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Lucas v. Barrett

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

July 16, 2018

JEFFREY L. LUCAS, #434876, Petitioner,
v.
JOSEPH BARRETT, Respondent.

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

          ARTHUR J. TARNOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Michigan prisoner Jeffrey L. Lucas (“Petitioner”), confined at the Cooper Street Correctional Facility, in Jackson, Michigan, has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 asserting that he is being held in violation of his constitutional rights. Petitioner pleaded guilty to two counts of false pretenses of $1, 000 or more but less than $20, 000 in the Muskegon County Circuit Court and was sentenced as a fourth habitual offender to concurrent terms of 9 years 4 months to 32 years imprisonment in 2015. In his pleadings, Petitioner challenges the state trial court's upward sentencing departure, claiming that its substantial and compelling reasons for the departure were insufficient and concerned victims over whom it had no jurisdiction.

         Promptly after the filing of a habeas petition, a federal district court must undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine whether “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see also 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If, after preliminary consideration, the court determines that the petitioner is not entitled to relief, the court must summarily dismiss the petition. Id.; see also Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that lack merit on their face). A federal district court is authorized to summarily dismiss a habeas petition if it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas relief. McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1999); Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases. No response to a habeas petition is necessary when the petition is frivolous, obviously lacks merit, or where the necessary facts can be determined from the petition itself without consideration of a response from the State. Allen, 424 F.2d at 141; Robinson v. Jackson, 366 F.Supp.2d 524, 525 (E.D. Mich. 2005). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court finds that Petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas relief and his petition must be denied.

         II. Facts and Procedural History

         Petitioner's convictions arise from his conduct in borrowing money from several people and promising to pay the money back without any intent to do so in Muskegon County, Michigan in 2013 and 2014. Petitioner pleaded guilty to two counts of false pretenses of more than $1, 000 but less than $20, 000 and admitted having three prior felony convictions. According to Petitioner, the minimum sentencing guideline range was determined to be 1 year 7 months to 6 years 4 months. The trial court sentenced him, as a fourth habitual offender, to concurrent terms of 9 years 4 months to 32 years imprisonment. The court explained that it was departing above the minimum sentencing guideline range due to the number of victims and the staggering amount of money involved in the crimes. The court also imposed an agreed-upon restitution amount of $160, 880.78 payable to 14 named victims.

         Following his plea and sentencing, Petitioner filed delayed applications for leave to appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals asserting that he is entitled to resentencing because the trial court departed above the sentencing guidelines range and the reasons given did not support the degree of departure. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal in both cases for lack of merit in the grounds presented. People v. Lucas, Nos. 332174, 332175 (Mich. Ct. App. June 6, 2016) (unpublished). Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order. People v. Lucas, 501 Mich. 877, 901 N.W.2d 601 (2017).

         Petitioner filed his federal habeas petition in June, 2018. He again challenges the state trial court's upward sentencing departure and raises the following claim: “The trial court's substantial and compelling reason was supported by victims, over which it did not hold jurisdiction to punish [him].”

         III. Standard of Review

         The provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2241 et seq., govern this case because Petitioner filed his petition after the AEDPA's effective date. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997). The AEDPA provides:

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 Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. ยง2254(d) (1996). Additionally, a federal habeas court must presume the correctness of state court factual ...


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