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Coulson v. Mooney

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 11, 2015

NATHANIEL D. COULSON, Petitioner,
v.
VINCENT MOONEY, et al., Respondents.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

I. RECOMMENDATION

It is respectfully recommended that Respondents' motion to dismiss [ECF No. 9] be granted, that the petition for a writ of habeas corpus be dismissed, and that a certificate of appealability be denied.

II. REPORT

A. Relevant Background

On June 1, 2009, Petitioner, Nathaniel D. Coulson, appeared before the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County with his attorney, Bruce A. Barrett, Esq. In accordance with negotiations with the prosecution, Petitioner pleaded guilty to the offense of Rape of a Child in exchange for the nolle pros of 16 other charges filed against him. Petitioner had previously admitted to Children and Youth Services ("CYS") and the police that he had had sexual intercourse with the victim.

On September 30, 2009, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to 10-20 years' imprisonment. He did not file a direct appeal with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Accordingly, Petitioner's judgment of sentence became final on or around October 30, 2009, which is 30 days after the trial court sentenced him, and thus the date the time for filing a direct appeal with the Superior Court expired. Pa.R.A.P. 903(a); Gonzalez v. Thaler, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 641, 653-56 (2012) (a judgment becomes final at the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of time for seeking such review); Swartz v. Meyers, 204 F.3d 417, 419 (3d Cir. 2000) (same).

On or around August 26, 2010, Petitioner filed a pro se petition for relief under Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 PA.CONS.STAT. § 9541 et seq. The PCRA court appointed Edward J. Hatheway, Esq., to represent him and counsel filed an amended PCRA petition. (Resp's Ex. A, ECF No. 9-1 at 2-15). In it, Petitioner alleged that he was innocent and that he lied to CYS and the police when he told them that he had sexual intercourse with the victim. He claimed that the police harassed him until he confessed. Petitioner also claimed that his trial attorney, Barrett, provided him with ineffective assistance. In support of this claim, Petitioner asserted that he told Barrett that he was innocent and, therefore, Barrett should have proceeded to trial instead of allowing him to plead guilty to the crime of Rape of a Child.

On July 5, 2011, the court dismissed the amended PCRA petition for lack of merit. (Resp's Ex. C, ECF No. 9-3 at 1. See also Resp's Ex. B, ECF No. 9-2 at 1-9, Commonwealth v. Coulson, No. CR 77-2009, slip op. (C.P. Crawford, Mar. 7, 2011)). It held:

In the instant case, [Petitioner's] plea bargain resulted after extensive negotiations between attorney Barrett and the Commonwealth. A lengthy plea colloquy was undertaken where Petitioner pleaded guilty to Rape of a Child. During his plea colloquy this Court repeatedly encouraged Petitioner to ask questions if there was something he did not understand and informed the Petitioner that the decision to enter a guilty plea was his alone and that he should not enter a plea if he had been threatened or coerced. (Transcript of Plea Colloquy, pgs. 4-5, 16; 18; 27). Petitioner was informed that by pleading he was giving up the right to examine witnesses, such as the child victim, J.D. Id. at 7-8. Petitioner stated he was satisfied with the services of his attorney, that no one forced or threatened him in any way to enter the plea and that he was entering it of his own free will. Id. at 25 (emphasis added). Further, Petitioner stated he voluntarily went down to the Meadville City Police Department on January 8, 2009, where he was read a form stating he was not under arrest. Id. at 28-29. Petitioner stated that he signed that form. Id . [Petitioner] stated he gave the officer a statement about his involvement with the child-victim, and that the officer did not force, threaten, or pressure the Petitioner in any manner to give such a statement. Id . Petitioner stated he understood everything that was being said throughout the plea colloquy. Id. at 31-32.
During the colloquy, the Petitioner agreed that he did, in fact, have sexual intercourse with the child-victim at a time when she was ten and a half (10 ½) or eleven (11) years old. Id. at 30. Petitioner again agreed when questioned by this Court that he had sexual intercourse with the child-victim over the course of two years at various times. Id. at 32-33. After Petitioner was informed of the Megan's Law implications of such a plea, this Court again asked him if it was his intention to enter a plea of guilty to the offense of Rape of a Child, to which the Petitioner responded in the affirmative. Id. at 40. If there was any doubt whatsoever the record reflects the following:
Ms. Digiacomo: Just, Mr. Coulson, for purposes of your plea today, you agree you engaged in sexual intercourse, in other words your penis went into J.D.'s vagina on at least one occasion when she was ten and a half or 11? Do you agree to that?
The Defendant: (No audible responses.)
Ms. Digiacomo: You have to say it ...

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