United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS;
DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
TIGAR United States District Judge.
the Court is the above-titled petition for a writ of habeas
corpus, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 by Petitioner
Cesar Rodelas, challenging the validity of his state court
sentence. Respondent has filed an answer to the petition, and
Petitioner has filed a traverse. The Court will deny the
September 25, 2012, Petitioner pled no contest in Alameda
County Superior Court to eleven felony changes and
thirty-three misdemeanor charges, arising out of three
separate incidents of serious domestic violence incidents
against his former girlfriend, and out of violations of a
restraining order. Answer, Ex. 1 (“CT”)
419-26. The felony charges consisted of three
counts of assault with a deadly weapon (Cal. Penal Code
§ 245(a)(1)); three counts of vandalism (Cal. Penal Code
§ 594), two counts of making criminal threats (Cal.
Penal Code § 422); one count of kidnapping (Cal. Penal
Code § 207(a)); one count of residential burglary (Cal.
Penal Code § 459); and one count of corporal injury to a
cohabitant (Cal. Penal Code § 273.5). CT 52- 62 and
419-26. The misdemeanor changes included one count of
possession of a dirk or dagger (Cal. Penal Code §
12020(a)(4)); and thirty-two counts of violating a
restraining order (Cal. Penal Code § 166(a)(4)). CT
52-62. Petitioner also admitted as true enhancement
allegations that he was armed with a firearm during the
kidnapping and during one of the criminal threats, and that
he committed the burglary and related vandalism while
released on bail. CT 447-49.
December 15, 2012, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to
twelve years in state prison. CT 473 and Answer, Ex. 2
(“RT”),  Vol. 3 at 14-16.
appealed his conviction. On June 27, 2013, Petitioner’s
appellate counsel filed a Wende brief in the California
Court of Appeal, declining to raise any specific issues and
asking the appellate court for an independent review of the
record to determine whether there were any issues that would,
if resolved favorably to Petitioner, result in reversal or
modification of the judgment. See Answer, Ex.
Pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 744
(1967), appellate counsel identified for the appellate court
five potential issues that might merit briefing on
appeal. On July 26, 2013, Petitioner filed a
supplemental brief. People v. Rodelas, No. A137758,
2013 WL 4743470, at *2 (Cal.Ct.App. Sept. 4, 2013). The
California Court of Appeal conducted its own independent
review of the record and, on September 4, 2013, affirmed the
judgment, finding that no arguable issues were presented for
review. Rodelas, 2013 WL 4743470.
November 13, 2013, the California Supreme Court summarily
denied Petitioner’s petition for review. See
Answer, Exh. 6.
15, 2014, Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in the
Alameda County Superior Court, raising the same claims that
he raises here. On September 12, 2014, the Superior Court
denied the petition as untimely and, in the alternative, for
failure to state a prima facie case for relief. See
Answer, Exh. 7. Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in
the California Court of Appeal, which was summarily denied on
October 30, 2014. See id., Ex. 8. On November 7,
2014, Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in the
California Supreme Court, which was summarily denied on March
25, 2015. See id., Exs. 9 and 10.
November 13, 2014, Petitioner filed the instant federal
petition for a writ of habeas corpus. See Docket No.
1. Petitioner alleges that trial counsel rendered ineffective
assistance of counsel by (1) failing to conduct a reasonable,
thorough, and timely investigation prior to advising
Petitioner to reject the initial plea offer, and (2) failing
to inform Petitioner of his maximum sentence exposure. The
Court stayed this action and held the petition in abeyance
pending the resolution of the state court habeas proceedings.
See Docket No. 4. On April 17, 2015, the Court
lifted the stay and ordered Respondent to show cause why the
petition should not be granted. See Docket No. 6.
felony charges arose from three separate incidents involving
his former girlfriend, Jane Doe, whom Petitioner had dated
for two years. CT 497.
first incident occurred on June 11, 2011, at approximately
2:30 a.m., at Spankey’s Cocktails in Castro Valley. CT
497. At that time, Doe was at Spankey’s with a friend
and an ex-boyfriend. CT 497, 520. Petitioner showed up and
tried to enter the bar, but was stopped by the bouncer. CT
520. Petitioner became angry when he realized that
Doe’s ex-boyfriend was with her. CT 497. Doe, her
friend, and her ex-boyfriend left the bar, and drove away in
Doe’s car. CT 497, 520. Doe then felt “a total of
three jolts to the rear end of her vehicle.” CT 497.
She looked back and saw Petitioner bumping into her car with
his GMC Yukon. CT 497. Petitioner hit her car with such force
that her car’s headlight housing broke, and Doe nearly
collided with other parked cars. CT 497. Petitioner then fled
the scene. CT 497. Doe made a U-turn and returned to
Spankey’s parking lot. CT 520. Police responded and
took statements from Doe, her friend, and her ex-boyfriend.
CT 497, 520. Doe informed the officers that both she and
Petitioner had consumed alcohol prior to the incident. CT
497. There were no injuries sustained during this incident,
and no one required medical attention. CT 497.
second incident occurred on June 22, 2011. At approximately
6:35 p.m., Doe found Petitioner waiting for her in the
parking lot of her job at the end of the workday. CT 520.
Petitioner demanded that Doe get into his car. CT 520. Doe
did not want to get into the car, but ultimately did because
she did not want to cause a scene outside her job, and
because she was frightened of Petitioner. CT 520. Petitioner
eventually stopped at a gas station at approximately 7:20
p.m. CT 497. The gas station convenience clerk overheard
Petitioner and Doe arguing in the parking lot. CT 497. Doe
then entered the convenience store looking upset, and asked
the clerk to call her a taxi. CT 520. Petitioner followed Doe
into the store and demanded that Doe get back into his car.
CT 497, 520. He continued yelling and shouting at her, and
threatened to kill both Doe and the clerk if Doe refused to
get back into the car. CT 520. Doe refused to leave,
prompting Petitioner to leave the store. CT 497. Fearing for
her safety and Doe’s safety, the clerk remotely locked
the store’s exterior doors to prevent
Petitioner’s re-entry. CT 497, 521. Petitioner
retrieved a gun from his car and returned to the store. CT
497, 521. Petitioner demanded to be let into the store while
Doe and the clerk hid behind the front counter. CT 521.
Petitioner then kicked the glass door, breaking the glass,
and entered the store. CT 497, 521. Petitioner then grabbed
Doe by her hair and dragged her over the broken glass and out
of the store. CT 497, 521. Doe broke free in the parking lot,
and refused to get into Petitioner’s car. CT 497, 521.
Petitioner finally left in his vehicle. CT 497. Oakland
police officers arrived shortly thereafter and took a
statement from Doe and the clerk. CT 521. Doe suffered
scrapes and cuts from being dragged over the broken glass. CT
third incident occurred on September 19, 2011, when
Petitioner broke into Doe’s home. CT 521. Petitioner
had previously lived in the home with Doe, but Doe had kicked
him out two months prior. CT 521. That afternoon, Doe
received a voicemail message from Petitioner while she was at
work. CT 521. Petitioner stated that he was at her home and
that he was going to burn it down. CT 521. Doe called the
Hayward Police Department, who found Petitioner leaving the
house as they arrived. CT 521. The police did not find a key
to the house on Petitioner’s person. CT 521. In looking
for a point of entry, the police found that the sliding glass
back door to Doe’s home had been shattered. CT 521. The
police also found Doe’s clothes tossed around the
bedroom and covered in red wine vinegar. CT 521.
September 28, 2011, Petitioner was taken into custody in
relation to the above incidents. CT 497. At
Petitioner’s bail hearing, a restraining order was
issued that prohibited Petitioner from contacting Doe. CT
522. Between December 1, 2011 and December 17, 2011, in
violation of the court order, Petitioner called and spoke to
Doe thirty-two times. CT 522.
Standard of Review
petition for a writ of habeas corpus is governed by the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA"). This Court may entertain a petition for
a writ of habeas corpus “in behalf of a person in
custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the
ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution
or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C.
district court may not grant a petition challenging a state
conviction or sentence on the basis of a claim that was
reviewed on the merits in state court unless the state
court’s 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); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13
(2000). A state court decision is “contrary to”
clearly established Supreme Court precedent if it
“applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set
forth in [the Supreme Court’s] 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 [its]
precedent.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-06.
“Under the ‘unreasonable application’
clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the
state court identifies the correct governing legal principle
from [the Supreme] Court’s decisions but unreasonably
applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner’s
case.” Id at 413. “[A] federal habeas
court may not issue the writ simply because that court
concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant
state-court decision applied clearly established federal law
erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must
also be unreasonable.” Id at 411.
2254(d)(1) restricts the source of clearly established law to
the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence. “[C]learly
established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court
of the United States” refers to “the holdings, as
opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme] Court’s
decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court
decision.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 412. “A
federal court may not overrule a state court for simply
holding a view different from its own, when the precedent
from [the Supreme Court] is, at best, ambiguous.”
Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 17 (2003).
Supreme Court has vigorously and repeatedly affirmed that
under AEDPA, there is a heightened level of deference a
federal habeas court must give to state court decisions.
See Hardy v. Cross, 132 S.Ct. 490, 491 (2011) (per
curiam); Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103-04
(2011); Felkner v. Jackson, 562 U.S. 594, 598 (2011)
(per curiam). As the Court explained: “[o]n federal
habeas review, AEDPA ‘imposes a highly deferential
standard for evaluating state-court rulings’ and
‘demands that state-court decisions be given the
benefit of the doubt.’” Felkner, 562
U.S. at 598 (citation omitted). With these principles in mind
regarding the standard and limited scope of review in which
this Court may engage in federal habeas proceedings, the
Court addresses Petitioner’s claims.
raised the claims presented in the instant petition for the
first time in his state habeas petition. See Answer,
Ex. 7. Both the California Court of Appeal and the California
Supreme Court summarily denied Petitioner’s habeas
petition. See Answer, Exs. 8 and 10. The Alameda
County Superior Court was thus the highest court to have
reviewed the claims in a reasoned decision, and it is this
decision that this Court reviews herein. See Ylst v.
Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-04 (1991) (state court
decision to which Section 2254(d) applies is the “last
reasoned decision” of the state court).
claims that Petitioner’s claims were procedurally
defaulted, thereby precluding federal habeas review.
Petitioner argues that the procedural default should be
excused because he has demonstrated “cause”
pursuant to Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012).
prisoner generally may not raise a claim in federal habeas if
he has defaulted on the claim “by violating a state
procedural rule which would constitute adequate and
independent grounds to bar direct review in the U.S. Supreme
Court.” Wells v. Maass, 28 F.3d 1005, 1008
(9th Cir. 1994) (citing Coleman v. Thompson, 501
U.S. 722, 729-30, 750-51 (1991). The Alameda County Superior
Court denied Petitioner’s claims as untimely and, in
the alternative, for failure to state a prima facie case for
relief. California’s timeliness rule is
independent, Bennett v. Mueller, 322 F.3d 573,
582-83 (9th Cir. 2003), and adequate, Walker v.
Martin, 562 U.S. 307, 321 (2011). Accordingly, the Court
may only reach Petitioner’s claims if Petitioner can
show cause and prejudice. Coleman, 501 U.S. at
Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012), the Supreme
Court announced an equitable rule by which cause may be found
for excusing a procedurally defaulted claim of ineffective
assistance of trial counsel in certain circumstances.
Martinez provides a petitioner relief from a
procedural default if the state petition (1) raised a
“substantial claim of ineffective assistance at
trial” (2) “in the initial-review collateral
proceeding, ” where (3) “there was no counsel or
counsel in that proceeding was ineffective.”
Martinez, 132 S.Ct. at 1320. To establish cause
under Martinez, a petitioner must establish that
“his counsel in the state postconviction proceeding was
ineffective under the standards of Strickland,
” which requires the petitioner to establish “(a)
post-conviction counsel’s performance was deficient,
and (b) there was a reasonable probability that, absent the
deficient performance, the result of the post-conviction
proceedings would have been different.” Clabourne
v. Ryan, 745 F.3d 362, 377 (9th Cir. 2014),
overruled on other grounds by McKinney v. Ryan, 813
F.3d 798, 829 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)). To establish
prejudice under Martinez, a petitioner must
establish that “his ‘underlying
ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim is a
substantial one, which is to say that the prisoner must
demonstrate that the claim has some merit.’”
Id. (quoting Martinez, 132 S.Ct. at 1318).
Because determining cause and prejudice necessarily requires
reviewing the merits of the underlying ineffective assistance
of counsel claims, the Court turns to the merits of
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims
alleges that trial counsel Todd Bequette rendered ineffective
assistance of counsel by (1) failing to conduct a reasonable,
thorough, timely investigation prior to advising Petitioner
to reject the four-year plea offer, and (2) failing to inform
Petitioner of his maximum sentence exposure.
24, 2011, Petitioner was charged by complaint with three
counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of
vandalism, arising out of the June 11, 2011 incident. CT 1-2.
September 21, 2011, a separate information was filed charging
Petitioner with two felony charges - first-degree residential
burglary, Cal. Penal Code § 459; and vandalism with over
$400 in damage, Cal. Penal Code § 594(a) - arising out
of his September 19, 2011 entry into Doe’s home. CT
4-5. The information alleged that Petitioner had committed
these crimes while he was released from custody on bail or on
out on his own recognizance, Cal. Penal Code §12022.1.
September 28, 2011, Petitioner appeared for a bail hearing in
Alameda County Superior Court. CT 7-11. At that time,
Petitioner was represented by public defender Sam Yun.
Id. During the bail hearing, the court also issued a
restraining order prohibiting any contact between Petitioner
and Doe, except through Petitioner’s lawyer.
Id. at 9. The trial court explained the restraining
order to Petitioner:
Mr. Rodelas, I’m going to issue a restraining order at
this time. This prohibits any contact between you and [Doe].
So no contact by anyone but your lawyer. No contact through
third parties. No contact in writing, by phone, by any means
whatsoever. You are to stay at least 200 yards away from
anyplace that she’s at. You’re not to own or
possess any firearms. You’ll be given a copy of this
[restraining] order. Read it over carefully. A copy of this
will go to the police and a copy of this will go to her. Will
you obey that order?
CT 9. In response to the court’s question, Petitioner
responded, “Yes, your honor.” Id.
October 2011 to December 5, 2012, Petitioner was represented
by public defender Todd Bequette. Docket No. 9-10 at 67. On
December 11, 2011, the prosecution filed an amended
information that amended the first information (initially
filed on June 24, 2011) to add charges of kidnapping,
domestic violence, criminal threats, and vandalism, arising
out of the June 22, 2011 incident. CT 15-18. In total, the
amended complaint charged Petitioner with nine felony counts.
Id. Trial counsel calculated that the maximum
exposure for these charges was approximately 28 years in
prison. Docket No. 9-10 at 78.
January 12, 2012, Petitioner was charged with an additional
thirty-two counts of disobeying a court order, for his
thirty-two contacts with Doe between December 1, 2011, and
December 17, 2011, in violation of the restraining order. CT
19-27. These counts were added on to the amended information.
At this point, this amended information charged Petitioner
with crimes arising out of the June 11, 2011 incident; the
June 22, 2011 incident; and the December 2011 violations of
the restraining order. Trial counsel calculated that
Petitioner’s maximum exposure increased to sixty years
with the additional thirty-two charges of disobeying a court
order. Docket No. 9-10 at 78. Trial counsel does not recall
whether, prior to the case being assigned to a trial court on
or about April 24, 2012,  he communicated to Petitioner
that the maximum exposure had increased to sixty years with
the addition of the thirty-two misdemeanor charges. Docket
No. 9-10 at 78 and CT 282.
February 21 to February 23, 2012, a preliminary hearing was
held for the first information, which charged Petitioner with
crimes arising out of the June 11, 2011 incident; the June
22, 2011 incident; and the violations of the restraining
order. CT 75-244. This preliminary hearing did not address
the September 19, 2011 burglary. During the preliminary
hearing, Doe acknowledged that she had been speaking with
Petitioner while he was incarcerated and had spoken to him as
recently as a couple weeks prior to this preliminary hearing.
CT 125-26, 179- 81, 183.
February 27, 2012, after the preliminary hearing, Petitioner
was held to answer for the nine felonies and thirty-two
misdemeanors arising out of the June 11, 2011 incident; the
June 22, 2011 incident; and the violations of the restraining
order. CT 245.
April 17, 2012, a preliminary hearing was held in
Petitioner’s separate burglary case. CT 292.
April 24, 2012, a trial date of May 14, 2012 was set for the
case involving the first information (nine felonies and
thirty-two misdemeanors arising out of the June 11, 2011
incident; the June 22, 2011 ...