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Keefe v. Klee

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

August 31, 2017

AARON L. KEEFE, #671487, Petitioner,
v.
PAUL KLEE, Respondent.

          OPINION & ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, & DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL

          Denise Page Hood, Chief Judge, United States District Court

         I. Introduction

         This is a habeas case brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Michigan prisoner Aaron L. Keefe (“Petitioner”) pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (victim under 13 years of age), Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b(1)(a), in the Livingston County Circuit Court and was sentenced to concurrent terms of 23 to 50 years imprisonment in 2014. In his petition, he raises claims concerning the validity of his sentence and the effectiveness of defense counsel. For the reasons stated herein, the Court denies the habeas petition. The Court also denies a certificate of appealability and denies leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.

         II. Facts and Procedural History

         Petitioner's convictions arise from his sexual assault of his girlfriend's son in Livingston County, Michigan on multiple occasions between September, 2006 and September, 2009 when Petitioner was 17 to 20 years old and the boy was 5 to 8 years old. On June 6, 2014, Petitioner pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in exchange for the dismissal of two additional charges and an agreement that he would not be subject to a 25-year minimum sentence and would not be subject to consecutive sentences. The parties acknowledged that he faced a life sentence and that the minimum sentencing guideline range was 171 months (14 years 3 months) to 285 months (23 years 9 months) imprisonment.

         On July 23, 2014, the trial court conducted a sentencing hearing. At that hearing, defense counsel objected to the scoring of Prior Record Variable 4 and Offense Variable 19. The trial rejected those arguments and confirmed that the minimum sentencing guideline range was properly scored at 171 months to 285 months imprisonment. Defense counsel had no further objections. The prosecutor requested a sentence of 285 months to 75 years imprisonment. Defense counsel requested a sentence at the low end of the guideline range. In support of this request, counsel presented mitigating factors, including Petitioner's unstable childhood, his moderate closed head injury, his mental health condition, his remorse, and his family support. Petitioner, on his own behalf, also discussed his prison misconducts, his history of incarceration, and his desire to redeem himself. The trial court then sentenced Petitioner to concurrent terms of 23 to 50 years imprisonment.

         Following sentencing, Petitioner filed a delayed application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals raising the same claims presented on habeas review. The court denied the application for lack of merit in the grounds presented. People v. Keefe, No. 324910 (Mich. Ct. App. Jan. 21, 2015) (unpublished). Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied. People v. Keefe, 498 Mich. 962, 872 N.W.2d 688 (2015).

         Petitioner thereafter filed his federal habeas petition. He raises the following claims:

I. The trial court unlawfully deprived him of his due process, equal protection, and other protected rights under the United States and Michigan Constitutions when it scored 10 points on OV-4, 15 points on OV-8, and 15 points on OV-19; on plain error and/or ineffective assistance of counsel grounds this court should review the scoring of OV-4 and OV-8.
II. The trial court unlawfully violated the United States and Michigan Constitutions in sentencing him to concurrent prison terms of 23 to 50 years on the two CSC-1 convictions; on plain error and/or ineffective assistance of counsel grounds this Court should review this issue.

         Respondent has filed an answer to the petition contending that it should be denied because the claims are not cognizable and/or lack of merit. Petitioner has filed a reply to that answer reiterating his claims.

         III. Standard of Review

         Federal law imposes the following standard of review for habeas cases:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the ...

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