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Williams v. Nagy

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

November 6, 2019

ZACKARY WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
NOAH NAGY, Respondent.[1]

          MEMORANDUM ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          AVERN COHN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         This is a habeas case under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Michigan prisoner Zackary Williams (“Petitioner”), proceeding pro se and without prepayment of the filing fee, plead guilty to child sexually abusive activity, M.C.L. § 750.145c(2), and second-degree criminal sexual conduct, M.C.L. § 750.520c. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of 10 to 20 years imprisonment and 1 to 15 years imprisonment. Petitioner raises claims concerning the validity of his sentence, the validity of his plea, the denial of his plea withdrawal motion, and the effectiveness of trial and appellate counsel. For the reasons which follow, the petition will be denied.

         II. Facts and Procedural History

         Petitioner's convictions arise from his sexual abuse of a six-year-old girl. He was charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Petitioner plead guilty to the offenses described above in exchange for the dismissal of the more serious charges and an agreement that he would be sentenced to concurrent terms of 10 to 20 years imprisonment and 1 to 15 years imprisonment and would be subject to sex offender registration and a lifetime electronic tether upon release from prison. Petitioner confirmed that he understood the charges, the plea agreement, and the rights that he would be giving up by entering a plea. He stated that he wanted to plead guilty and that he was doing so of his own free will. He admitted that he digitally penetrated a six-year-old girl for his sexual gratification as the factual basis for his plea.

         At sentencing, Petitioner moved to withdraw his plea alleging that trial counsel was ineffective and that he was innocent. The prosecution objected due to the age of the victim and the delay in the case. The trial court denied the motion and imposed the sentence set forth in the plea agreement.

         Petitioner filed a delayed application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals asserting that the trial court erred in denying his plea withdrawal motion because he was innocent and pleaded guilty without the effective assistance of counsel. The court of appeals denied the application “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” People v. Williams, No. 316225 (Mich. Ct. App. June 11, 2013). The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave in a standard order. People v. Williams, 838 N.W.2d 555 (Mich. 2013).

         Petitioner then filed a motion for relief from judgment with the trial court challenging jurisdiction. The trial court denied the motion for lack of merit under Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D)(3). People v. Williams, No. 12-011169-01 (Wayne Co. Cir. Ct. May 29, 2015). Petitioner filed a delayed application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals, which was denied for failure to “meet the burden of establishing entitlement to relief under MCR 6.508(D).” People v. Williams, No. 328849 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 21, 2015). Petitioner did not seek leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court.

         Petitioner also filed a second motion for relief from judgment with the trial court seeking a remand for re-sentencing pursuant to People v. Lockridge, 870 N.W.2d 502 (Mich. 2015). The trial court denied the motion finding that his sentence was “not the result of the sentencing guidelines, but the consequence of the plea agreement.” People v. Williams, No. 12-011169-01 (Wayne Co. Cir. Ct. March 1, 2016). Petitioner filed a delayed application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals, which was denied “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” People v. Williams, No. 332937 (Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 22, 2016). Petitioner also filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order. People v. Williams, 896 N.W.2d 442 (Mich. 2017).[2]

         Petitioner thereafter filed the instant petition. He raises the following claims:

I. The trial court erred when it decided that his minimum sentence was not established by the application of the sentencing guidelines in a manner that violated the Sixth Amendment, and he is entitled to a proper inquiry to determine if re-sentencing is required.
II. The trial court erred in denying his plea withdrawal motion where he is innocent and pleaded guilty without the effective assistance of counsel.
III. Trial counsel failed to diligently defend his case, denying him the opportunity to present a defense by failing to investigate where counsel did not keep contact with him, did not contact favorable witnesses, never obtained physical evidence, failed to defend him during the plea withdrawal motion, and independently and collectively denied him his state and federal constitutional rights to the effective assistance of counsel.
II. He was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel on appeal and right to due process where appellate counsel argued ineffective assistance of trial counsel, but failed to effectively recognize and argue meritorious facts on appeal.

         Respondent has filed an answer to the petition contending that it should be denied because certain claims are barred by procedural default and all of the claims lack merit.

         III. Standard of Review

         28 U.S.C. § 2241 sets forth the standard of review that federal courts must use when considering habeas petitions brought by prisoners challenging their state court convictions. The statute provides in relevant part:

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. §2254(d) (1996).

         “A state court's decision is ‘contrary to' . . . clearly established law if it ‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court cases]' or if it ‘confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [that] precedent.'” Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) ...


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