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Natal v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 24, 2014

JAMES NATAL, Petitioner,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PA, et al., Respondents

JAMES NATAL, Petitioner, Pro se, MARIENVILLE, PA.

For DANIEL P. BURNS, SUPERINTENDENT, SCI-FOREST PRISON, PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF: PENNSYLVANIA, Respondents: SUSAN ELIZABETH AFFRONTI, PHILA DISTRICT ATTYS OFFICE, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LYNNE A. SITARSKI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

Presently before the Court is a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, by James Natal, an individual currently incarcerated in State Correctional Institution Forest, in Marienville, Pennsylvania. This matter has been referred to me for preparation of a Report and Recommendation. For the following reasons, I respectfully recommend that the petition for habeas corpus be DISMISSED as time-barred under the federal habeas statute of limitations and because it raises claims that are not cognizable on federal habeas review.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 24, 2010, Petitioner was tried before a jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on numerous counts of robbery, theft, and firearms related offenses in connection with a crime spree in Philadelphia in late November 2007. During the trial, Petitioner entered into non-negotiated guilty pleas on several charges, but proceeded to a jury verdict on several others. Specifically, Petitioner pled guilty to six counts each of theft by unlawful taking, criminal conspiracy and criminal mischief, and to one count of simple assault.[1] A jury subsequently convicted him of two counts of robbery, one count of robbery of a motor vehicle, two counts of theft by unlawful taking, six counts of criminal conspiracy, one count of arson, two counts of carrying a firearm without a license, two counts of carrying a firearm on a public street in Philadelphia, and one count of simple assault.[2] Petitioner was sentenced to an aggregate term of 21 to 42 years' imprisonment on these convictions. On August 24, 2012, the Superior Court affirmed the judgments of sentence. (Resp. Exh. A, ECF No. 16-1). Petitioner did not file a petition for allowance of appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, or a petition for collateral review pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § § 9541 et seq . within the applicable deadlines.

On August 15, 2013, [3] Petitioner filed in this Court a document titled " Motion to Stay Federal Habeas Corpus Proceeding to Permit the Petitioner to Exhaust State Court [Remedies]." (ECF No. 1). In this filing, Petitioner explained that he recently sought permission from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to file a petition for allowance of appeal nunc pro tunc based on his appellate counsel's alleged failure to seek discretionary review in that court, and asked this Court to " stay" the running of his federal habeas limitations period while he pursued his state-court remedies.[4] (Mot. 1-2, 4, 6-7, ECF No. 1). Petitioner explained that, although he explicitly asked his appellate counsel to file an appeal in the state Supreme Court, counsel ignored his requests and abandoned him. (Mot. 5, ECF No. 1). Petitioner argued that a stay was warranted in these circumstances while he attempted to exhaust his claims in state court, and stated that " a protective petition is being requested and made for this Court to grant permission to stay and abey the Habeas Corpus Petition." (Mot. 7, ECF No. 1) (punctuation omitted). However, Petitioner did not attach a habeas petition to his motion, and the motion itself did not explicitly identify any of the federal habeas claims that Petitioner intended to pursue.

The " Motion to Stay" was assigned to the Honorable Robert F. Kelly, who directed Petitioner to complete this Court's standard form for filing a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and return it to the Clerk within thirty days. (Order, 11/18/13, ECF No. 2). On December 16, 2013, [5] Petitioner submitted a petition for habeas corpus relief on the appropriate form, setting forth the following claims (recited verbatim):

(1) Trial Court erred by granting the Commonwealth's pretrial motion to Consolidate where evidence did not demonstrate a Common Plan, Scheme or Design;
(2) The trial court erred, denying motion to suppress Petitioner's statement where it was not voluntarily given to the said detective(s) and where Petitioner was in fact intoxicated;
(3) Trial court erred by prohibiting cross-examination of complaining witness use of a prior fictitious arrest name;
(4) Trial court abused its discretion in sentencing by failing to consider Petitioner's rehabilitation needs.

(Revised Pet. 8-13, ECF No. 3) (punctuation omitted). Petitioner indicated that his appellate counsel had presented these claims on direct appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, but that counsel had " abandoned" him thereafter and refused to file an allocatur petition with the state Supreme Court. (Revised Pet. 9, 10, 12, 14, ECF No. 3). In response, the Commonwealth contends that Petitioner's claims are time-barred because the federal habeas statute of ...


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