United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA
PAUPERIS ON APPEAL
MARK A. GOLDSMITH, Judge
NaQunn Blount filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Dkt. 1),
challenging his Macomb County Circuit Court no contest plea
convictions for two counts of first-degree criminal sexual
conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b (use of a weapon);
one count of armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529;
and one count of identity theft, Mich. Comp. Laws §
445.65. Petitioner was sentenced to concurrent 20 to 40
years' imprisonment for the sexual misconduct and robbery
convictions, and one to five years' imprisonment for the
identity theft conviction.
petition raises two claims: (i) Petitioner's no contest
plea was not knowing or voluntary where he was not informed
that his plea acted to waive antecedent claims of error, and
(ii) Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of
counsel where his attorney misled him as to the sentencing
consequences of his no contest plea. For the reasons stated
below, the Court denies the petition, declines to issue a
certificate of appealability, but grants permission to
proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.
convictions came about after he abducted a woman who was
walking along a sidewalk at night. Petitioner forced the
victim into an alley, raped her twice at knife-point, and
then stole some of her belongings.
pretrial hearing held a few days before trial was scheduled
to start, the prosecutor indicated that it was not making any
plea offers to Petitioner. The prosecutor informed the court
that Petitioner was on probation for armed robbery at the
time of the offense, the sentencing guidelines called for a
minimum sentence between 14 and 24 years, and the prosecution
would be seeking consecutive sentencing if it obtained a
conviction. 6/10/2014 Hr'g Tr. at 6-7 (Dkt. 9-10).
days later, Petitioner entered his no contest plea. 6/13/2014
Plea Tr. (Dkt. 9-11). The Court indicated that it understood
Petitioner was going to plead no contest to the four charged
offenses. Id. at 3. In exchange for the plea, the
prosecutor indicated that it would not seek consecutive
sentences. Id. at 4.
was place under oath and affirmed that he was pleading no
contest to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual
conduct, one count of armed robbery, and one count of
identity theft. Id. at 6-7. Petitioner indicated
that he was 18 years old and graduated from high school.
Id. at 7. He denied that he was under the influence
of drugs or alcohol. Id. He affirmed that he could
read and write. Id. Petitioner acknowledged his
understanding of his right to the assistance of counsel, he
affirmed that he had discussed the case with his attorney,
and he indicated that he was satisfied with the advice he
received. Id. at 7-8. Petitioner understood that, by
pleading no contest, he was waiving his right to a trial and
to all of his trial rights. Id. at 8. Petitioner
indicated that he read the advice of rights form, he
understood those rights, and he signed the form. Id.
stated that he was pleading no contest to the charges as the
result of his own choice to do so. Id. at 8.
Petitioner understood that the maximum sentence he could
receive as the result of his plea was life imprisonment.
Id. at 9. Petitioner understood he would also be
required to submit to lifetime electronic monitoring.
denied that he had been promised anything by the court, the
prosecutor, or his attorney with respect to any particular
sentence in exchange for his plea. Id. at 10. He
indicated that he had only been informed by his counsel what
the sentencing guidelines were. Id. The prosecutor
then explained that the guidelines might be calculated as
high as 270-to-450 months for Petitioner's minimum
sentence. Id. at 10-11. Petitioner agreed that he
was informed of this range. Id.
denied that anyone had tried to force him to enter his plea,
or that anyone mistreated him or pressured him. Id.
at 11. He denied that anyone had promised him that the court
would go easy on him if he entered his plea. Id.
Petitioner indicated that he was pleading no contest freely
and voluntarily because it was his own choice. Id.
Petitioner acknowledged his understanding that if his plea
was accepted, then any appeal would be by application for
leave to appeal and not as a matter of right. Id. at
11-12. Petitioner understood that a no contest plea would be
treated as a guilty plea for sentencing purposes.
Id. at 12.
prosecutor used a police and lab report to establish the
factual basis for the plea:
It indicates that on September 25, 2013, at approximately
2210 hours, defendant walked northbound on Van Dyke from 8
Mile following behind Shannon Cole, the victim, on the west
side of the sidewalk on Van Dyke. Defendant forcefully
grabbed victim's hair on the back of her head while
holding what victim believed was a knife to her throat.
Defendant poked the knife into the side of the victim, walked
the victim into the alley, slammed and hit the victim's
head causing victim to black out. Victim woke up with her
pants and underwear at her knees. Defendant walked victim
farther down an alley, knocking her to the ground, forced the
victim to perform fellatio on him and the defendant placed
his penis inside victim's vagina forcing sexual
intercourse. The victim was treated at St. John Macomb
Hospital and a SANE exam was completed. Defendant confessed
to the crime and wrote a statement.
I have a lab number here, SH 133043, from the Northville lab,
indicating that this semen that was recovered from the
vaginal wall, the swab from the SANE exam of Shannon Cole
that they matched the sperm and the DNA type of Naqunn
As far as the identity theft and the armed robbery, your
Honor, I will be citing from the police report, 1358171.
It's the same amount, it's the same night, same day.
After this happened, the sexual assault, Shannon, the victim,
stated the suspect took her government-issued cell phone,
credit card, and a bottle of her medication. While she was
being interviewed at the hospital, she checked her credit
card account from her phone just shortly after the sexual
assault, and she confirmed that two transactions had been
completed with the credit card stolen by the suspect. And we
also have a receipt from Speedway in Sterling Heights for
forty-eight fifty-six where he used her credit card to buy
Id. at 12-14.
indicated that he understood he was giving up any claim that
the plea was the result of any promises or threats that he
did not disclose. Id. at 14. He was also giving up
any claim that it was not his choice to enter the plea.
Id. Both attorneys denied knowledge of any promises,
threats, or inducements for the plea other than what was
placed on the record. Id.
indicated that he was on probation at the time of the
offense, and that the new conviction might have an adverse
effect on his probationary status. Id. at 15. After
all of this, the court found that Petitioner's plea was
knowing, freely, and voluntarily made. Id.
sentencing hearing, Petitioner initially indicated that he
did not want to go forward with his plea, which the court had
accepted but held under advisement. 7/24/2014 Sentencing Tr.
at 3 (Dkt. 9-12). The trial court was open to granting the
request, stating that Petitioner would be given an
opportunity to meet with his counsel and, “if you feel
you don't have the information and you don't want to
go forward and you want to withdraw your plea, I'm going
to set it for trial and then we'll all learn whatever it
is that you don't think you know. But, I'm done
dinging around with this, frankly. We're going to try the
case or we're going to resolve it. I have no preference
which one you do.” Id. at 4. After about a
half-hour recess, defense counsel informed the court that
Petitioner decided to proceed with the plea. Id. ...