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Hale v. Haas

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

May 31, 2018

RANDALL HAAS, Respondent.


          Hon. Paul D. Borman Judge

         This is a habeas case filed by a Michigan prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner Vito Maxmillion Hale was convicted after he pled guilty in the St. Clair Circuit Court to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b, one count of torture, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.85, and two counts of unlawful imprisonment. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.349b. The court sentenced Petitioner to three concurrent terms of 18 years and 9 months to 30 years for the torture and criminal sexual conduct convictions and two terms of 10 to 15 years for the unlawful imprisonment convictions.

         The petition raises two claims: (1) Petitioner's guilty plea was the product of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, and (2) Petitioner's sentencing guidelines were incorrectly scored. The Court finds that Petitioner's claims are without merit and will therefore deny the petition. The Court will also deny Petitioner a certificate of appealability and deny him permission to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. Background

         The charges against Petitioner arose from allegations that he held two individuals hostage at his apartment where he beat, sexually abused, and humiliated them.

         On April 17, 2013, after a “lengthy discussion [between] all of the parties involved, ” Petitioner entered into a plea agreement. Dkt. 8-4, at 3. The prosecutor placed the terms of the agreement on the record. Petitioner agreed to plead guilty to the offenses indicated above and to be subject to lifetime electronic monitoring. Id. at 4. In exchange, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss two additional counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and an assault charge relating to an incident occurring at the county jail between Petitioner and a deputy. Id. at 4-5. The parties also agreed on the scoring of the sentencing guidelines. Id. at 4.

         Both defense counsel and Petitioner indicated that the prosecutor accurately stated the terms of the plea agreement. Id. at 5. Petitioner indicated that he had sufficient time to discuss the matter with defense counsel, and he stated that he understood what was happening at the proceeding. Id. at 5.

         The trial court indicated that it had previously received a letter from Petitioner expressing dissatisfaction with his counsel, and that Petitioner wished to be appointed a new attorney. Id. at 6-7. The trial court inquired whether Petitioner wished to proceed with that request in light of the plea agreement, and Petitioner indicated he was withdrawing his request for new counsel. Id. at 7.

         Petitioner's counsel stated that he had previously discussed with the prosecutor the issue of Petitioner's competency or whether a referral to the Forensic Center was necessary for an evaluation, and the attorneys agreed that an evaluation was not necessary. Id. at 7. The trial court accepted the parties' representation as to Petitioner's competence “at face value, and we will move on.” Id. at 8.

         Petitioner was then placed under oath. Id. at 8. Petitioner testified that he was twenty-one years old, and he was a high school graduate. Id. at 9. The trial court informed Petitioner of the charges against him. Id. at 9-13. Petitioner indicated his understanding of the nature of the offenses, and he confirmed that his attorney had explained the charges to him. Id. Petitioner was informed of the maximum penalty for each offense, and he indicated his understanding. Id.

         Petitioner stated that he understood if his plea were accepted by the court that he faced up to life-imprisonment or any term of years for the criminal sexual conduct and torture offenses, and a term of up to fifteen years for the unlawful imprisonment offenses. Id. Petitioner also indicated his understanding that he would be subject to lifetime electronic monitoring. Id.

         The Court informed Petitioner that he had a right to a trial, but that if his guilty plea were accepted he would be giving up that right. Id. at 13. The trial court then informed Petitioner of all the trial rights he would be waiving by entering a guilty plea. Id. at 13-14. Petitioner indicated his understanding. Id. Petitioner was also informed of the appellate rights he was waiving by entering his guilty plea, and Petitioner again indicated his understanding. Id. at 14.

         The trial court informed Petitioner that it understood there was an agreement on the scoring of the sentencing guidelines between the parties, but the court stated that it was not bound by that agreement and would consider the scoring of the guidelines offered by the probation department as well. Id. at 14-15. Petitioner indicated his understanding. Id.

         Petitioner was then asked how he wished to plead with respect to each of the five offenses, and after each count was read Petitioner indicated he wished to plead guilty. Id. at 15-16. Petitioner then affirmed that he was pleading guilty by his own choice. Id. at 17. Petitioner denied that anyone had threatened him in order to get him to plead guilty. Id. Petitioner also denied that anyone had promised him anything other than what was placed on the record. Id.

         Petitioner then gave a factual basis for his plea. Petitioner testified that in January of 2013, Cody Burtch and Melissa Hunt resided with him at his apartment in Port Huron. Id. at 17-18. Petitioner admitted that he beat Burtch and caused severe bruising. Id. at 18. Petitioner admitted that he urinated on the two victims while he forced them to clean his bathroom. Id. at 18-19. Petitioner testified that he forced his penis inside Burtch's mouth while he had Hunt hold Burtch down on the floor. Id. at 20. Petitioner also forced the victims to have sex with each other. Id. at 20.

         Petitioner admitted that he forced Burtch to go outside while naked to the point that his feet became bloody from the cold. Id. at 21-22. Petitioner admitted that he tied Burtch up and forced a sex toy into his rectum against his will. Id. at 22-25. Petitioner testified that he directed Hunt to perform oral sex on Burtch against her will, and Burtch was forced to perform oral sex on Hunt against his will. Id. at 22-23, 26. During these episodes other people took part in the abuse and photographed the victims. Id. at 24-25. Neither victim was free to leave Petitioner's apartment during this time-frame, and they were required to do what Petitioner directed them to do. Id. at 25.

         Petitioner indicated to the court that his testimony was truthful. Id. at 26. Petitioner denied that he was having any difficulty hearing or understanding what was happening in court. Id. at 26. Both attorneys denied knowing of any threats or promises made to induce the plea other than the promises that were placed on the record. Id. at 27.

         The court found that Petitioner's guilty plea was accurate and voluntary. Id. at 27.

         Petitioner was subsequently sentenced as indicated above to terms that fell within the agreed-upon ...

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