Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rodelas v. Arnold

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 1, 2016

CESAR RODELAS, Plaintiff,
v.
ERIC ARNOLD, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS; DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          JON S. TIGAR United States District Judge.

         Before 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 petition.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On 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.[1] 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.

         On December 15, 2012, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to twelve years in state prison. CT 473 and Answer, Ex. 2 (“RT”), [2] Vol. 3 at 14-16.

         Petitioner appealed his conviction. On June 27, 2013, Petitioner’s appellate counsel filed a Wende brief[3] 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. 4.[4] 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.[5] On July 26, 2013, Petitioner filed a supplemental brief.[6] 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.

         On November 13, 2013, the California Supreme Court summarily denied Petitioner’s petition for review. See Answer, Exh. 6.

         On July 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.

         On 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.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Petitioner’s felony charges arose from three separate incidents involving his former girlfriend, Jane Doe, whom Petitioner had dated for two years. CT 497.

         The 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.

         The 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 521.

         The 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.

         On 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.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A 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. § 2254(a).

         A 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.

         Section 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).

         The 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.

         Petitioner 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).

         B. Procedural Default

         Respondent 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).

         A state 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.[7] 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 750.[8]

         In 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 Petitioner’s claims.

         C. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims

         Petitioner 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.

         1. Factual Background[9]

         On June 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.

         On 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. Id.

         On 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.

         From 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.

         On 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, [10] 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.

         From 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.

         On 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.

         On April 17, 2012, a preliminary hearing was held in Petitioner’s separate burglary case. CT 292.

         On 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.