Anderson v. Racette
DECISION AND ORDER denying and dismissing the petitioner's request for a writ of habeas corpus. (Clerk to close case.) (Copy of Decision and Order sent by first class mail to Plaintiff.). Signed by Hon. Michael A. Telesca on 5/1/2017. (JMC)-CLERK TO FOLLOW UP-
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
No. 1:13-CV-00939 (MAT)
DECISION AND ORDER
-vsSTEVEN R. RACETTE,
Gerald Anderson (“petitioner”), proceeding pro se, petitions
this Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Petitioner is incarcerated pursuant to a judgment entered
July 19, 2007, in Erie County Court (Buscaglia, J.), upon his plea
of guilty to one count of manslaughter in the first degree (N.Y.
sentenced to a determinate prison term of twenty-two years with
five years post-release supervision.
Factual Background and Procedural History
Plaintiff’s plea of guilty arose out of an incident in which
he and three co-defendants, who had recently contracted with a
couple in Buffalo for purposes of waterproofing their basement,
broke into the couple’s house and beat the husband, James Gilson,
to death inside the home. Petitioner and his co-defendants each
pled guilty to one count of manslaughter in the first degree.
Petitioner filed a direct counseled appeal to the New York
State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, in
which he argued that (1) his plea was not knowing, voluntary, or
intelligent; (2) his waiver of the right to appeal was invalid; and
(3) his sentence was harsh and excessive. In a supplemental pro se
brief, petitioner argued that his statements were obtained in
violation of the Constitution.
Anderson, 90 A.D.3d 1475 (4th Dep’t 2011), lv. denied, 18 N.Y.3d
991. The Fourth Department found that the trial court did not abuse
its discretion in denying youthful offender status. Id. at 1476.
The court further held that petitioner’s challenge to the factual
plea colloquy was unpreserved, noting that the “case [did] not fall
within the rare exception to the preservation requirement.” Id.
(citing People v. Lopez, 71 N.Y.2d 662, 665 (1988)).
The instant petition alleges three grounds, arguing that
(1) the trial court improperly denied petitioner youthful offender
status; (2) his plea was not knowing and voluntary; and (3) trial
counsel was ineffective.1 For the reasons discussed below, the
petition is dismissed.
III. Standard of Review
The Anti–Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”) applies to this petition. AEDPA “revised the conditions
under which federal courts may grant habeas relief to a person in
state custody.” Kruelski v. Connecticut Super. Ct. for Judicial
Although respondent’s brief states that petitioner raises a claim that
statements were obtained from him in violation of petitioner’s constitutional
rights, this is not in fact a ground raised by the instant petition.
28 U.S.C. § 2254). Under AEDPA, a federal court may grant a writ of
habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 only if the state court’s
adjudication of the petitioner’s claim on the merits is “contrary
to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
“unreasonable determination of the facts” in light of the evidence
presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2).
IV. Grounds Asserted in the Petition
Youthful Offender Status
Petitioner first contends that the trial court improperly
denied youthful offender status, and that the Fourth Department
should have exercised its “interest of justice jurisdiction” and
granted petitioner such status. This claim, grounded entirely in
state law, is not cognizable on habeas review and is therefore
dismissed. See Jones v. Perez, No. 2015 WL 268917, *2 (W.D.N.Y.
Jan. 21, 2015) (where “sentence is well-within the statutorily
permitted range,” a petitioner’s “claim regarding the state court’s
refusal to afford him youthful offender status does not present a
Voluntariness of Plea
Petitioner contends that his plea was not knowing, voluntary,
or intelligent, arguing specifically that the plea colloquy was
insufficient. As noted above, the Fourth Department explicitly
rejected this argument as unpreserved. Accordingly, this claim is
barred by an adequate and independent state law ground, and is
therefore dismissed. See Bennefield v. Kirkpatrick, 741 F. Supp. 2d
447, 453 (W.D.N.Y. 2010) (holding claim challenging voluntariness
of plea was barred by adequate and independent state law ground
Larweth v. Conway, 493 F. Supp. 2d 662, 668 (W.D.N.Y. 2007) (same).
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
totality was less than meaningful representation.” Doc. 1 at 8. In
his traverse, petitioner states with more specificity that he was
probability” that youthful offender treatment would be granted by
the trial judge. Doc. 9 at 1. The Fourth Department found that “to
the extent [petitioner’s] contention that he was denied effective
assistance of counsel survive[d] his guilty plea and valid waiver
of the right to appeal, that contention lack[ed] merit.” Anderson,
Department’s decision in this regard was not contrary to, nor an
unreasonable application of, federal precedent.
To establish ineffective assistance of counsel for federal
constitutional purposes, a defendant first must show that “counsel
made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the
‘counsel’ guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment” and
second, that “there is a reasonable probability that, absent the
errors [by counsel], the fact finder would have had a reasonable
doubt respecting guilt.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
consider alleged errors by counsel “in the aggregate.” Lindstadt v.
Keane, 239 F.3d 191, 199 (2d Cir. 2001). In this case, plea counsel
secured a sentence of 22 years, where the maximum sentence would
have been 25 years. See N.Y. Penal Law § 70.00(2)(b).
It is apparent from the record, and from petitioner’s plea
petitioner certainly benefitted from the plea bargain. See, e.g.,
Nov. 13, 2003) (“Courts have refused to find ineffective assistance
benefits from the plea agreements negotiated by counsel. Given the
deference to counsel dictated by Strickland, counsel’s advice to
petitioner to accept the [p]lea [a]greement cannot be deemed
objectively unreasonable.”) (quoting Jimenez v. United States, 2001
WL 699060, *5 (S.D.N.Y. June 20, 2001) (citations omitted)). This
claim is dismissed.
For the foregoing reasons, petitioner’s request for writ of
habeas corpus is denied and the petition (Doc. 1) is dismissed.
Because petitioner has not “made a substantial showing of the
denial of a constitutional right,” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), the
Court declines to issue a certificate of appealability. The Clerk
of the Court is directed to close this case.
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS SO ORDERED.
S/Michael A. Telesca
HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA
United States District Judge
May 1, 2017
Rochester, New York.
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