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Williams v. Bauman

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

September 26, 2017

HENRY LOUIS WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
CATHERINE S. BAUMAN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [ECF #9], DENYING THE HABEAS PETITION [ECF #1], DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter has come before the Court on petitioner Henry Louis Williams' pro se Habeas Corpus Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (ECF #1) and Respondent's Motion to Dismiss the Petition (ECF #9). The Petition challenges Williams' Oakland County convictions for armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.157a, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529, and conspiracy to commit first-degree home invasion, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.157a, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.110a(2). Williams alleges as grounds for relief that (1) the trial court abused its discretion by failing to abide by the sentencing agreement, (2) offense variables 1 through 3 of the Michigan sentencing guidelines were scored incorrectly, (3) the trial court abused its discretion when scoring offense variable 10 of the sentencing guidelines; and (4) his guilty plea was involuntary because it was based on erroneous advice from counsel. Respondent urges the Court to dismiss the Petition on the grounds that Petitioner failed to exhaust state remedies for his claims and that his claims are moot. The Court has concluded from a review of the pleadings and state-court record that Petitioner's claims are moot, not cognizable on habeas review, or meritless. Accordingly, the Court will GRANT Respondent's Motion and DENY the Habeas Petition.

         I

         The charges against Williams arose from an incident that occurred on April 30, 2014. On that date, Petitioner and his three co-defendants went to a house in Bloomfield Hills to steal jewelry, money, or other valuable things. One of the co-defendants knew the homeowner and anticipated that the homeowner would be away at the time. However, when the group of four arrived at the house, they discovered that the homeowner was inside the house. The group then went to Detroit, picked up a gun, and returned to the house. Williams stood outside the house and acted as a “lookout” while one of the defendants went to the front door of the residence. When the homeowner refused to open the door, the co-defendant fired four or five gunshots through the door and seriously injured the homeowner.

         On September 29, 2014, Williams pleaded guilty, as charged, to armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit home invasion. He was twenty-one years old at the time, and he stated that he understood the charges to which he was pleading guilty. He also stated that he understood the rights he was waiving and that it was his choice to plead guilty. (9/29/14 Plea Tr. at 5-9.)

         There was no plea agreement, but the trial court agreed -- pursuant to the decision in People v. Cobbs, 505 N.W.2d 208');">505 N.W.2d 208 (1993), discussed in footnote 1 below -- to sentence Williams within the bottom one-third of the sentencing guidelines range.[1] Defense counsel calculated the sentencing guidelines at 135 - 225 months, whereas the prosecution calculated the guidelines at 171 - 285 months, but defense counsel stated that the guidelines would be within one of those two ranges. See id. at 4-5; 7/22/15 Mot. Hr'g at 3.

         When the Michigan Department of Corrections calculated the guidelines range for the trial court in preparation for sentencing, it determined that the guidelines were 225 to 375 months. (12/8/14 Sentencing Tr. at 4, 10.) The trial court then sentenced Williams to concurrent terms of 23 to 50 years in prison for the armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery and 13 to 20 years for the conspiracy to commit home invasion. The 23-year sentence was 276 months -- one month more than the top of the lowest one third of the sentencing guidelines as calculated by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

         In an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, Williams argued through counsel that: (1) the trial court failed to abide by the Cobbs agreement and failed to advise him of his right to withdraw his plea if the court did not abide by the agreement; (2) the trial court erred when scoring offense variable 10 of the Michigan sentencing guidelines; and (3) the trial court abused its discretion by ordering restitution without any verification of the amount of restitution owed. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal for lack of merit in Williams' claims. See People v. Williams, No. 325561 (Mich. Ct. App. Mar. 3, 2015).

         In a pro se application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, Williams raised the same three claims that he had presented to the Michigan Court of Appeals. He also raised two new claims, which alleged that the trial court erred in scoring offense variable 9 and that his rights under the Fifth Amendment were violated.

         While the appellate application was pending in the Michigan Supreme Court, Williams retained counsel, and that attorney filed a motion to withdraw Williams' guilty plea or for re-sentencing. Counsel argued that: (1) Williams' guilty plea was involuntary and unintelligent because it was based on the erroneous advice of counsel regarding the appropriate sentencing guidelines; (2) the trial court failed to advise Williams of his right to withdraw his guilty plea if the court could not follow the Cobbs evaluation; and (3) Williams was entitled to re-sentencing because offense variables 1 through 3 and 10 were scored inaccurately.

         Shortly after counsel filed the motion to withdraw Williams' guilty plea, she filed a supplemental application in the Michigan Supreme Court and requested a remand to the trial court. She argued that: (1) Williams' plea was involuntary and unintelligent because it was based on the erroneous advice of counsel regarding the sentencing guidelines; (2) the trial court failed to advise Williams of his right to withdraw his plea if the court could not follow the Cobbs agreement; (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the scoring of offense variables 1through 3; and (4) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object properly to offense variable 10.

         On July 22, 2015, the trial court held oral argument on Williams' post-conviction motion. The court granted Williams' request to withdraw his guilty plea, but it declined to alter the scoring of the offense variables. The prosecuting attorney then asked the court to adjourn the case for one week while the attorney sought approval from his supervisor for a sentence within the sentencing guidelines contemplated in the Cobbs evaluation. The trial court granted the prosecutor's request. (7/22/15 Mot. Hr'g at 3-16.)

         On July 29, 2015, the proceedings resumed, and the trial court stated that it would be willing to sentence Williams to a minimum term of 17 years in prison with a maximum sentence of fifty years. Williams agreed to this sentence and was then re-sentenced to a term of 17 to 50 years in prison for the armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery and 13 to 20 years in prison for the conspiracy to commit home invasion. Notably, this sentence was within the terms of Williams' original Cobbs agreement and within the guidelines ranges discussed at Williams' plea hearing.

         Williams withdrew his motion to withdraw his guilty plea and his request for an evidentiary hearing concerning trial counsel's earlier representations concerning the sentence. (7/29/15 Mot. Hr'g/Re-Sentencing at 3-15.)

         Counsel for Williams then updated the Michigan Supreme Court on the status of the case, and on September 29, 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal because it was not persuaded to review the issues. See People v. Williams,498 Mich. 884; 869 N.W.2d 585 (2015) (table decision). Williams did ...


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