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Truesdale v. Marsh

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 11, 2019

DR. ROBERT MARSH, et al., Respondents.



         Before the Court for Report and Recommendation is the pro se petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed by Travis Truesdale, a state prisoner confined at SCI-Benner in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Truesdale was sentenced to an aggregate term of 35 to 70 years following his conviction to charges of rape, unlawful contact with a minor, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (“ISDI”), and unlawful restraint in No. CP-51-CR-0014665-2011. Petitioner entered a non-negotiated guilty plea to these charges on January 4, 2013 in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and now seeks habeas relief on grounds relating to the lawfulness of his plea, the alleged ineffective assistance of counsel relating to the entry of the plea, and counsel's failure to seek the recusal of the court. As we set out below, Truesdale's petition was not filed within the time period set forth by the governing statute. We are filing this Memorandum in support of our order to Petitioner to show cause why this matter should not be dismissed as untimely.


         Following entry of what is characterized on the docket as a “non-negotiated” guilty plea on July 20, 2012, Truesdale was convicted of rape, unlawful contact with a minor, ISDI, and unlawful restraint. Several other charges that had been filed related to the incident, which occurred on October 15, 2011, were nolle prossed. Sentencing was deferred pending a sex offender assessment. On January 4, 2013, the court sentenced Truesdale to a term of incarceration of 10-20 years for the rape conviction, a consecutive term of 10-20 years for the unlawful contact with a minor conviction, a further consecutive term of 10-20 years for the ISDI conviction, and a further consecutive term of 5-10 years for the unlawful restraint conviction. (CP Crim. Dkt. at 1-9.)

         The defense filed a motion on January 14, 2013 seeking reconsideration of the sentence, which the court denied on January 31, 2013. In its order, the court also permitted defense counsel to withdraw and identified a new attorney “to be appointed for the purposes of appeal processes.” (Id. at 9.) That attorney did not promptly enter his appearance, but on May 24, 2013, the court reinstated Truesdale's direct appeal rights and on May 31, 2013, appointed appellate counsel filed a notice of appeal to the Superior Court. (Id. at 9-10.) On May 22, 2014, the Superior Court affirmed the conviction. Commonwealth v. Trusedale, No. 1593 EDA 2013, 2014 WL 10936943 (Pa. Super. Ct. May 22, 2014). Petitioner did not seek allowance of appeal in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

         On March 6, 2015, Truesdale filed a pro se PCRA petition. Beginning at this point, the trajectory of his case was coupled with that of an unrelated conviction, in No. CP-51-CR- 0014556-2011. As reflected on both cases' dockets, counsel was appointed and filed an amended petition on July 20, 2016. The PCRA Court dismissed the petition on May 25, 2017 and counsel pursued an appeal to the Superior Court, which affirmed on June 12, 2018. The docket and opinion in that appeal reflected that the appeal was from the PCRA Order of May 25, 2017 at both CP-51-CR-0014556-2011 and CP-51-CR-0014665-2011. Commonwealth v. Trusedale, No. 1893 EDA 2017, 2018 WL 2929107 (Pa. Super. Ct. June 12, 2018). Petitioner sought further review, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allowance of appeal on December 19, 2018. Commonwealth v. Trusedale, No. 310 EAL 2018.

         Truesdale submitted a pro se § 2254 habeas petition to this Court on May 19, 2019, which was docketed on May 24, 2019 at Civil Action No. 19-2296. It identified that conviction challenged as both of the CP cases described above. On June 10, 2019, the Honorable Berle M. Schiller referred the petition to me for preparation of a Report and Recommendation. Upon our recommendation, the Court severed the two cases, such that the challenge to the convictions of rape, etc., at CP-51-CR-0014665-2011 remain in this civil action. Petitioner's challenge to his unrelated conviction of robbery, etc., at CP-51-CR-0014556-2011, is now being addressed at Civil Action No. 19-3920. Both matters are before me for Report and Recommendation.

         We have not yet required that an answer to the petition be filed by the Philadelphia District Attorney. See Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Habeas Petitions (contemplating initial review by the court before ordering that an answer to the petition be filed). Before filing our Report and making our Recommendation, however, we find it proper to give Petitioner an opportunity to be heard on one of the specific procedural defects apparent in his present petition.


         Upon our review of the petition, we observed that when asked on the form petition to “explain why the one-year statute of limitations as contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)[2] does not bar [his] petition, ” Truesdale responded: “N/A.” (Pet. at 17.) Unlike Petitioner, we find this provision to appear quite applicable to his petition. As we set out below, we will highlight this significant potential procedural hurdle in order that Truesdale will have an opportunity to come forward with any facts that might support a finding that he satisfies the statute of limitations or that he qualifies for any exception to dismissal on timeliness grounds.

         A. Timeliness

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), legislation that pre-dates Petitioner's convictions, imposed a one-year period of limitations for the filing of an application for a writ of habeas corpus. The statute provides:

(1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of B
(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time ...

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