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Stephens v. Malhally

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 29, 2015

JEFFREY C. STEPHENS, Petitioner,
v.
LAWRENCE MALHALLY, Acting Superintendent, et al., Respondents.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

JOSEPH F. SAPORITO, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

This proceeding was initiated by a petition for a writ of habeas corpus submitted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, signed and dated by the petitioner, Jeffrey C. Stephens, on May 2, 2014. (Doc. 1, at 27-38). The petition was originally submitted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit together with a motion for authorization pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2) to file a second or successive habeas petition. (Doc. 1, at 1-4). The Third Circuit declined to authorize a second or successive petition with respect to ineffective assistance of counsel claims asserted in the petition, but found that authorization was unnecessary with respect to Stephens's challenge to a 2013 denial of parole, as this parole-related claim was not available to him at the time of filing his prior habeas petition in 2008. (Doc. 1-2). The petition was then transferred to this Court for consideration of Stephens's parole-related claim only. At the time of filing, Stephens was incarcerated at SCI Dallas, which is located in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.

I. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

A. Procedural History

On November 21, 1996, following a jury trial, Stephens was convicted of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, and sexual assault; he was acquitted on a separate count of rape by threat of forcible compulsion. Commonwealth v. Stephens, Docket No. CP-35-CR-0001297-1996 (Lackawanna County C.C.P.).[1] On November 15, 1999, after his original sentence was vacated under the PCRA, Stephens was resentenced to serve a term of 98 months to 26 years in prison. Id. His conviction and sentence have been affirmed on direct appeal and upheld on collateral review in both state and federal courts.

Stephens first became eligible for parole on September 16, 2004, when he had served his aggregate minimum sentence, and his maximum sentence expires on July 16, 2022. (Doc. 16-2, at 1-3). He has been interviewed by the parole board and denied release on parole nine times.

The parole board first interviewed Stephens and denied him parole on June 28, 2004, citing the following reasons for its decision: (a) his "refusal to accept responsibility for the offense(s) committed"; (b) "the recommendation made by the Department of Corrections"; and (c) his "need to participate in and complete additional institutional programs." (Id. at 9). The board decided Stephens would be reviewed again in or after June 2006. (Id. ). The board advised Stephens that it would consider the following factors at the next review: (a) "whether [he] participated in a treatment program for sex offenders/therapeutic community"; (b) "whether [he] received a favorable recommendation for parole from the Department of Corrections"; and (c) "whether [he] maintained a clear conduct record and completed the Department of Corrections' prescriptive program(s)." (Id. at 9-10).

The parole board next interviewed Stephens and denied him parole on July 18, 2006, citing the following reasons for its decision: (a) his "minimization/denial of the nature and circumstances of the offense(s) committed"; (b) his "refusal to accept responsibility for the offense(s) committed"; (c) "the negative recommendation made by the Department of Corrections"; (d) his "unacceptable compliance with prescribed institutional programs"; (e) his "need to participate in and complete additional institutional programs"; (f) his "institutional behavior, including reported misconducts or community corrections residency failure"; and (g) his "interview with the hearing examiner and/or board member." (Id. at 11). The board decided Stephens would be reviewed again in or after July 2008, "or earlier, if recommended by the Department of Corrections/county prison staff." (Id. at 12). The board advised Stephens that it would consider the following factors at the next review: (a) "whether [he] participated in/successfully completed a treatment program for sex offenders (core)"; (b) "whether [he] received a favorable recommendation for parole from the Department of Corrections"; and (c) "whether [he] received a clear conduct record and completed the Department of Corrections' prescriptive program(s)." (Id. ).

The parole board interviewed Stephens and denied him parole for a third time on July 10, 2008, citing the following reasons for its decision: (a) his "need to participate in and complete additional institutional programs"; and (b) his "interview with the hearing examiner and/or board member." (Id. at 13). The board decided Stephens would be reviewed again in or after January 2009. (Id. ). The board advised Stephens that it would consider the following factors at the next review: (a) "whether [he] successfully completed a treatment program for sex offenders"; (b) "whether [he] received a favorable recommendation for parole from the Department of Corrections"; and (c) "whether [he] maintained a clear conduct record and completed the Department of Corrections' prescriptive program(s)." (Id. ).

The parole board interviewed Stephens and denied him parole for a fourth time on March 10, 2009, citing the following reasons for its decision: (a) his "need to participate in and complete additional institutional programs"; (b) his "risk and needs assessment indicating [his] level of risk to the community"; (c) "the negative recommendation made by the Department of Corrections"; (d) "reports, evaluations and assessments/level of risk indicates [his] risk to the community"; and (e) "the negative recommendation made by the prosecuting attorney." (Id. at 15). The board decided Stephens would be reviewed again in or after February 2010. (Id. ). The board advised Stephens that it would consider the following factors at the next review: (a) "whether [he] successfully participated in/successfully completed a treatment program for violence prevention"; (b) "whether [he] received a favorable recommendation for parole from the Department of Corrections"; (c) "whether [he] maintained a clear conduct record"; and (d) a "mental health evaluation to be available at time of review." (Id. at 15-16).

The parole board interviewed Stephens and denied him parole for a fifth time on March 23, 2010, citing the following reasons for its decision: (a) "the negative recommendation made by the Department of Corrections"; (b) his "prior unsatisfactory parole supervision history";[2] (c) "reports, evaluations and assessments/level of risk indicates [his] risk to the community"; and (d) "the negative recommendation made by the prosecuting attorney." (Id. at 17). The board decided Stephens would be reviewed again in or after February 2011. (Id. ). The board advised Stephens that it would consider the following factors at the next review: (a) "whether [he] successfully participated in/successfully completed a treatment program for prescriptive program plan; (b) "whether [he] received a favorable recommendation for parole from the Department of Corrections"; and (c) "whether [he] maintained a clear conduct record." (Id. ).

The parole board interviewed Stephens and denied him parole for a sixth time on April 7, 2011, citing the following reasons for its decision: (a) his "risk and needs assessment indicating [his] level of risk to the community"; (b) "reports, evaluations and assessments/level of risk indicates [his] risk to the community"; and (c) "the negative recommendation made by the prosecuting attorney." (Id. at 19). The board decided Stephens would be reviewed again in or after February 2012. (Id. ). The board advised Stephens that it would consider the following factors at the next review: (a) "whether [he] maintained a favorable recommendation for parole from the Department of Corrections"; and (b) "whether [he] maintained a clear conduct record." (Id. ).

The parole board interviewed Stephens and denied him parole for a seventh time on March 20, 2012, citing the following reasons for its decision: (a) his "risk and needs assessment indicating [his] level of risk to the community"; (b) "the negative recommendation made by the Department of Corrections"; (c) "reports, evaluations and assessments/level of risk indicates [his] risk to the community"; and (d) "the negative recommendation made by the prosecuting attorney." (Id. at 20). The board decided Stephens would be reviewed again in or after February 2013. (Id. ). The board advised Stephens that it would consider the following factors at the next review: (a) "whether [he] received a favorable recommendation for parole from the Department of Corrections"; and (b) "whether [he] maintained a clear conduct record." (Id. ).

The parole board interviewed Stephens and denied him parole for a eighth time on May 3, 2013, citing the following reasons for its decision: (a) his "risk and needs assessment indicating [his] level of risk to the community"; (b) "reports, evaluations and assessments/level of risk indicates [his] risk to the community"; and (c) "the negative recommendation made by the prosecuting attorney." (Id. at 22). The board decided Stephens would be reviewed again in or after February 2014. (Id. ). The board advised Stephens that it would consider the following factors at the next review: (a) "whether [he] maintained a favorable recommendation for parole from the Department of Corrections"; (b) "whether [he] maintained a clear ...


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