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Dewey v. Haas

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

June 13, 2017

JOSHUA DEWEY, Petitioner,
RANDALL HAAS, Respondent.



         This is a habeas case filed by a Michigan prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner Joshua Dewey was convicted after he pled guilty in the Livingston Circuit Court to assault on a prison employee, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.197(c), and assault with intent to maim, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.86. Petitioner was sentenced to concurrent terms of 20 to 40 years' imprisonment. The petition raises two claims: (1) the trial court erred in failing to allow Petitioner to withdraw his guilty plea, and (2) the trial court erred in scoring the sentencing guidelines.

         The Court finds that petitioner's claims are without merit. Therefore, the petition will be denied. The Court will also deny a certificate of appealability, and deny permission to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. Background

         The incident giving rise to this case occurred on January 21, 2013, at the Woodlawn Correctional Facility where petitioner was a prisoner. On that date, petitioner threw a chair at a corrections officer and then dug his thumb into the officer's eye socket. Petitioner admitted under oath at the plea hearing that he intended to pop out the officer's eye or blind him. Dkt. 8-2, at 27. The entire altercation was recorded by a security video camera. Dkt. 8-3, at 12.

         After he was charged, the prosecutor moved to admit petitioner's prior criminal history under Michigan Rule of Evidence 404(b), which included eight prior felony convictions for assaulting a prison employee. A hearing was held on the motion, and after entertaining argument, the trial court stated that if petitioner's defense was that he did not intend to maim the officer, then evidence concerning the prior offenses would be allowed. Dkt. 8-2, at 12-14. A bench conference was then held off the record, and petitioner's counsel indicated that he had a discussion with his client, “and my client indicated to me that he wished to change his plea to a plea of guilty to an offer that the prosecutor had previously made at this settlement conference.” Id., at 15. Petitioner confirmed that this was a correct statement. Id.

         Defense counsel then indicated that the offer was for petitioner to plead guilty to the two charged offenses, and in return the prosecutor would amend the habitual offender charge to reduce Petitioner's minimum sentence from 25 years to 20 years. Id., at 16. Petitioner indicated his understanding. Id. Defense counsel further stated that under the sentencing agreement petitioner's maximum term would be at least 30 years or higher. Id. Again, petitioner indicated his understanding. Id. Defense counsel also stated that petitioner's sentence would run consecutively to time he was already serving, and petitioner indicated his understanding and his desire to enter into the plea bargain. Id., at 17.

         Petitioner was then placed under oath. Id., at 19. He indicated that he was 30 years old and had completed the eighth grade. Id., He indicated he could read and write. Id. Petitioner denied that he was under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance. Id. When asked what he was pleading guilty to, petitioner stated, “I'm pleading guilty to count one, assault with intent to maim. . . . [and] count two, assault of prison employee.” Id., at 19-20. He also acknowledged that he was charged with being a fourth-time habitual felony offender, and that the maximum possible sentence was life. Id.

         Petitioner indicated his understanding that his plea of guilty had the same effect as a conviction after a trial. Id., at 20. He indicated his understanding that his sentence would run consecutively to his present sentence. Id., at 21. Petitioner indicated his understanding of the nature of the charges against him, and he expressed satisfaction in his counsel's representation. Id., at 22.

         Petitioner was then advised of, and agreed to waive, each of his trial rights. Id., at 22-23. Petitioner also read and signed a written advice of rights form. Id., at 24. Petitioner indicated that he was pleading guilty because he really was guilty. Id. He agreed that it was his own choice to enter his plea. Id.

         Petitioner testified that on January 21, 2013, when he was a prisoner at the Woodlawn Correctional Facility he intentionally threw a plastic chair at a corrections officer, and then when the officer attempted to place him into custody he “reached up and put [his] finger into his eye and [he] gouged at his eye with an intent . . . to blind him or pop an eye . . . to gouge an eye out.” Id. 24-27. Petitioner stated that he understood that gouging someone's eye out would be a maiming or disfiguring injury. Id., at 27.

         The Court again asked petitioner if he was offering his plea voluntarily, and petitioner indicated that he was. Id., at 28-29. Petitioner stated he understood that by pleading guilty he was giving up any claim that the plea was the result of promises or threats that were not disclosed to the Court during the plea hearing. Id., at 29. Petitioner stated that everything he stated during the plea hearing was true and accurate. Id., at 30. The Court then found that petitioner's guilty plea was entered freely, voluntarily, understandingly, knowingly, and accurately. Id., at 30-31. Petitioner acknowledged that he was “not going to be able to withdraw from this plea as long as the Judge goes along with the sentencing agreement.” Id., at 34.

         At the sentencing hearing, petitioner indicated his desire to withdraw his guilty plea. Dkt. 8-3, at 7. He indicated that he had a history of PTSD from childhood, and that when the offense occurred he had a flashback of being traumatized by his father. Id. He indicated that the only reason he entered his plea was “because I was feeling threatened by the way the prosecutor was conducting herself, and the only reason I didn't act out is because I was scared by how many officers were in the courtroom. Also another reason I want to withdraw my plea is because at the time of the alleged offense my psychotropic medicines were being adjusted and my treating psychiatrist . . . was trying to stabilize me on my medicine.” Id., at 7-8. Petitioner also asserted that he was unstable in his thoughts and emotions. Id., at 8.

         Petitioner asserted that before leaving the facility for the plea hearing, “the MDOC transportation told me, ‘If you don't plead guilty, I'll activate the taser cuff.' . . . I was scared that I might die if she did this because I never had dealt with one of these in the past.” Id. The trial court denied the motion, finding that it presided over the plea hearing, and in the court's judgment the plea was entered knowingly, voluntarily, and understandingly. Id., at 8-9. In scoring the sentencing guidelines, petitioner was scored 50 points over defense counsel's objection for ...

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