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Stevens v. McTighe

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

January 9, 2018



          Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge.

         On December 28, 2017, Petitioner Bradley K. Stevens, filed a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Stevens is a state prisoner proceeding pro se.

         I. Procedural History

         Stevens previously filed a petition in this Court advancing a due process violation based upon the delay that occurred in the Butter-Silverbow County District Court between his plea of guilty to one count of Theft and his sentencing hearing. That petition was dismissed without prejudice as unexhausted. See Stevens v. Skuletich, CV-17-53-BU-BMM-JCL, Or. of Dismissal (D. Mont. Oct. 18, 2017).

         On September 21, 2017, Stevens was sentenced for the Theft to a 3-year prison term. The sentence was ordered to run consecutively to sentences Stevens was already serving. (Doc. 1 at 2-3).

         Following his sentencing hearing and the denial of his initial federal petition, Stevens filed two state habeas petitions. Id. at 3, ¶6; 4, ¶12; 5, ¶13(A)(iii). In the first state petition, Stevens alleged he was illegally incarcerated prior to his sentencing in the Butte-Silverbow matter. The Montana Supreme Court held that, although Stevens received a three years sentence for the Theft conviction, he was not entitled to relief because the trial court credited him 616 days of time served prior to entry of the written judgment. See Stevens v. Fletcher, OP 17-0638, Or. at 1 (Mont. Nov. 7, 2017). Because Stevens received a lawful sentence, he was not entitled to habeas relief. Id. at 1-2. The petition was denied.

         In his second state petition, Stevens alleged four separate due process violations had occurred: (1) he was unjustly held in the Butte-Silverbow County jail for 495 days awaiting sentencing; (2) he was not provided a copy of the written judgment; (3) he was not provided an application for sentence review; and, (4) these violations taken together undermined the overall fairness of the proceedings against him. See Stevens v. Fletcher, OP 17-0743, Or. at 1 (Mont. January. 2, 2018). The Court denied Stevens's second petition. It noted that it had previously determined the trial court properly awarded Stevens credit for all the time he had served prior to sentencing. Id. at 1-2, citing Stevens v. Fletcher, No. OP 17-0638, Or. (Mont. Nov. 7, 2017). Further, Stevens failed to demonstrate a due process violation that would call into question the legality of his incarceration under the Butte-Silverbow judgment; thus, habeas relief was unavailable to Stevens. Id. at 2. The Court directed the Clerk to provide Stevens with a copy of the trial court's written judgment.[1]

         II. Stevens's Claims

         Stevens claims: (1) his right to Due Process was violated based upon the 493 days he spent in the Butte-Silverbow County Jail following his change of plea hearing in May of 2016 until his sentencing hearing on September 21, 2017, (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 13(A)(i)); and (2) his right to Due Process was violated because he did not receive the paperwork to apply for review of his sentence with the Montana Sentence Review Division and now he has missed the deadline to apply for such review. Id. at 5, ¶13(B)(i). Stevens asks this Court to dismiss the Theft conviction with prejudice and have his sentence adjusted by the Montana Prison Records Department. Id. at 7, ¶ 16.

         III. Analysis

         Although there remains some question as to whether or not Mr. Stevens has properly exhausted both of the claims he now advances, as discussed below, the petition should nonetheless be denied for lack of merit.

         i. Sentencing Delay

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under a judgment of a state court may be granted only for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 n. 7 (2000). Under Section 2254(d), a state prisoner whose claim has been "adjudicated on the merits" cannot obtain federal habeas relief unless that adjudication: "(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." See also, Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 784 (2011) ("By its terms § 2254(d) bars relitigation of any claim 'adjudicated on the merits' in state court, subject only to the exceptions in §§ 2254(d)(1) and (d)(2).").

         "AEDPA thus imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings ... and demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." Renico v. Lett,130 S.Ct. 1855, 1862 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). The standard is "difficult to meet, " and a "petitioner carries the burden of proof." Cullen v. Pinholster,131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because Stevens has not overcome his burden under this highly ...

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