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Williams v. Olson

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

April 3, 2019


          Honorable Gordon J. Quist



         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner Detrick Williams is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the Saginaw County Correctional Facility (SRF) in Freeland, Michigan. Petitioner pleaded guilty in the Muskegon County Circuit Court to second-degree fleeing and eluding, Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.602a. On March 11, 2013, the court sentenced Petitioner to prison term of 7 to 15 years.

         Petitioner also entered a plea of guilty to resisting and obstructing a police officer, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.81d. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to one year in the county jail for that offense. That sentence was to be served concurrently with the sentence for second-degree fleeing and eluding. Both sentences, however, were to be served consecutively to sentences for which Petitioner was out on parole at the time he committed the more recent offenses. All of Petitioner's sentences, with the exception of the latest resisting and obstructing offense, are indeterminate.

         The Michigan statute regarding parole eligibility affords the parole board maximum flexibility in deciding when to terminate the first sentence in a consecutive string of sentences.

If a prisoner other than a prisoner subject to disciplinary time has 1 or more consecutive terms remaining to serve in addition to the term he or she is serving, the parole board may terminate the sentence the prisoner is presently serving at any time after the minimum term of the sentence has been served.

         Mich. Comp. Laws § 791.234. MDOC Policy Directive 03.01.135 regarding Discharge/ Termination of Sentence reinforces that flexibility:

[I]f an offender is serving consecutive sentences, none of the sentences which are part of the consecutive string shall be terminated until all sentences in that string have been served.

         MDOC Policy Directive 03.01.135 ¶ MM (Eff. 1/23/2014). Because the system is designed to afford the parole board maximum flexibility to impose the shortest possible sentence-the combined minimums-or the longest possible sentence-the combined maximums-it is impossible to determine whether Petitioner has even begun to serve the sentences he is presently challenging.

         On October 12, 2016, Petitioner timely filed his habeas corpus petition raising four grounds for relief, as follows:

I. The Sentencing Guidelines were incorrectly scored regarding OV 9, OV 19, in violation of [Petitioner's] rights at sentencing under the federal and state constitutions, Michigan statutes and court rules and interpretive case law.
II. The factual basis to establish resisting and obstructing was insufficient, in violation of [Petitioner's] due process rights which govern pleas.
III. Judicial fact-finding at sentencing based on less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt violated [Petitioner's] Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.
IV. Counsel was ineffective for failing to make proper objections as to penalties imposed, violating [Petitioner's] rights under U.S. Const, [AMS.] V, VI, XIV; Const 1963, Art 1, §§ 17, 20.

         (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.13.) Respondent has filed an answer to the petition (ECF No. 10) stating that the grounds should be denied because they are non-cognizable and/or meritless. Upon review and applying the standards of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA), I find that the grounds are non-cognizable or meritless. Accordingly, I recommend that the petition be denied.


         I. Background

         During the early morning hours of September 22, 2012, a police officer drove up behind Petitioner in his vehicle. (Plea Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 11-2, PageID.112.) The officer observed Petitioner turning right on a red light without coming to a full stop. (Pet'r's Appl. for Leave to Appeal, ECF No. 11-4, PageID.144.) The officer turned on his overhead lights to signal Petitioner to pull over. (Plea Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 11-2, PageID.112.) Petitioner stopped his car, but when the officer approached Petitioner's vehicle, Petitioner drove away. (Pet'r's Appl. for Leave to Appeal, ECF No. 11-4, PageID.144.) Petitioner eluded the police for a period of time, driving at a high rate of speed. (Plea Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 11-2, PageID.113.) Eventually he stopped the car and ran away on foot. (Id.) The police chased Petitioner and ultimately took him into custody. (Pet'r's Appl. for Leave to Appeal, ECF No. 11-4, PageID.145.)

         The prosecutor charged Petitioner with fleeing and eluding, two counts of resisting and obstructing, operating on a suspended license, and alcohol-open container. (Muskegon Cty. Cir. Ct. Docket Sheet, ECF No. 11-1, PageID.91.) They also provided notice that Petitioner would be penalized as a habitual offender-fourth offense, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12. (Id.)

         Prior to trial, Petitioner and his counsel negotiated a plea with the prosecutor. In exchange for Petitioner's plea of guilty to one count of fleeing and eluding and one count of resisting and obstructing, and acknowledgement of Petitioner's prior convictions, the prosecutor would dismiss the other charges and a civil infraction ticket. (Plea Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 11-2, PageID.97.) The parties and the trial court entered into a Cobbs agreement[1] that Petitioner's minimum sentence would not exceed 84 months. (Id., PageID.98, 105.) The Cobbs agreement applied only to the fleeing and eluding offense, not the resisting and obstructing offense. (Id.)

         Petitioner, with knowledge of the possible penalties and the rights he was giving up, entered a plea of guilty. (Id., PageID.110.) Petitioner admitted that he fled the police at a high rate of speed even though he knew the flashing lights were meant for him. (Id., PageID.112.) He also admitted that he eventually stopped, left his car, and ran away from police on foot. (Id., PageID.113.) Petitioner also acknowledged that he had been convicted of at least five prior felonies. (Id., PageID.105-107.)

         Although there was a Cobbs agreement in place, the trial court reviewed the guidelines as scored by the MDOC agent. (Sent. Tr., ECF No. 11-3, PageID.127.) The court noted that the 84-month maximum minimum fell roughly in the middle of the calculated guidelines range of 38 to 152 months. (Id.) The court held Petitioner's minimum at 84 months (7 years) and imposed a discretionary maximum of 25 years. The court imposed an intermediate sanction of 12 months in county jail on the resisting and obstructing charge.[2]

         Petitioner, with the assistance of appointed counsel, sought leave to appeal his convictions and sentence, raising the same four issues he raises in his petition. (Appl. for Leave to Appeal, ECF No. 11-4, PageID.141.) Petitioner also sought a remand to the trial court so that the trial court might resentence him based on accurate information. (Mot. to Rem., ECF No. 11-4, PageID.211-212.) By order issued January 14, 2014, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” (Mich. Ct. App. Order, ECF No. 11-4, PageID.131.) The appellate court also denied the motion to remand. (Id.)

         Petitioner then filed a pro per application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, raising the same issues he raised in the court of appeals. By order entered October 28, 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal because it was not persuaded ...

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