United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES
Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge.
case comes before the Court on documents filed by state pro
se petitioner Nicholas Ryan Rykiel. Because it was unclear if
Rykiel actually intended to file in this Court and because
his claims were difficult to follow, Rykiel was directed to
file an Amended Petition on the Court's standard form.
(Doc. 6.) Rykiel timely complied. See, (Doc. 7.)
March 26, 2015, following a guilty plea to Sexual Intercourse
without Consent, Rykiel was sentenced in Montana's First
Judicial District, Butte Silverbow County, to 20 years at the
Montana State Prison, with 12 of those years suspended. See,
(Doc. 7 at 2, ¶¶ 1-5.) Rykiel did not file a direct
appeal, did not seek review of his sentence, did not file a
petition for postconviction relief, and did not petition for
state habeas review. Id. at 2-3. Rykiel seems to
indicate that his appointed counsel left the Office of the
State Public Defender shortly after his trial-level
proceedings concluded. See e.g., Id. at 3, ¶13;
4, ¶15(A)(5); 5, ¶15(B)(5)-(C)(5); and, 6,
still difficult to follow, Rykiel seems to allege the
following: (1) the author of his presentence investigation
report disagreed with the recommendation made by Dr. Scolatti
relative to the level of treatment that should be required of
Rykiel as a condition of his sentence, id. at 3,
¶15(A)(1); (2) the 52 sentencing terms and conditions
were unlawfully imposed upon Rykiel, a first-time felony
offender, id. at 4, ¶15(B)(1); (3)
District Court Judge Krueger engaged in fraud, as evidence by
a May 2019 Montana Standard article attached to Rykiel's
petition, id. at 5, ¶15(C)(1), see also, (Doc.
7-2 at 3-8); and, (4) Judge Krueger's purported fraud
constitutes new evidence and warrants review of Rykiel's
entire underlying criminal case, including the treatment
requirements. Id. at 6, ¶15(D)(5).
asks this Court to overturn his case, or alternatively
provide a new trial. Id. at 7, ¶18. He also
seeks $500, 000 dollars in damages for the disregard of Dr.
Scolatti's report and for the stress, loss of employment,
discrimination, and the damage to his reputation and mental
health that has occurred from 2014 to the present.
Id. at 8.
preliminary matter, all of Rykiel's claims are presently
unexhausted. As set forth above, Rykiel's own filings
indicate that he has failed to present any of his claims to
the state courts. A federal habeas court generally will not
hear claims that have never been fairly presented in state
court. See, Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518-20
(1982). Also, because Rykiel's first two claims challenge
conditions imposed upon him in 2015, those claims are
untimely. A one-year limitations period applies to petitions
filed by state prisoners under 28 U.S.C. §2254. See, 28
to the extent that Rykiel seeks damages, 28 U.S.C. §2254
is not the proper vehicle for Rykiel to attempt to make a
monetary recovery. "[T]he essence of habeas corpus is an
attack by a person in custody upon the legality of that
custody, and the traditional function of the writ is to
secure release from illegal custody." Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484 (1973). A petitioner's
claim for money damages regarding an alleged constitutional
violation falls outside the scope of federal habeas review
but may be brought as a civil rights complaint under 42
U.S.C. §1983. See, Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S.
749, 750 (2004)(per curiam); Preiser v. Rodriguez,
411 U.S. 475, 498-99 (1973); Heck v. Humphrey, 512
U.S. 477, 485-86 (1994).
putting all of these procedural issues aside, Rykiel's
claims, as currently plead, simply are not cognizable in
Claims 1 and 2
application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in
custody under a judgment of a state court can be granted only
for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United
States. 28 U.S.C. §2254(a). A federal writ is not
available for alleged error in the interpretation or
application of state law. See, Wilson v. Corcoran,
562 U.S. 1, 5 (2010); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S.
62, 67-68 (1991); Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146,
1149 (9th Cir. 2000).
he does not assert on what federal constitutional basis he
advances any of his claims, Rykiel's first two claims
relate to the conditions imposed by the district court as
part of his sentence. But matters relating to state
sentencing are governed by state law and generally are not
cognizable in federal habeas. See e.g., Lewis v.
Jeffers, 497 U.S. 764, 780 (1990) (rejecting
petitioner's claim that state court misapplied its own
aggravating circumstance statute). Construing Rykiel's
claims liberally, he seems to argue the conditions imposed
upon him are unlawful. But, such a claim is not cognizable in
federal habeas absent a showing of fundamental unfairness.
See, Christian v. Rhode, 41 F.3d 461, 469
(9th Cir. 1994) ("Absent a showing of
fundamental unfairness, a state court's misapplication of
its own sentencing laws does not justify federal habeas
relief."); see also, Cacoperdo v. Demosthenes,
37 F.3d 504, 507 (9th Cir. 1994) (the form of
sentence imposed is a matter of state criminal procedure and
"is not within the purview of federal habeas
corpus"). Thus, to state a cognizable federal habeas
claim based upon a purported state sentencing error, a
petitioner must demonstrate the error was "so arbitrary
or capricious as to constitute and independent due
process" violation. Christian, 41 F.3d at 469.
Rykiel has made no such showing. He has not alleged that his
right to due process was violated, nor has he demonstrated
that the imposition of the sentencing conditions was
fundamentally unfair. Accordingly, Rykiel ...