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Vela v. Superintendent-Sci Forest

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 13, 2020

ALLEN WADE VELA, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT - SCI FOREST, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, and THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY-JEFFERSON COUNTY, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          Cynthia Reed Eddy Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus (ECF No. 1) filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 by state prisoner Allen Wade Vela (“Petitioner” or “Vela”), in which he is challenging the judgment of sentence imposed on him by the Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County, Pennsylvania on December 6, 2004. Respondents have filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5), arguing that the instant Petition is barred by the AEDPA statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. §2254(d). Petitioner filed a Reply in opposition (ECF No. 7). The matter is ripe for disposition.

         For the reasons set forth below, the petition for writ of habeas corpus will be dismissed as untimely, and a certificate of appealability will be denied.

         I. Procedural History[2]

         Vela, after a one-day jury trial, was convicted of multiple charges of sexual assault against a minor. He was sentenced on December 6, 2004, to a minimum of thirty-four (34) years to a maximum of eighty (80) years. He timely filed a direct appeal of his judgment of sentence with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. On May 3, 2006, the Superior Court affirmed Vela's judgment of sentence. He did not file a request for a petition for allowance of appeal (“PAA”). His judgment, therefore, became final on June 2, 2006, thirty (30) days after the Superior Court affirmed his judgment.

         On April 23, 2007, Vela filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction collateral relief under the Post-Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”). The PCRA Court denied the petition on October 29, 2007, and the Superior Court affirmed the denial of the petition on January 30, 2009. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Vela's PAA on August 26, 2009.

         On September 3, 2019, Vela commenced this case by the filing of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. The certification signed by Vela indicates that he placed the petition in the prison mailing system on July 28, 2019. (ECF No. 1 at 18).

         Respondents have filed the instant motion to dismiss in which they argue that the petition is untimely and that Vela pleads no exceptional circumstances requiring the tolling of the statute of limitations. (ECF No. 5). Vela filed a response in which he acknowledges that his petition was untimely filed and rather than explaining why the statute of limitations should be tolled in the case largely focuses on the substance and merits of his claims. (ECF No. 7). The matter is ripe for disposition.

         II. Discussion

         A. Timeliness

         This proceeding is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), the federal habeas statute applicable to state prisoners. AEDPA imposes a one-year limitations period for a state prisoner to file a federal habeas petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Generally, the limitations period begins to run on the date the judgment of sentence becomes final “by the conclusion of direct review or upon the expiration of time for seeking such review.” Id. § 2244(d)(1)(A); see Gonzales v. Thaler, 565 U.S. 134 (2012). This limitations period also may be statutorily or equitably tolled for various circumstances. Id. at § 2244(d)(1); Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 645 (2010).

         Vela's claims are subject to dismissal under AEDPA's one year statute of limitations. Vela's sentence became final, for AEDPA purposes, on June 2, 2006, when the thirty (30) day deadline to file an appeal with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania expired. PA Rule of Appellate Procedure 903(a). Under AEDPA, Vela needed to file his federal habeas petition within one year of that date. Since Vela did not file the instant petition until 2019, the petition is facially untimely and must be dismissed unless Vela can show that the limitations period should be tolled, either statutorily or equitably.

         B. Statutory Tolling

         Section 2244(d)(2) provides that “[t]he time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection.” 28 U.S.C. § ...


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