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Bradley v. Commonwealth

June 19, 2009

RONNIE BRADLEY, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, ET. AL., RESPONDENTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Blewitt

Judge Jones

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

I. Background

On January 5, 2009, Petitioner, Ronnie Bradley, currently an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview ("SCI-Rockview"), Bellafonte, Pennsylvania, filed, pro se, a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.*fn1 Petitioner attached eleven (11) exhibits to his Habeas Petition. (Doc. 1, Exs. A-K). Petitioner challenges his May 4, 2006 convictions for criminal conspiracy and theft by unlawful taking in the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas. (Doc. 1, p. 2).*fn2 Petitioner also filed a Motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 3).

Petitioner raises the following four (4) habeas claims regarding his state convictions:

(1) Unlawfully Induced Plea; (2) Ineffectiveness of Trial Counsel and Appellate Counsel; (3) Prosecutorial Misconduct; and (4) Unlawfully Induced Sentence. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Petitioner indicates that he has raised all four of his claims with the Pennsylvania Superior Court in a direct appeal. (Id.). Respondents contend that Petitioner has not yet exhausted his state court remedies for all of his instant habeas claims. Rather, Respondent states that Petitioner has only exhausted his state court remedies with respect to his Unlawfully Induced Plea claim.*fn3 Additionally, as discussed below, we disagree with Respondents and find that Petitioner's Habeas Petition was not timely filed.

II. Procedural History

As the Pennsylvania Superior Court stated in its October 16, 2007 Memorandum (attached to Doc. 5):

On July 21, 2005, [Petitioner] and an accomplice removed a drill from a Fastenal store in Lehighton. The Commonwealth subsequently charged [Petitioner] with multiple offenses, including theft by unlawful taking,[2] at Criminal docket No. 271 of 2006. On August 9, 2005, [Petitioner] and two accomplices removed stereo equipment from a RentWay store in Mahoning Township. At criminal docket No. 656 of 2005, the Commonwealth charged [Petitioner] with various offenses, including criminal conspiracy.[3]

[2] 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3921(a).

[3] 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 903.

On May 4, 2006, [Petitioner] executed a written guilty plea colloquy for both sets of offenses [in the Court of Common Pleas of Carbon County, PA]. That same day, [Petitioner] proceeded to a guilty plea hearing. At Criminal docket No. 656 of 2005, the parties stipulated that [Petitioner] would plead guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy. At Criminal docket No. 271 of 2006, [Petitioner] agreed to plead guilty to one count of theft by unlawful taking. [Due to Petitioner's plea], the Commonwealth agreed to recommend standard range sentences, including restitution to the victims. (Stipulations, filed 5/4/06, at 1). [After] an on-the-record, oral [guilty plea] colloquy, the [trial] court accepted [Petitioner's] pleas. (Doc. 5, October 16, 2007 Memorandum of Pennsylvania Superior Court, pp. 1-2).

With the benefit of a pre-sentence investigation ("PSI") report, the court conducted [Petitioner's] sentencing hearing on July 17, 2006. For the offense of criminal conspiracy, the court sentenced [Petitioner] to twelve (12) to thirty-six (36) months' imprisonment, plus restitution in the amount of $266.85. The court also provided credit for 273 days of time served. For the offense of theft by unlawful taking, the court imposed a concurrent sentence of twelve (12) to thirty-six (36) months' imprisonment, plus restitution in the amount of $139.04. The court also provided credit for eighty-one (81) days of time served. As per the Commonwealth's recommendation, the minimum sentence for each offense fell within the standard range of sentencing guidelines.

On July 26, 2006, [Petitioner] timely filed a motion to modify and reduce the sentence. Specifically, Petitioner claimed "significant, mitigating circumstances or factors" warranted "a reconsideration and reduction" of his sentence. (Motion to Modify, filed 7/26/06, at 2). On July 28, 2006, the court denied [Petitioner's] motion. On August 25, 2006, [Petitioner] timely filed a notice of appeal. [Petitioner], however, filed a praecipe to discontinue the appeal on September 11, 2006.*fn4

On October 30, 2006, [Petitioner] timely filed a pro se PCRA petition. The court appointed current counsel, who filed an amended PCRA petition on February 28, 2007. In his amended petition, [Petitioner] argued: 1) plea counsel unlawfully induced the guilty pleas; 2) the court did not impose a sentence in accordance with the plea agreement; and 3) plea counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the allegedly improper sentence. On April 2, 2007, the PCRA court conducted an evidentiary hearing. [Petitioner] and plea counsel both testified at the hearing. Immediately following the hearing, the court denied relief.

[Petitioner] timely filed [a] notice of appeal on April 11, 2007. On April 24, 2007, the court ordered [Petitioner] to file a concise statement, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b), which [Petitioner] timely filed on May 7, 2007.

Petitioner's PCRA counsel initially filed an appellate brief in which he argued against Petitioner's claims, although counsel had not sought to withdraw representation. Consequently, the Pennsylvania Superior Court remanded the appeal with directions to counsel to file either a proper advocate's brief on Petitioner's behalf or a "no-merit" letter in full compliance with Commonwealth v. Turner, 518 Pa. 491, 544 A.2d 927 (1988) and Commonwealth v. Finley, 550 A.2d 213 (Pa.Super. 1988) (en banc). (Doc. 5, att. October 16, 2007 Pennsylvania Superior Court Memorandum).

Following remand, counsel filed a proper advocate's brief which raised only one issue for review:

WHETHER THE [PCRA] COURT SHOULD HAVE GRANTED [PETITIONER'S] PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION COLLATERAL RELIEF ON THE BASIS OF EVIDENCE IN THE RECORD THAT [PETITIONER'S] GUILTY PLEAS WERE IMPROPERLY INDUCED BY TRIAL COUNSEL AND THEREFORE INVOLUNTARY AND RENDERED INVALID. (See Respondents' Doc. 15 Exhibit A, p. 4 - Bradley Brief to the Pennsylvania Superior Court and Doc. 5, October ...


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