United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
PARADISE BAXTER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court is the Petition For a Writ of Habeas Corpus
[ECF No. 8] filed by state prisoner Joseph Hensley
("Petitioner") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254. He challenges the judgment of sentence
imposed upon him in October 2016 by the Court of Common Pleas
of Warren County (the "trial court") at criminal
docket number CP-62-CR-528-2015. For the reasons that follow,
the Court will dismiss Petitioner's claims with prejudice
and deny a certificate of appealability.
November 2015, the Youngsville Borough Police Department in
Warren County, Pennsylvania, investigated a report of rape
made by a 15-year-old female who is identified in the record
by her initials, "K.K." She reported that on August
8, 2015, Petitioner forced her to have sexual intercourse
with him in his apartment. Officer Benjamin Leach interviewed
Petitioner about K.K.'s allegations and Petitioner gave a
statement in which he admitted that he had sexual intercourse
with K.K. on the date in question.
Commonwealth subsequently charged Petitioner with the
following offenses: Count 1-Rape Forcible Compulsion; Count
2-Statutory Sexual Assault, Complainant Between 4-8 Years of
Age; Count 3-Sexual Assault; Count 4-Aggravated Indecent
Assault, Complainant Less Than 16 Years of Age; Count
5-Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse ("IDSI")
Forcible Compulsion; Count 6-IDSI Person Less than 16 Years
of Age; Count 7-Indecent Assault Forcible Compulsion; and,
Count 8-Corruption of Minors.
trial court appointed John R. Parroccini, Esq., the Chief
Public Defender of Warren County, to represent Petitioner. In
January 2016, Petitioner filed a notice of alibi defense in
which he maintained that he was in the presence of Lynn
Ahlgren at the time K.K. stated the rape had occurred. He
also filed a motion to suppress the statement he gave to
Parroccini subsequently notified the trial court of a
conflict. In April 2016, the trial court appointed Elizabeth
A. Ziegler, Esq., an experienced criminal defense attorney
(PCRA Hr'g Tr., 6/21/18, at 5), to represent Petitioner.
Following a hearing held on May 17, 2016, the trial court
denied Petitioner's motion to suppress.
trial was scheduled to be held in July 2016. Prior to it, he
entered an agreement with the Commonwealth in which he would
plead guilty to Count 4-Aggravated Indecent Assault,
Complainant Less Than 16 Years of Age, and in exchange the
Commonwealth would file a nolle prosequi on the
remaining counts. At the plea hearing, which was held on June
6, 2016, Petitioner stated that he understood what he was
doing, that he was entering his plea on his own free will,
and that no one forced or coerced him to enter his plea or
promised him that he would receive a certain sentence. (Plea
Hr'g Tr., 6/6/16, at 5-6). In response to a question from
the trial court, Attorney Ziegler stated that she advised
Petitioner of the effects of entering his plea and of the
permissible range of sentences that the trial court could
impose. (Id. at 7). Petitioner told the trial court
that he was satisfied with Attorney Ziegler's advice and
that he believed that she had provided him with effective
representation. (Id.) Petitioner then pleaded guilty
to Count 4:
The Court: [At Count 4], you are accused that you did engage
in penetration, however slight, of the genitals or anus of
another person with a part of your body for any purpose other
than good-faith medical hygienic or law enforcement
procedures, and that you were over the age of 18 and the
victim was under the age of 16.
To wit, that you being 20 years of age, did engage in
penetration, however slight, of the genitals of the victim,
KK, 15 years of age. Do you admit to that conduct, sir?
[Petitioner]: Yes, your Honor.
The Court: How do you plead to count four?
(Id. at 9).
trial court sentenced Petitioner at a hearing held on October
7, 2016. At this hearing, Petitioner stated that he had
spoken to Attorney Ziegler about his potential sentence.
(Sent. Hr'g Tr., 10/7/16, at 9-12). When the trial court
asked him if there was anything else he would like to say
about the circumstances of the offense, Petitioner replied
that "[i]t wasn't what it sounded like[, ]" and
suggested that the victim was not credible. (Id. at
15-16). The prosecutor immediately interjected and reminded
Petitioner that he admitted under oath that he committed the
offense for which he was being sentenced. (Id. at
16). At the conclusion of the hearing, the court sentenced
Petitioner to a term of 36 to 108 months' imprisonment, a
sentencing which is at the high end of the standard range.
October 11, 2016, Petitioner, through Attorney Ziegler, filed
a post-sentence motion asking the trial court to reconsider
its sentence. Petitioner told Attorney Ziegler that he wanted
to file a direct appeal if that motion was unsuccessful, but
by letter dated October 28, 2016,  she explained to him that I
he had no grounds to challenge either his guilty plea or
sentence in a direct appeal because he voluntarily entered
his plea, the trial court had jurisdiction, and his sentence
was not illegal. (PCRA Hr'g Tr., 6/21/18, at 10-13).
Attorney Ziegler further explained to Petitioner that if he
wanted to challenge his guilty plea on the grounds that she
had provided him with ineffective assistance of counsel in
advising him to enter it, he had to raise ...