United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
TONY L. MUTSCHLER, Petitioner
BRENDA L. TRITT, et al., Respondents.
EDWIN M. KOSIK, District Judge.
Petitioner, Tony L. Mutschler, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Frackville, Pennsylvania, initiated this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on March 10, 2015. Along with the petition, he has filed a request to proceed in forma pauperis in this matter. (Doc. 2.) In the petition, he challenges his 1999 conviction and sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Upon preliminary review of the petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, see R. Governing § 2254 Cases R. 4, it appeared that the petition may be barred by the statute of limitations, see United States v. Bendolph, 409 F.3d 155, 169 (3d Cir. 2005)(en banc)(holding that district courts may sua sponte raise AEDPA's one-year statute of limitations, provided that the petitioner is provided with notice and an opportunity to respond) set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). On May 13, 2015, the parties were notified that the petition appeared to be untimely, and Respondents were directed to file a response concerning the timeliness of the petition and any applicable statutory and/or equitable tolling of the AEDPA statute of limitations. Petitioner was also afforded the opportunity to file a reply. (Doc. 5). Respondents filed an answer addressing the timeliness of the petition on June 8, 2015. (Doc. 8.) Petitioner has submitted a traverse. (Doc. 11.) The matter is now ripe for consideration and, for the reasons set forth below, the habeas petition will be dismissed as untimely.
Petitioner was charged in three criminal actions with crimes occurring on March 8, 1998, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In criminal action number 948-1998, he was charged with burglary, conspiracy, attempted theft, and corruption of the morals of a minor after forcibly entering and ransacking a church in Allentown. At criminal action number 949-1998, he was charged with burglary, conspiracy, attempted theft, and corruption of the morals of a minor in connection with a break-in at a storage facility. At criminal action number 950-1998, he was charged with burglary, conspiracy, trespass, theft, criminal mischief, receiving stolen property, and the corruption of the morals of a minor stemming from the forcible entry of a pool and spa store where $5, 000.00 in cash was taken.
On May 28, 1999, Petitioner entered a guilty plea in the three criminal actions. He was sentenced on July 27, 1999, to consecutive terms of 5-10 years incarceration in 948-1998 and 949-1998. He received a consecutive probationary term of 10 years in 950-1998. (Doc. 8-1, Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas Dockets CP-49-CR-0000948; CP-49-CR-0000949; CP-49-CR-0000950.) He did not pursue a direct appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania from his conviction.
On August 15, 2000, he filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief ("PCRA") with the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas. (Id.) Under the PCRA, see 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b)(1), a timely PCRA petition must be filed within one year of the defendant's sentence becoming final. On May 15, 2001, the Northumberland County Court dismissed his petition, and this dismissal was affirmed by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on March 11, 2003. (Doc. 8-1 at 27, 30.) A petition for allowance of appeal was not filed with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
On April 9, 2013, approximately ten years later, Petitioner filed a second PCRA petition. After the Northumberland County Court issued a notice of intent to deny the petition without a hearing, it was denied on January 29, 2014. In the order, Petitioner was advised of his right to file an appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court within 30 days. On March 18, 2014, he filed a petition to appeal nunc pro tunc. On April 4, 2014, the Superior Court denied his request to appeal nunc pro tunc without prejudice to his right to seek reinstatement of his appellate rights in the trial court.
On May 5, 2014, he filed a "Notice of Appeal and Request for Transcripts" in the trial court. On May 15, 2014, he was directed to file a Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) statement within 21 days. The statement was later filed on June 6, 2014, but was signed and mailed from the prison on May 26, 2014, within the 21-day time frame. While the trial court concluded that the statement was untimely, this decision was rejected by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, finding that Petitioner's appeal from the denial of his second PCRA to the Superior Court was timely under the prisoner mailbox rule and/or because a Pa.R.A.P 1925(a) statement had been ordered.
Regardless of the fact that the Pennsylvania Superior Court found the appeal from the denial of Petitioner's second PCRA to be timely, the court found that the PCRA petition itself was untimely filed with the Northumberland County Court. The court further found that Petitioner failed to establish any arguments that could overcome the jurisdictional timeliness requirements of the PCRA. As the 2013 PCRA petition was untimely filed, the Superior Court denied relief on appeal. (Doc. 8-2 at 1-7.) No further appeal was pursued with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The instant federal habeas corpus petition was filed on March 10, 2015.
The court may "entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A petition filed under § 2254 must be timely filed under the stringent standards set forth in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 12214 (April 24, 1996). See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). A state prisoner requesting habeas corpus relief pursuant to § 2254 must adhere to a statute of limitations that provides, in relevant part, as follows:
(1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of-
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review....
(2) The time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted ...