United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Paul Spreng brings this counseled petition for writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
alleging that the Pennsylvania appellate courts denied him
procedural and substantive due process and access to those
courts. Upon referral, the Honorable Marilyn Heffley, United
States Magistrate Judge, issued a Report and Recommendation,
recommending that the petition be denied. Mr. Spreng filed
Objections to the Report and Recommendation. For the
following reasons, I will overrule the Objections, approve
and adopt the Report and Recommendation, and deny the
petition with prejudice.
decision affirming the conviction and judgment of sentence,
the Superior Court of Pennsylvania provided the following
facts as summarized by the trial court:
On April 13, 2004, at approximately 7:50 p.m., Officer Sarris
and his partner, Officer Elliot, observed [Mr. Spreng] exit
his residence and drive off in a Ford Escape vehicle. Wearing
plain-clothes and driving an unmarked vehicle, the officers
followed [Mr. Spreng] to a warehouse located at 2847 North C
Street, in the City and County of Philadelphia. The warehouse
“had a large steel roll-up gate” and a
“walk-through door” located “just to the
north of . . . gate.” Attached to the south wall of the
warehouse - at 2945 North C Street - was a house.
When Kane pulled in front of the warehouse, its outer gate
“opened up by itself” and he parked inside next
to a White Plymouth Voyager. After the outer gate closed
again, Officers Sarris and Elliot joined fellow officers in
“setting up a perimeter” around the premises.
At approximately 9:00 p.m., the White Plymouth Voyager
“backed out” of the warehouse and left in a
southbound direction. Officers Sarris and Elliot followed,
and pulled alongside the Voyager to obtain a closer look at
the driver, who later was identified as [Mr. Spreng]. While
Officers Sarris and Elliot subsequently returned to the
warehouse, other officers followed [Mr. Spreng] to a
residence located at 419 South 43rd Street, in the
City and County of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
On May 4, 2004, several members of Officer Sarris' unit
again conducted surveillance at 2847 North C Street. This
time, they observed [Mr. Spreng] exit the warehouse in his
Plymouth Voyager and followed him to a store named
“Garden Indoors, ” which is located in Bucks
County, Pennsylvania. One plain-clothes officer followed [Mr.
Spreng} inside the store while others, including Officer
Sarris, watched from their vehicles. Another officer
videotaped [Mr. Spreng] and recorded him and store employees
loading several large white boxes into the back of his
Voyager, after which he returned to the warehouse on 2847
North C Street.
Early the next morning, while it was still dark, Officer
Sarris collected some “trash” that “was
left at the curbside in front of [413 South 43rd
Street].” Having previously learned from the Bureau of
Motor Vehicles that [Mr. Spreng] owned this property, the
officer retrieved the following items from his curbside
trash: (1) a letter from Plummer Realtors addressed to [Mr.
Spreng] at 413 South 431 Street; (2) a letter from Plummer
Realtors addressed to [Mr. Spreng] at 419 South
43rd Street; and (3) a letter addressed to
Defendant Ruh at 413 South 43rd Street.
See Commonwealth v. Spreng, 2990 EDA 2009, *2-3 (Pa.
Super. September 13, 2011).
Superior Court further noted that the investigation prompted
the issuance of five search warrants for five properties
which were executed on May 11, 2004. Id. at *4. From
each of these properties, the police confiscated sizeable
amounts of marijuana, various forms of drug paraphernalia,
and other drug-related materials. Significantly, the police
also found sophisticated growing equipment and substantial
stockpiles of live marijuana plants. Id. Mr. Spreng
and his two co-defendants were subsequently arrested and
charged with numerous drug-related offenses. After
unsuccessfully moving to suppress the physical evidence,
three defendants proceeded to a joint trial which began on
May 19, 2009.
trial court provided the following procedural background upon
appeal in accordance with the requirements of Pennsylvania
Rule of Appellate Procedure 1925:
On June 2, 2009, a jury found [Mr. Spreng] guilty on charges
of possessing/manufacturing marijuana with the intent to
manufacture and/or deliver, Criminal Conspiracy, and
possessing drug paraphernalia. On August 21, 2009, this Court
sentenced him to five to ten years' incarceration for
possessing/manufacturing marijuana with the intent to
deliver, and two and one-half to five years'
incarceration on the charge of Criminal Conspiracy. These
sentences are to run concurrently, and no further sentence
was imposed on the charge of possessing drug paraphernalia.
[Mr. Spreng] filed post-sentence motions, which this Court
denied on September 16, 2009. [Mr. Spreng] then filed a
timely Notice of Appeal on October 9, 2009, following which
this Court ordered him to file a Concise Statement of Matters
Complained of on Appeal pursuant ...