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United States v. Ridgley

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

March 18, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
HUGH CLARENCE RIDGLEY, Defendant/Movant. No. CV 14-71-GF-BMM.


BRIAN M. MORRIS, District Judge.

On October 3, 2014, Defendant/Movant Ridgley filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Ridgley filed a brief on November 3, 2014, and a supplement on March 11, 2015. Ridgley is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se.

I. Preliminary Screening

The motion is subject to preliminary review to determine whether "the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); see also Rule 4(b), Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts.

A petitioner "who is able to state facts showing a real possibility of constitutional error should survive Rule 4 review." Calderon v. United States Dist. Court, 98 F.3d 1102, 1109 (9th Cir. 1996) (" Nicolas ") (Schroeder, C.J., concurring) (referring to Rules Governing § 2254 Cases). "[I]t is the duty of the court to screen out frivolous applications and eliminate the burden that would be placed on the respondent by ordering an unnecessary answer." Advisory Committee Note (1976), Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, cited in Advisory Committee Note (1976), Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2255 Proceedings.

II. Background

On August 19, 2011, a grand jury handed down on indictment charging Ridgley and a co-defendant, Christopher Lakey, with one count of robbery of a Pizza Hut delivery driver, a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951(a) and 2 (Count 1); one count of brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) and (2) (Count 2); and one count of robbery of a Papa John's delivery driver, a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951(a) and (2) (Count 3). Ridgley was writted out of state custody on October 25, 2011, and appeared in this Court on that date. Pet. for Writ (Doc. 15); Writ (Doc. 17); Minutes (Doc. 19).

Ridgley moved before trial to dismiss the case for lack of federal jurisdiction under the Commerce Clause and on the grounds that he stole money from a private individual. He also sought a bill of particulars to determine in what way interstate commerce was affected. His motions were denied. Order (Doc. 81).

Jury trial commenced on December 13, 2011. The two robberies occurred in Havre and in Great Falls in January 2011. The driver involved in the Havre Pizza Hut robbery, John Paranteau, testified that he approached an apartment building to deliver a pizza to a caller who had asked him to bring change for a $100 bill. Two men were waiting outside the building. One, who was wearing a ski mask, gestured to the other, who made a show of trying to find money in his pockets. The man in the ski mask then showed Paranteau he had what appeared to be a gun and told Paranteau he was being robbed. Paranteau described the unmasked man as a Native American with a pale face, long nose, and thin or stringy black mustache and beard, and a little taller than himself. That man took all the Pizza Hut money Paranteau had. When Paranteau viewed a six-man photo lineup, he said both No. 2 and No. 5 looked like the man who took the money, but he thought it was probably No. 2. No. 2 was Ridgley.

The driver in the Great Falls Papa John's robbery, James Rudzinski, testified that he was delivering pizzas when he noticed he was being followed by a white car. Returning to his vehicle from one residence, he was confronted by a man who had emerged from the passenger seat of the white car. The man asked him how late Papa John's was open and what specials they were offering. Then the man pulled a knife from the pocket of his hoodie sweatshirt, held it "toward" the driver, and demanded his money. Rudzinski gave the man all the Papa John's money he had. The man took the money and returned to the car. When the car left, Rudzinski followed it to get the license plate number. When he had it, he called 911.

At that point, law enforcement responded to the area. The man who robbed Rudzinski eluded police. The driver of the car, Christopher Lakey, hid in a park while officers searched around him. Lakey called his girlfriend, Charann Handl. Because the license plate Rudzinski reported had been traced to her, the police were at her residence when Lakey called her. She told Lakey the police were there looking for him and asked him to turn himself in. He agreed and was apprehended.

At trial, Lakey testified that Ridgley accompanied him at both robberies. A jailhouse informant, Jennings, testified that Ridgley told him about robbing a pizza delivery driver at knifepoint in Great Falls. Representatives from Pizza Hut and Papa John's testified that the money taken from the drivers was business "bank, " that is, cash payments for delivered pizzas and money sent with the drivers to enable them to make change. They also testified to the out-of-state sources of the businesses' food and delivery supplies and interstate transfers of the businesses' money.

At the close of the evidence, the Court granted a judgment of acquittal on Count 2, because the United States failed to introduce any evidence that the gun Paranteau saw was a real gun. The jury convicted Ridgley on Counts 1 and 3. Verdict (Doc. 86); Judgment of Acquittal (Doc. 94).

On April 2, 2012, Ridgley was sentenced to serve a total of 104 months in prison, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release, with the federal sentence to run consecutive to any undischarged state ...

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