manslaughter of an unborn child. (Am. § 2254 Pet. 1, Doc. No. 17.) According to Petitioner's version of the facts, his blood pressure medication caused him to black out, and he crashed the limousine he was driving, killing two adults, one of whom was pregnant. (Mot. to Reconsider 1-2, Doc. No. 12.) It appears that in exchange for Petitioner's plea, the State dismissed a drug offense (Mot. for Prelim. Inj. 2, Doc. No. 5) and/or an impaired driving offense (cocaine) (Mot. to Reconsider 2). The trial court imposed two consecutive six to eight year prison sentences. (Am. § 2254 Pet. 1.)

         Petitioner did not file a direct appeal. (Am. § 2254 Pet. 2.) The Amended Petition does not indicate that Petitioner sought post-conviction relief in the state courts. (Am. § 2254 Pet. 3-4, 5-6.)

         On October 24, 2016, Petitioner filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. (Compl., Doc. No. 1.) After conducting a frivolity review, that court dismissed the Complaint without prejudice. (May 11, 2017 Order, Doc. No. 10.)

         On or about June 19, 2017, Petitioner mailed a motion for appropriate relief (“MAR”) to the Buncombe County Superior Court. See Appl. for Writ of Mandamus 1, In re: Koon, No. P17-538 ( N.C. Ct. App. filed July 28, 2017).[1] At some point prior to December 15, 2017, the Buncombe County Superior Court issued an order related to the MAR. (Order Dismiss. Cert. Pet., Doc. No. 17-1.) Petitioner filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the North Carolina Supreme Court on December 15, 2017, seeking review of the Buncombe County Superior Court's order. (Id.)

         On the same date, Petitioner filed a document titled “Motion to Amend Pro-se Complaint - Pursuant to F. R. Civ. P. 59(E)” in the Eastern District of North Carolina requesting that his § 1983 Complaint be construed as a petition for writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and amended to include an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. (Doc. No. 12.) On March 1, 2018, the North Carolina Supreme Court dismissed Petitioner's certiorari petition. (Doc. No. 17-1.) On March 30, 2018, the Court for the Eastern District issued an Order construing Petitioner's Motion to Amend as a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), granted the motion, ordered that the action be re-instated as a § 2254 petition, and transferred it to this Court, where venue is proper. (Doc. No. 13.)

         Subsequently, this Court notified Petitioner that his original pleading does not comply with Rule 2(d) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, which requires that habeas petitions follow a specific format. (Rule 2 Order, Doc. No. 15.) The Clerk of Court mailed Petitioner a blank § 2254 form proscribed for use in this Court, and Petitioner was instructed to complete it, sign it under penalty of perjury, and return it to the Clerk of Court for the Western District of North Carolina. (Rule 2 Order.)

         Petitioner complied with the Court's initial instructions, but for reasons known only to him, mailed the completed § 2254 form to the Clerk of Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, who docketed it as a new § 2254 petition. The Eastern District transferred the entire civil case to this Court. Because Petitioner failed to put his Western District case number on the § 2254 form, it was docketed here as a new civil action, as well. See § 2254 Pet., Koon v. Hooks, No. 1:18-cv-00111-FDW, Doc. No. 1. When it was discovered Petitioner had two open § 2254 habeas cases in this Court, the Clerk transferred the completed § 2254 form to the instant civil action, docketed it as an amended § 2254 petition, and closed the other case. (Doc. Nos. 16, 17.)

         The Amended Petition raises one ground for relief - that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance when he advised Petitioner to plead guilty to two counts of felony death by motor vehicle and one count of misdemeanor manslaughter of an unborn child although the “evidence supports all (3) counts as [misdemeanors].” (Am. § 2254 Pet. 5.) The Amended Petition does not allege any facts to support this claim.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court is guided by Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, which directs district courts to dismiss a habeas petition when it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief. Rule 4, 28 U.S.C.A. foll. § 2254. In conducting its initial review under Rule 4, the court “has the power to raise affirmative defenses sua sponte, ” including a statute of limitations defense under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). Hill v. Braxton, 277 F.3d 701, 706 (4th Cir. 2002). The court may dismiss a petition as untimely under Rule 4 if it is clear that the petition is untimely, and the petitioner had notice of the statute of limitations and addressed the issue. Id. at 706-707.

         III. ...


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