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Phillips-Addis v. Les Parish

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

January 14, 2020

Andrew J. Phillips-Addis, Petitioner,
Les Parish, Respondent.


          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge.

         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, the 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 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see 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 dismissal under Rule 4 includes those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual allegations that are palpably incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court concludes that the petition must be dismissed because it fails to raise a meritorious federal claim.


         I. Factual allegations

         Petitioner Andrew J. Phillips-Addis is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the Oaks Correctional Facility (ECF) in Manistee County, Michigan. Petitioner pleaded guilty in the Delta County Circuit Court to assault with intent to do great bodily harm (AGBH), in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.84. On November 6, 2017, the court sentenced Petitioner as a third habitual offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.11, to a prison term of 8 to 20 years.

         On October 24, 2019, Petitioner filed his initial habeas corpus petition. On November 7, 2019, he filed his first amended petition raising four grounds for relief, as follows:

I. A person pleading guilty to a crime not committed is an error in the plea taking process.
II. [Petitioner] should have been allowed to withdraw his plea where his attorney was constitutionally ineffective when he failed to review the video and interview Nathan Gartland[, the victim, ] to testify before advising [Petitioner] on whether to withdraw his plea.
III. Petitioner is being held in the Michigan Department of Corrections unlawfully by [a] name [that is] not his.
IV. The Delta County Circuit Court did not have jurisdiction.

(Am. Pet., ECF No. 3, PageID.36, 40.)

         Petitioner's rambling amended petition and the attached exhibits disclose the following facts. On July 27, 2017, Petitioner was housed in the Delta County Jail. The victim, Nathan Gartland, was housed there as well. Gartland was laying on his back on seats by a table. Petitioner walked over to him with a towel, placed the towel around Gartland's neck, pulled Garland to the ground, and dragged Garland by the towel to the door. The incident was captured on camera. Petitioner acknowledged at his plea hearing that he “wrapped a towel around Nathan Gartland's neck, tried to kill him.” (Id., PageID.82.)

         Petitioner entered a nolo contendere plea to the charge. But, after he entered his plea and before he was sentenced, he claimed that he and Gartland staged the entire assault. Petitioner staged the assault to avoid extradition to Wisconsin. The staged assault “was to force the state of Michigan justice system [to] stop [Petitioner from] going back to Wisconsin state prison system.” (Am. Pet., ECF No. 3, PageID.35.) The entire “crime” was “actually [a] fraud on Michigan state and Wisconsin States justice system.” (Id.) The goal was to “force[] Delta County [to] make him . . . stay in the state of Michigan.” (Id.)

         After Petitioner's plea, however, he disclosed the plot to the court and prosecutor by way of a letter. Petitioner's disclosures in the letter forced the court, the prosecutor, and Petitioner's counsel, to reconsider further proceedings in the case. The prosecutor “gave [Petitioner] a chance to withdraw the false case and . . . drop [the] false charges, but then [Petitioner would . . . lose his discharge from [the] Wisconsin case . . . .” (Id., PageID.39.) Petitioner could not abide that result because his “life was at risk in Wisconsin state [prison] system, due [to] gang [problems.]” (Id.)

         Petitioner's counsel knew that Petitioner was hoping to get at least a five-year sentence in Michigan because Petitioner felt that with a sentence that long, Wisconsin would drop its hold on him. (Id., PageID.57, 67.) After Petitioner disclosed the fraud, he informed his counsel that he wanted to go forward with sentencing anyway. (Id., PageID.65-66.) In Petitioner's letter(s) to the court and prosecutor, he disclosed additional crimes, in addition to the fraud he had perpetrated on the court. (Id., PageID.68-70.) Counsel advised Petitioner that, should Petitioner withdraw his plea in the pending case, he might face a potential life sentence because of his criminal history; and, in addition, he might face prosecution for perjury. (Id.)

         Counsel offered to withdraw:

I was a little concerned that I felt as an attorney that if it was true, that it was all a concoction, then the service that I had rendered in good faith were utilized to defraud the Court, I didn't feel that that was a very fair bargain and I think that would kind of destroy the normal relationship between an attorney and client.

(Id., PageID.70.) Counsel explained how he responded to the information that Petitioner and Gartland had made up the crime:

I don't actually recall verbatim the conversation that I had with [Petitioner] after learning that it was an alleged concoction. I think my view a little bit of it is it's really not my job to determine guilt or innocence of my client, but to present the relative strengths and weaknesses of any particular course of action. So I don't know at that time I was overzealous about examining whether or not he actually did concoct it. I was talking to him-I think the summation of my conversations with him was more about the implications of various courses of action.

(Id., PageID.72.) Counsel acknowledged that he had seen the video recording of the assault; but, he did not review it after Petitioner disclosed the concoction or interview Gartland to confirm Petitioner's story. (Id., PageID.72-76.) Because counsel believed Petitioner wanted to go forward with sentencing-and Petitioner's representations in his habeas submissions support that belief- Petitioner went forward with the sentencing. But, “after sentencing was done and Wisconsin started [their] end of letting [Petitioner be] discharged . . . [, Petitioner] wanted to back out [of] the state of Michigan deals . . ...

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