Stevenson v. Anderson County Sherriff Office et al
ORDER AND OPINION adopting the 12 Report and Recommendation and dismissing the petition for writ of habeas corpus without prejudice. Signed by Honorable Margaret B. Seymour on 4/13/2017. (bgoo)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
ROCK HILL DIVISION
Joseph Ali Stevenson,
Civil Action No.: 0:16-cv-04006-MBS
ORDER AND OPINION
Petitioner Joseph Ali Stevenson (“Petitioner”), proceeding pro se, filed a petition for writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeking release from custody and dismissal of
state criminal charges. ECF No. 1. Petitioner is currently a pretrial detainee in the Anderson
County Detention Center, in Anderson, South Carolina, who claims that he is being wrongfully
held for state robbery and weapons charges that he did not commit. Id. at 8. Specifically,
Petitioner alleges that the State has no evidence against him, and that the only evidence the State
produced is a photograph of another man. Id. Petitioner asserts that the photograph is also being
used against another suspect in another case. Id. Petitioner indicates that he is represented by
counsel for the underlying state action, and he has had a preliminary hearing before a state court
judge. Id. at 9.
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was
referred to United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett for pre-trial handling. On February
15, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”), recommending
Petitioner’s petition for writ of habeas corpus be summarily dismissed. ECF No. 12. First, the
Anderson County Sheriff Office was terminated from this action on January 10, 2017, per
Proper Form Order. ECF No. 5.
Magistrate Judge submits, Petitioner’s attempt to dismiss his state indictment or prevent
prosecution is not an available remedy under federal habeas corpus. Id. at 3 (citing Dickerson v.
State of Louisiana, 816 F.2d 220, 226 (5th Cir. 1987)). Next, the Magistrate Judge recommends
the court abstain from interfering with Petitioner’s state court proceeding pursuant to Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).
Petitioner filed objections to the Report on March 1, 2017, requesting that the Magistrate
Judge reconsider her ruling and take into account his attached “amended evidence and statutory
evidence.” ECF No. 15 at 1. Petitioner attached, as an exhibit, a photograph that he indicates is a
photograph of himself. ECF No. 15-1 at 1. Petitioner then attached a photograph of someone that
he claims is not him. ECF No. 15-1 at 2. Petitioner claims that the latter photograph is evidence
erroneously presented in the state prosecution against him. Petitioner argues that this new
evidence supports his claim that the State lacks the evidence needed to convict him of his state
criminal charges. Id.
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation
has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with
this court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976). This court is charged with making a de
novo determination of any portion of the Report of the Magistrate Judge to which a specific
objection is made. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or may recommit the matter to the Magistrate
Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
Federal courts should not interfere with state court proceedings absent extraordinary
circumstances. Younger, 401 U.S. at 43. The Fourth Circuit has provided the following three-part
test for courts to consider when determining if abstention pursuant to Younger is appropriate:
“(1) there are ongoing state judicial proceedings; (2) the proceedings implicate important state
interests; and (3) there is an adequate opportunity to raise federal claims in the state
proceedings.” Martin v. Marietta Corp. v. Maryland Conm’n on Human Relations, 38 F.3d 1392,
1396 (4th Cir. 1994)(citing Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm’m v. Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S.
423, 432 (1982)). Courts may disregard Younger’s mandate only where: “(1) ‘there is a showing
of bad faith or harassment by state officials responsible for the prosecution’; (2) ‘the state law to
be applied in the criminal proceeding is flagrantly and patently violative of express constitutional
prohibitions’; or (3) ‘other extraordinary circumstances’ exist that present a threat of immediate
and irreparable injury.” Nivens v. Gilchrist, 444 F.3d 237, 241 (4th Cir. 2006)(citing Kugler v.
Helfant, 421 U.S. 117, 124 (1975)).
As the Magistrate Judge notes, the first and second prongs of the Younger abstention
three-part test are met in this action. Petitioner’s criminal case in Anderson County is an ongoing
state judicial proceeding that implicates important state interests. States have a powerful interest
in administering their criminal systems free from federal interference. Kelly v. Robinson, 479
U.S. 36, 49 (1986). “The accused should first set up and rely on his defense in state courts, even
though this involves a challenge of the validity of some statute, unless it plainly appears that this
court would not afford adequate protection.” Nivens v. Gilchrist, 319 F.3d 151, 154 (4th Cir.
2003)(citing Younger, 401 U.S. at 44). Further, abstention under Younger “is founded on the
premise that ordinarily a pending state prosecution provides the accused a fair and sufficient
opportunity for vindication of federal constitutional rights.” Kugler, 421 U.S. at 124. Therefore,
the third prong of the three-part test is also met because Petitioner can pursue his federal claims
in state court.
Petitioner fails to show that there is bad faith, harassment, state law that is flagrantly
violative, or other extraordinary circumstances that present a threat of immediate and irreparable
harm. As a result, Petitioner is precluded from seeking habeas relief from his state court claims,
at this time.
The court adopts the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. The petition
for writ of habeas corpus is hereby; DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Margaret B. Seymour
Margaret B. Seymour
Senior United States District Judge
Columbia, South Carolina
April 13, 2017
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