United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE HABEAS CORPUS PETITION,
DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL
HONORABLE PAUL D. BORMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Anthony Gerald Laginess has filed a pro se habeas
corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The petition
challenges Petitioner's conviction for one count of
acceptance of a bribe by a public official. See
Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.118. Petitioner alleges as
grounds for relief that his trial attorney was
constitutionally ineffective and that the prosecutor
committed misconduct. The State argues in an answer to the
petition that Petitioner procedurally defaulted his
prosecutorial-misconduct claim and that the state courts'
rejection of Petitioner's claims did not result in
decisions that were contrary to federal law, unreasonable
applications of federal law, or unreasonable determinations
of the facts. Having reviewed the pleadings and record, the
Court concludes that Petitioner's claims lack merit.
Accordingly, the petition will be denied.
charge against Petitioner arose when the Michigan Attorney
General investigated Adam Korejsza's contractual dealings
with the City of River Rouge, Michigan. During the
investigation, Korejsza told the authorities that he had
obtained a drug-prescription contract with the City by
bribing Petitioner, who was a city councilman at the time.
Korejsza ultimately pleaded guilty to several charges,
including embezzlement, in return for a favorable sentence.
was charged with accepting Korejsza's bribe in return for
his vote on Korejsza's bid to win the drug-prescription
contract with the City of River Rouge. As explained by the
state court, Petitioner's criminal conduct
occurred between September 1, 2006 and January 1, 2007,
during which time [Petitioner] was a member of the River
Rouge City Council. For several weeks in the fall of 2006,
the City Council was involved in the process of choosing a
new healthcare provider for city employees and retirees.
Several different companies were bidding on the contract and
making presentations to the mayor and the City Council as
part of the bidding process. The prosecution alleged that
[Petitioner] accepted a $5, 000 bribe from Adam Korejsza, a
representative of one of the companies, in exchange for his
vote to award that vendor the contract.
People v. Laginess, No. 306965, 2013 WL 275918, at
*1 (Mich. Ct. App. Jan. 24, 2013).
Petitioner's jury trial in Wayne County Circuit Court,
Korejsza testified that
he approached [Petitioner] after one of the city council
meetings and asked him what it was going to take for him to
change his vote, and [Petitioner] responded with “five
grand or five racks or something like that, ” which
Korejsza took to mean $5, 000. Korejsza testified that just a
few days later, and before the city council vote, he met
[Petitioner] behind a bar near River Rouge city hall and gave
him $5, 000 cash in an envelope.
[Petitioner], who had previously been adamantly opposed to
awarding the contract to Korejsza's company, ultimately
voted to do just that. [Petitioner] testified that he changed
his mind based on advice from several people, including city
September 27, 2011, the jury found Petitioner guilty, as
charged, of acceptance of a bribe by a public official. On
October 19, 2011, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to
imprisonment for seventeen months to ten years.
moved for a new trial and an evidentiary hearing on grounds
that the prosecutor withheld favorable evidence from him and
committed other misconduct and that his trial attorney
deprived him of effective assistance. The trial court held
oral arguments on Petitioner's motion and then denied the
motion. Petitioner subsequently raised his habeas claims and
a sentencing argument in an appeal of right. A panel of the
Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's
conviction and sentence in an unpublished, per
curiam decision, see id.,  and on October
28, 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal
because it was not persuaded to review the issues. See
People v. Laginess, 495 Mich. 880 (2013) (table).
April 21, 2014, Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition.
He argues that his trial attorney's omissions resulted in
ineffective assistance and that the prosecutor withheld
favorable evidence from him and committed other misconduct.
Standard of Review
statutory authority of federal courts to issue habeas corpus
relief for persons in state custody is provided by 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA).” Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 97 (2011). Pursuant to §
2254, the Court may not grant a state prisoner's
application for the writ of habeas corpus unless the state
court's adjudication of the prisoner's claims on the
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States;
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
Under the “contrary to” clause [of §
2254(d)(1)], a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the
state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached
by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state
court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has
on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Under the
“unreasonable application” clause [of §
2254(d)(1)], a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the
state court identifies the correct governing legal principle
from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably
applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000)
(O'Connor, J., opinion of the Court for Part II).
“[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply
because that court concludes in its independent judgment that
the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established
federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that
application must also be unreasonable.” Id. at
thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for
evaluating state-court rulings, ' Lindh v.
Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333, n. 7 (1997), and
‘demands that state-court decisions be given the
benefit of the doubt, ' Woodford v. Visciotti,
537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam).”
Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010). “A
state court's determination that a claim lacks merit
precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded
jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state
court's decision.” Richter, 562 U.S. at
101 (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652,
664 (2004)). To obtain a writ of habeas corpus from a federal
court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's
ruling on his or her claim “was so lacking in
justification that there was an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
fairminded disagreement.” Id. at 103.
raises several issues concerning his trial attorney. There
can be “no dispute that the clearly established federal
law here is Strickland v. Washington, ” 466
U.S. 668 (1984). Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170,
189 (2011). Under Strickland, a defendant must show
“that counsel's performance was deficient”
and “that the deficient performance prejudiced the
defense.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687.
“Unless a defendant makes both showings, it cannot be
said that the conviction . . . resulted from a breakdown in
the adversary process that renders the result
“deficient performance” prong of the
Strickland test “requires showing that counsel
made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as
the ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth
Amendment.” Id. “Judicial scrutiny of
counsel's performance must be highly deferential.”
Id. at 689.
demonstrate that counsel's performance prejudiced the
defense, a defendant must show “a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceeding would have been
different. A reasonable probability is a probability
sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.”
Id. at 694. “This does not require a showing
that counsel's actions ‘more likely than not
altered the outcome, ' ” but “[t]he
likelihood of a different result must be substantial, not
just conceivable.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 111-12
(quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 693).
of an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim is
“doubly deferential” under
because counsel is “strongly presumed to have rendered
adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the
exercise of reasonable professional judgment, ”
Burt v. Titlow, 571 U.S. __, __, 134 S.Ct. 10, 17,
187 L.Ed.2d 348 (2013) (quoting Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 690, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80
L.Ed.2d 674 (1984); internal quotation marks omitted). In
such circumstances, federal courts are to afford “both
the state court and the defense attorney the benefit of the
doubt.” Burt, supra, at __, 134 S.Ct., at 13.
Woods v. Etherton, 136 S.Ct. 1149, 1151 (2016)
Trial Counsel's Alleged Failure to Request Critical
claims that his trial attorney was ineffective for failing to
request critical material that could have been used to
impeach the prosecution's witnesses. The material in
question consisted of Korejsza's written plea agreement
with the prosecution and pre-trial statements made by other
Korejsza's Plea Agreement
alleges that defense counsel should have moved to produce and
unseal Korejsza's written plea agreement with the
prosecutor. Petitioner contends that the precise terms of the
plea agreement were never disclosed to him and that defense
counsel needed to know the full parameters of the plea
agreement to impugn Korejsza's integrity, to neutralize
his testimony, and to provide the jury with critical
information regarding Korejsza's motive and credibility.
Michigan Court of Appeals determined on review of
Petitioner's claim that defense counsel was aware of the
contents of the plea agreement and that his failure to move
to unseal the entire plea agreement did not deprive
Petitioner of a substantial defense. The Court of Appeals
noted that the jurors were made aware of Korejska's plea
agreement, his felony convictions, his incarceration, and his
sentence and yet found his testimony credible enough to
convict Petitioner. The Court of Appeals concluded that, even
if defense counsel's failure to move to unseal the entire
plea agreement fell below a standard of reasonableness, there
was not a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
error, the result of the proceedings would have been
state court's factual findings are supported by the
record, which indicates that defense counsel asked the
prosecutor for a copy of Korejsza's written plea
agreement. The prosecutor responded by explaining that the
trial judge in Korejsza's case had sealed the plea
agreement at the request of Korejsza's attorney. The
prosecutor nevertheless provided defense counsel with a copy
of Korejsza's plea agreement with her office, as well as
the affidavit supporting the investigatory arrest warrant.
See prosecutor Alison A. Furtaw's letter to
Petitioner's trial attorney on May 18, 2011, ECF No. 9-8,
Pg ID 1746; see also 3/10/12 Post-Conviction Mot.
Hr'g at 5, 15-16.
Petitioner's trial, the prosecutor asked Korejsza's
trial judge to unseal the plea agreement for purposes of the
hearing on Petitioner's post-conviction motion.
Korejsza's judge denied the prosecutor's request.
(3/30/12 Post-Conviction Mot. Hr'g at 4-5.) Although the
judge subsequently granted the prosecutor's request for
disclosure of the agreement, see People v. Koresjza
(sic), No. 10-4218-FH, Opinion and Order (Wayne Cty.
Cir. Ct. June 4, 2012), it is clear that a pretrial motion
from defense counsel to produce and unseal the plea agreement