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Bowen v. Ferguson

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 20, 2017

STEPHEN C. BOWEN, III, Petitioner
v.
TAMMY FERGUSON, et al., Respondents

          MEMORANDUM

          William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Pursuant to the mailbox rule, on October 20, 2016, Stephen C. Bowen, a state inmate incarcerated at the Benner Township State Correctional Institution (SCI-Benner), in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, filed this habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He challenges his 2011 conviction in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania, for fleeing or attempting to elude police and driving under the influence of a controlled substance. (ECF No. 1, Pet.)

         Respondent asserts that the Petition is time-barred and, in the alternative, argues that Bowen has failed to exhaust his state-court remedies on all of the claims raised. Presently before the court is Bowen's motion to withdraw his Petition so he may exhaust his state-court remedies (ECF No. 12) and his motion for equitable tolling of the limitations period. (ECF No. 14).

         For the reasons that follow, Bowen's motions will denied and his Petition dismissed as time-barred. No certificate of appealability will be issued.

         II. Background and Procedural History

         On April 5, 2011, Bowen was convicted in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania, for fleeing or attempting to elude police and driving under the influence of a controlled substance. See Commonwealth v. Bowen, CP-67-CR-2096-2010 (Pa. Ct. Com. Pl. York Cnty.)[1] Petitioner was sentenced on June 1, 2011, and received a term of imprisonment of three and one-half years to seven years. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed Bowen's conviction and sentence on direct appeal on October 3, 2012. See Commonwealth v. Bowen, 1798 MDA 2011 (Pa. Super. 2012). On April 9, 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Bowen's Petition for Allowance of Appeal. Commonwealth v. Bowen, 867 MAL 2012 (Pa. 2012).

         On July 7, 2014, Bowen filed a petition under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA). 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9541-9546. His motion was denied on February 18, 2015. On March 23, 2015, Bowen filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court. The appeal was denied on June 1, 2016. Commonwealth v. Bowen, 514 MDA 2015 (Pa. Super. 2016). Bowen did not file a petition for allowance of appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

         Bowen filed his habeas petition on October 20, 2016. (ECF No. 1, Pet.) He alleged that his “lawyers all told [him] that an illegal sentence has no time bar.” (Id., p. 13.) Respondent argues that the Petition is time-barred. (ECF No. 9, Resp.) In his Reply, Bowen contends that “[e]quitable tolling is not now nor will it ever be an issue in [his] § 2254, due to it having been filed well within one year of the Pennsylvania Superior Court . . . having affirmed the lower court's ruling on 1 June, 2015.” (ECF No. 13, Reply, p. 2.)

         Bowen also filed a motion to withdraw his Petition (ECF No. 12) so that he may return to state court to address his unexhausted claims.

         He then filed a motion for equitable tolling of the limitations period, asserting that he has diligently pursued appeal of his conviction. (ECF No. 14). He contends that the “extraordinary demands of successfully completing the Therapeutic Community was the precluding factor which impeded [his] ability to fully investigate the valid § 2254 claims contained” in his Petition. (Id., p. 1). Bowen does not provide any specific start or completion dates of his participation in the Therapeutic Community. Conceding that his petition is time-barred, he adds that he “was unaware that the tolling began when the P.C.R.A. time began. Petitioner was under the impression that the tolling did not begin until ‘ALL' state remedies were exhausted. Petitioner prays that [the Court] forgives petitioner's misunderstanding of the tolling procedure.” (ECF No. 15, p. 2).

         III. Discussion

         A. Relevant Law

         A petitioner confined under a state-court judgment has one year to file a 2254 petition challenging the judgment. See 28 U.S.C. §2244(d)(1). As relevant here, the limitations period runs from the “date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” Id. This language applies to the right to seek certiorari review in the United States Supreme Court and means that the judgment does not become final until the ...


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