United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Mehalchick Magistrate Judge.
William J. Nealon United States District Judge.
January 7, 2014, Petitioner, Thomas Benjamin Ellington, an
inmate formerly confined at SCI-Forest in Marienville,
Pennsylvania, filed a pro se petition for habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1).
Petitioner has since been paroled and currently reside in
Georgia. (Doc. 28).
October 3, 2017, Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick issued
a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”)
recommending that the petition be denied and dismissed with
prejudice. (Doc. 38). Neither party has filed objections and
the matter is now ripe for review. For the reasons discussed
herein, the R&R will be adopted, and the petition will be
denied and dismissed with prejudice.
neither party objects to a magistrate judge's report and
recommendation, the district court is not statutorily
required to review the report, under de novo or any
other standard. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 152
(1985); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Nevertheless, the
Third Circuit Court of Appeals has held that it is better
practice to afford some level of review to dispositive legal
issues raised by the report. Henderson v. Carlson,
812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987), writ denied, 484
U.S. 837 (1987); Garcia v. I..N.S., 733 F.Supp.
1554, 1555 (M.D. Pa. 1990) (Kosik, J.) (stating “the
district court need only review the record for plain error or
manifest injustice”). In the absence of objections,
review may properly be limited to ascertaining whether there
is clear error that not only affects the rights of the
plaintiff, but also seriously affects the integrity,
fairness, or public reputation of judicial proceedings.
Cruz v. Chater, 990 F.Supp. 375, 377 (M.D. Pa. 1998)
(Vanaskie, J.). The district court may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations
contained in the report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); M.D.
Pa. L.R. 72.3.
Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Mehalchick
provides the factual and procedural background of the case
and the applicable standards of review for a Section 2254
petition, all of which are herein adopted. (Doc. 38, pp.
1-6). Ultimately, Magistrate Judge Mehachick concludes the
following: (1) for Ground Four of the petition that
Petitioner was denied due process by not being provided with
video footage from the prosecution, this claim, which was
construed as a Brady violation, should be dismissed
because “failing to preserve ‘potentially useful
evidence' does not violate due process unless the
defendant shows that the police acted in bad faith, ”
which Petitioner has not proven in the case at hand, and
because, if no footage existed, the officer was at most
negligent in failing to report the camera malfunction, and
negligence does not amount to a due process violation; (2)
for Ground Seven of the petition that the trial court abused
its discretion in its handling of the suppression motion,
this claim should be dismissed because it was not
procedurally exhausted in state court or in a PCRA petition,
and Petitioner's claim that procedural exhaustion should
be excused due to ineffective assistance of counsel for
failure to raise abuse of discretion errors on the part of
the trial court and suppression court fail due to lack of
evidence; (3) for Ground Eight of Ineffective Assistance of
PCRA Counsel, this claim should be dismissed because it is
“well-established that claims of ineffective assistance
of PCRA counsel are not cognizable on federal habeas
review”; (4) for Ground One of the Ineffective
Assistance of Pre-Trial Counsel, this claim, including all of
its sub-points, should be dismissed because any claimed
ineffective assistance does not establish deficient
performance in accordance with Strickland as
Petitioner has not demonstrated “any reasonable
probability that the result of the proceeding would have been
different but for LaBar's actions” and because the
PCRA court did not unreasonably apply the Strickland
standard in determining this claim failed on the merits; (5)
for Ground Two of Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel,
this claim, including all of its sub-points, should be
dismissed because the “PCRA [c]ourt was not objectively
unreasonable in its conclusion that [Petitioner]'s
ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim failed on it
merits”; (6) for Ground Three of Ineffective Assistance
of Post-Trial Counsel, this claim should be dismissed because
“Strickland does not require counsel ‘to
investigate every conceivable line of mitigating evidence no
matter how unlikely the effort would be to assist the
[petitioner] at sentencing ... nor does Strickland
require counsel to present such evidence at sentencing in
every case, '” and because there is no evidence
that LaBar's actions were unreasonable or that Petitioner
was prejudiced; (7) for Ground Five of Denial of Due Process
at Every Critical Stage of Proceedings, this claim should be
dismissed because, in a challenge for vagueness of the
charges based on a lack of specified distance, a
“statute does not require ‘perfect clarity'
to be constitutional” and because 75 Pa.C.S.A. §
3310 is “sufficiently definite to survive
[Petitioner]'s constitutional challenge”; and (8)
for Ground Six of Denial of Due Process at Trial, this claim
should be dismissed because this assertion involves
restatements of Petitioner's ineffective assistance of
counsel claims already raised. (Doc. 38, pp. 6-37).
Ultimately, the Magistrate Judge recommends that, for the
reasons discussed, the petition be denied and dismissed with
prejudice. (Doc. 7, p. 5).
review, and in the absence of objections, because there is no
clear error with Magistrate Judge Mehalchick's Report and
Recommendation, it will be adopted as such, and the ...