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Betancourt v. Christensen

United States District Court, D. Idaho

November 19, 2019




         Petitioner Carl Robert Betancourt has filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus challenging Petitioner's state court conviction. See Dkt. 1. The Court now reviews the Petition to determine whether it is subject to summary dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243 and Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases (“Habeas Rules”).


         1. Standard of Law for Review of Petition

         Federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is available to petitioners who show that they are held in custody under a state court judgment and that such custody violates the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The Court is required to review a habeas corpus petition upon receipt to determine whether it is subject to summary dismissal. Habeas Rule 4. Summary dismissal is appropriate where “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Id.

         2. Discussion

         In the Fifth Judicial District Court in Jerome County, Idaho, Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft, in violation of Idaho Code § 18-2407(1)(b). The judgment of conviction was entered in July of 2013. Petitioner was sentenced to a unified term of 14 years in prison with 2.5 years fixed. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal but did pursue state post-conviction relief. Dkt. 1 at 1-3.

         In the instant Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Petitioner brings four claims. Claim 1 asserts a violation of due process based on the sentencing court's use of an unconstitutionally obtained pre-sentence investigation report (“PSI”), which allegedly deprived the court of jurisdiction. Id. at 6. Claim 2 asserts ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel's “allow[ing] court to proceed with sentencing” using the unconstitutionally obtained PSI; Claim 2 also might be alleging that counsel did not assert Petitioner's Fifth Amendment right to be free from compelled self-incrimination. Id. at 7. Claim 3 asserts a Fifth Amendment violation based on the sentencing court's failure to warn Petitioner of his right to remain silent during the PSI investigation. Id. at 8. And Claim 4 asserts that the sentencing court “abused its authority” and violated the Constitution by failing to resentence Petitioner. Id. at 9.

         Petitioner may proceed on the Petition to the extent that the claims (1) are cognizable in a federal habeas corpus action, (2) were timely filed in this Court, and (3) were either properly exhausted in state court or are subject to a legal excuse for any failure to exhaust in a proper manner. It is necessary for the Court to review portions of the state court record to resolve preliminary procedural issues, and it would also be helpful to receive briefing from Respondent. Therefore, the Court will order the Clerk to serve a copy of the Petition on counsel for Respondent, who may respond either by answer or pre-answer motion and who will provide relevant portions of the state court record to this Court.

         3. Potentially Applicable Standards of Law

         Because Petitioner is pro se and because the Court finds that focused briefing from the parties would be beneficial in this case, the Court provides the following standards of law that might, or might not, be applicable to the Petition.

         A. Statute of Limitations

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) requires a petitioner to seek federal habeas corpus relief within one year from “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.”[1] 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). However, the one-year statute of limitations can be tolled (or suspended) under certain circumstances. AEDPA provides for tolling for all of “[t]he time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review ... is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). A motion to reduce a sentence that is not a part of the direct review process and that requires re-examination of the sentence qualifies as a collateral review application that tolls the one-year statute of limitations. Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. 545, 555-56 (2011). Thus, to the extent that a petitioner properly filed an application for post-conviction relief or other collateral challenge in state court, the one-year federal limitations period stops running on the filing date of the state court action and resumes when the action is completed.

         The statute of limitations can also be equitably tolled under exceptional circumstances. “[A] petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling only if he shows (1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing.” Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). In addition, AEDPA's statute of limitations is subject to an actual innocence exception. A petitioner who satisfies the actual innocence gateway standard may have otherwise time-barred claims heard on the merits. McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S.Ct. 1924, 1931-32 (2013); Lee v. Lampert, 653 F.3d 929, 937 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc). Actual innocence in this context means “factual innocence, not mere legal insufficiency.” Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 624 (1998).

         B. Exhaustion and ...

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