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Valli v. Miller

United States District Court, C.D. California

February 25, 2015

RUBEN VALLI, Petitioner,
v.
AMY MILLER, Warden. Respondent.

FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

MICHAEL R. WILNER, Magistrate Judge.

This Final Report and Recommendation is submitted to the Honorable Philip S. Gutierrez, United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 636 and General Order 05-07 of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The Final Report is revised at footnote 4 to reflect Petitioner's objections to the original Report. (Docket #40.)

I. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATION

This is a state habeas action. Petitioner challenges his convictions for sexually abusing two children. The Court concludes that the claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that Petitioner sought to raise in state court are procedurally barred as a matter of California law.

Further, as to the sentencing claim that Petitioner properly pursued on direct appeal, the state court decision denying that claim was neither contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. As a result, the Court recommends that the petition be denied.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Petitioner was charged with sexually molesting two girls: his wife's young sister and his stepdaughter. At trial, the jury heard testimony from both victims. The jury also heard a recorded telephone call in which Petitioner acknowledged engaging in misconduct with one of the girls.

The jury convicted Petitioner of numerous sexual offenses. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to a term of 90 years to life in state prison. The appellate court affirmed Petitioner's conviction in a reasoned, unpublished decision. (Lodgment #1.) The state supreme court denied review without comment. (Lodgment #3.)

After the conclusion of Petitioner's direct appeal, he filed a habeas action in state court raising numerous claims of ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC). In a reasoned decision, the state superior court determined that Petitioner's IAC claims were untimely under state law. (Lodgment #5.) The superior court also determined that Petitioner's claims were conclusory and failed to plausibly establish prejudice as a result of any lawyer's errors. The state supreme court subsequently denied habeas relief without comment. (Lodgment #14.)

Petitioner filed this federal action while the state habeas process was ongoing. The Court stayed the federal case to allow Petitioner to attempt to exhaust his claims on the merits in state court. (Docket #8, 21.) After the conclusion of state proceedings, the Court directed the Attorney General to respond to Petitioner's amended petition. In its response, the Attorney General argued that Petitioner's IAC claims were procedurally barred. (Docket #32.) The Attorney General also addressed the merits of the sentencing claim that Petitioner raised on direct appeal[1] and Petitioner's other claims.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review Under AEDPA

Petitioner's action is subject to the provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). Under AEDPA, federal courts may grant habeas relief to a state prisoner "with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings" only if that adjudication:

(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 ...

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