United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND
(3) DENYING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
Paul D. Borman Judge
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
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.
charges against Petitioner arose from allegations that he
held two individuals hostage at his apartment where he beat,
sexually abused, and humiliated them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
court found that Petitioner's guilty plea was accurate
and voluntary. Id. at 27.
was subsequently sentenced as indicated above to terms that
fell within the agreed-upon ...