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Stoltzfoos v. Wetzel

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 27, 2017

LEVI LAPP STOLTZFOOS
v.
JOHN E. WETZEL, et al.

          ORDER

          Legrome D. Davis, J.

         AND NOW, this 27th day of February 2017, upon careful and independent consideration of Petitioner Levi Lapp Stoltzfoos's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. No. 1), the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Richard A. Lloret (Doc. No. 21), and Petitioner's objections thereto (Doc. No. 42), it is hereby ORDERED as follows:

1. Petitioner's objections to the Report and Recommendation are OVERRULED.
2. The Report and Recommendation is APPROVED and ADOPTED.
3. The Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. No. 1) is DISMISSED without an evidentiary hearing.
4. A certificate of appealability SHALL NOT issue, in that the Petitioner has not demonstrated that reasonable jurists would find the correctness of the procedural aspects of this ruling debatable. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000).
5. The Clerk of Court is directed to close this matter for statistical purposes.

         I. Background

         Over the course of several weeks in January and February 2006, Petitioner made cash deposits totaling $541, 100 at ten different Pennsylvania banks. R. & R. (Doc. No. 21), at 2. He deposited the money in fifty-eight separate transactions, almost all of which were between nine and ten thousand dollars. Id., at 2-3. In doing so, Petitioner evaded reporting requirements imposed on banks by federal law; the regulations require all cash deposits exceeding ten thousand dollars to be reported. See 31 C.F.R. § 1010.311.

         A jury convicted Petitioner of fifty-eight counts of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5111(a)(3).[1] R. & R., at 4. Petitioner appealed his conviction, which was affirmed by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in 2010; an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was summarily denied. Id. Petitioner filed a series of collateral challenges under Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act, but these were rejected. Id., at 4-5.

         A petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed in this Court in November 2013. Pet. (Doc. No. 1). Magistrate Judge Lloret issued a Report and Recommendation that the petition be dismissed, and this Court approved and adopted that report after the appropriate period had passed without the filing of any objections. April 29, 2015 Order (Doc. No. 23). Petitioner then filed two requests for appointment of counsel, which this Court denied. See March 14, 2016 Order (Doc. No. 27); March 28, 2016 Order (Doc. No. 31). An appeal followed, and the Third Circuit summarily vacated and remanded for further consideration of Petitioner's filings. Stoltzfoos v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Corr., No. 16-1821 (3d. Cir. Aug. 17, 2016). This Court subsequently appointed counsel to represent Petitioner, and counsel filed objections to the report and recommendation in November 2016. Aug. 23, 2016 Order (Doc. No. 35); Objections to R. & R. (Doc. No. 42).

         II. Legal Standard

         When reviewing a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation, the district court must make “a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). But a federal habeas court's underlying consideration of a state prisoner's habeas petition is “constrain[ed] . . . with respect to claims adjudicated on the merits in state court” by the standards of review set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000). “AEDPA increases the deference federal courts must give to the factual findings and legal determinations of the state courts.” Werts v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d 178, 196 (3d Cir. 2000).

         For questions of law, relief may only be granted if the state court decision was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). A decision is contrary to clearly established law if it is “diametrically different” or “mutually opposed” to that law. Williams, 529 U.S. at 364. A decision involves an unreasonable application of the law if it either “correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies it unreasonably to the facts of a ...


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