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Rodriguez v. Hatton

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 9, 2017

LEONARD P. RODRIGUEZ, Petitioner,
v.
SHAWN HATTON, Warden, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS ORDER DECLINING TO ISSUE CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY ORDER DIRECTING CLERK OF COURT TO ENTER JUDGMENT AND CLOSE CASE

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation serving an 8 year sentence for his 2013 conviction of inflicting corporal injury, false imprisonment by violence, dissuading a witness, and second degree robbery. In this action, Petitioner claims: 1) There was insufficient evidence that the victim suffered a corporal injury that resulted in a traumatic condition; 2) Petitioner was prejudiced by the admission of evidence; 3) The conviction was obtained by use of perjured testimony by the prosecution; and 4) Defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance. The Court disagrees and will DENY the petition.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Petitioner was convicted in the Fresno County Superior Court on January 18, 2013, of inflicting corporal injury (Cal. Penal Code § 273.5(a)), false imprisonment by violence (Cal. Penal Code § 236), dissuading a witness by force or threat (Cal. Penal Code § 136.1(c)(1)), and second degree robbery (Cal. Penal Code § 211). People v. Rodriguez, 2014 WL 4723434, *1 (Cal.Ct.App. 2014). He was sentenced to a total determinate term of eight years. Id.

         Petitioner appealed to the California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District (“Fifth DCA”). The Fifth DCA affirmed the judgment on September 23, 2014. Id. Petitioner then filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. The petition was summarily denied on December 10, 2014. (LD[1] 12.)

         Petitioner next filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Fresno County Superior Court. On March 19, 2015, the petition was denied. (LD 15.) He then filed a habeas petition in the Fifth DCA. That petition was denied on April 23, 2015. (LD 17.) Last, he filed a habeas petition in the California Supreme Court, and that petition was denied on December 16, 2015. (LD 19.)

         On February 9, 2016, Petitioner filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus in this Court. (Doc. No. 1). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Judge. Respondent filed an answer on May 10, 2016. (Doc. No. 16). Petitioner did not file a traverse.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Court adopts the Statement of Facts in the Fifth DCA's unpublished decision[2]:

Antoinette Ramirez (a.k.a. Antoinette Garcia) has been a correctional officer for years. She and defendant have two children together. At one point, Ramirez and defendant lived together for several weeks. [Footnote] Ramirez and defendant broke up in March 2012.
September 3, 2012
On the morning of September 3, 2012, defendant called Ramirez and asked if she could take him to the store and then to lunch. Ramirez was seven months pregnant at the time. She brought her son along to pick up defendant at Roeding Park, where he lived. [FN.5]
[FN.5] Defendant was homeless at the time.
Around noon, defendant rented a motel room. At some point, Ramirez took her son home and returned to the motel room. That evening, Ramirez took a shower in the motel room. During Ramirez's shower, defendant began accusing her of “being with” someone else. Ramirez believed defendant was intoxicated or impaired in some fashion. Ramirez “didn't want to hear it” so she got out of the shower, got dressed and said she was going home. [FN.6] Ramirez began gathering her “items” near a sink outside the bathroom. Defendant said, “[Y]ou're not going anywhere, you're staying here.” Defendant pushed her into the bathroom. [FN.7] Ramirez said she was calling the police. Defendant told Ramirez, “‘You're not gonna do shit, I'm gonna punch you in your stomach, you're not walking out of here.'” Defendant and Ramirez “were struggling in the bathroom” as Ramirez attempted to call the police and defendant tried to take the phone away. Ramirez told defendant to stop. Defendant began “banging” Ramirez's hand on the tub to knock the phone out of her grasp. Her phone fell into the tub. Throughout their “struggle, ” defendant “constantly” said, “[Y]ou're not going anywhere, ” or some variation of that phrase. Ramirez pulled out her Taser and tased defendant. Defendant fell to the floor, and Ramirez “took off running out the door.”
[FN.6] She told defendant three or four times that she wanted to leave.
[FN.7] Ramirez qualified this testimony saying defendant “[p]retty much” pushed her “[p]retty much” with his chest.
Eventually, defendant came out of the room and ran down stairs towards the motel office where Ramirez was. Ramirez pointed the Taser gun at him, and he ran past the motel room to an exit. Ramirez went back to the hotel room and looked for her cell phone but could not find it. Eventually, a police officer contacted Ramirez at the motel.
At around 9:30 p.m., Officer Cory Hastings began canvassing nearby areas. He was initially unable to locate defendant. At about 1:40 a.m. the next morning, Hastings saw defendant walking on a sidewalk. Defendant saw Hastings and ran into the parking lot of a nearby motel. Hastings found defendant sitting down, apparently trying to hide behind a vehicle. Defendant smelled of alcohol, his speech was slurred, and his eyes were red and watery.
Officer Hastings arrested defendant and searched him. He located a phone in defendant's shorts pocket. Hastings had another officer call Ramirez's number. When he did so, the phone found on defendant rang. Hastings answered the call and was connected to the other officer. At that point, defendant yelled out, “That bitch has my phone, so I took” her phone.
During their struggle in the motel room, defendant had “head butt[ed]” Ramirez four or five times. The “head butts” hurt Ramirez and she “felt it later.” Specifically, Ramirez felt a knot on her head, though it was not visible. She did not go to the hospital and returned to work the next day. An officer who responded to the scene did not observe any visible injuries on Ramirez. The motel clerk was asked whether he saw any bruises or cuts on Ramirez, and he answered: “I just seen [sic] her crying that's all.”
Ramirez wrote a letter stating she did not want to “press charges” against defendant. Ramirez did not want defendant prosecuted because she loved him, he is the father of her children, and he's “a good person” when he is sober.
Prior Incidents
April 15, 2010 Incident
Ramirez testified to a prior incident that occurred on April 15, 2010. She and defendant were dating at the time. Defendant came to visit her some time after 9:00 p.m. Defendant, who was intoxicated, wanted to come into Ramirez's home, but she would not let him. He said he would drink a beer on her porch and then leave. Ramirez eventually checked outside to see if defendant had left. She saw that her vehicle's windshield “had a brick through it, ” and that her mirrors had been broken.
Ramirez walked down to the street to where defendant's friend lived. Defendant was outside the residence, and Ramirez asked him whether he broke her windshield. Defendant became angry. It looked to Ramirez as if defendant was going to throw something at her so she “took off.” Defendant approached her car “like he was gonna throw something” at it. Ramirez “accidentally stepped on the gas trying to get away, and accidentally ran him over.” Ramirez was given a citation but no charges were filed in connection with the incident.
February 12, 2011, Incident
On February 12, 2011, an Officer Eloy Escareno was dispatched on reports of a “disturbance with a male who refused to leave the location.” When Escareno arrived, Ramirez was upset because defendant had come to her house and was “very belligerent, was drunk, was loud.” After at least 10 minutes, a fire engine arrived with its lights and sirens activated. The fire captain told Escareno that they had received a 911 call that a child was having difficulty breathing. Escareno called dispatch to learn what phone number had placed the 911 call. Escareno confirmed with Ramirez that the phone number belonged to defendant. Escareno then used Ramirez's cell phone to call defendant. A male answered and said, “‘Ha ha ha, I got you, bitch. Now I'm gonna get you in trouble.'” The male continued to talk and laugh, but Escareno did not recall what the male spoke about. The male then hung up. Escareno waited a couple minutes and called the number again. The male said, “F**k you, bitch, f**k you.” Escareno then identified himself as a police officer. The male said Escareno “had nothing on him” and “couldn't do anything to him.” The male then said, “F**k you, come get me if you can find me.” Escareno was unable to locate defendant.
June 2011 Incidents
On June 1, 2011, Ramirez called 911. An officer responded and Ramirez was given an emergency protective order against defendant.
On June 3, 2011, defendant left several voicemails for Ramirez. In one message, defendant said, “When I catch you, I'm going to f**k you up.” In another, defendant said, “I'm a crazy mother f**king [M]exican.” Ramirez called law enforcement and had defendant served with a temporary restraining order.
On June 4, 2011, Ramirez again called police because she interpreted certain voicemails from defendant to be threats against her children.
Ramirez was “pretty sure” defendant left further voicemails on her phone around June 19, 2011.
Defendant pled no contest to charges of making criminal threats (Pen. Code, § 422) “in connection with events alleged to have occurred on June 19th, 2011....” Ramirez had not wanted defendant prosecuted.
Sometime around June 2011, [FN.8] Ramirez had video surveillance equipment installed at her home. The system recorded defendant throwing a brick through Ramirez's front window on June 30, 2011. The system also recorded defendant pulling Ramirez's pool sweep out of the water and throwing it over a fence.
[FN.8] When asked if she installed the video surveillance in June, Ramirez said, “Um, probably, yes.”
February 2012
Ramirez also testified that on a day in February 2012, defendant was watching their son while Ramirez was at work. Ramirez's mother called her at work and said defendant sounded like he had been drinking. Ramirez left work and came home to find beer bottles around the house. She asked defendant to leave, but he did not want to. Ramirez told defendant that she was going to call the police. Defendant left the home, so Ramirez “cancelled with” the police. Ramirez went outside to move her car because she did not want defendant “to go mess up my car.” As she was moving her car, defendant approached her angrily and began cussing at her. Ramirez felt threatened so she tased him. Defendant apologized and said he would leave. Ramirez disconnected the Taser prongs, and defendant left.
April 13, 2012, Incident
On the morning of April 13, 2012, Officer Manuel Robles responded to a report that an adult male was possibly high on methamphetamine. Robles contacted a female on scene who told him that “nothing was going on, ” and defendant was probably making the calls. Robles went inside the home and confirmed that “there was nothing going on.” Ramirez said she wanted to file charges against defendant.
Officer Robles called the number that had made the false emergency call. A male answered the phone and eventually admitted he was “Leonard Rodriguez” (defendant). Robles told him the number had been used to make a false police report and to violate a restraining order. Defendant said he didn't “give a f**k.” Defendant also said “he knows that he's in violation for calling the female, but the female calls him, she picks him up” so “he's gonna continue to violate the restraining order if the female wants him around.” Defendant said “he's the one that made the false police calls ... to cause problems against the victim because he wanted to see his kid.”
July 2012 Incidents
On July 5, 2012, Ramirez contacted law enforcement because defendant was harassing her at work. Defendant would call Ramirez and curse repeatedly.
On July 14, 2012, officers responded to Ramirez's home on a report of shots fired. Officers arrived with guns drawn. Ramirez told them “there's nothing going on.” The officers did “a quick sweep and left.”
On July 17, 2012, defendant called 911 saying he was in Ramirez's house tied up in the garage. Officers arrived and Ramirez explained to them that this had “been happening all week.”
On July 21, 2012, officers again responded to Ramirez's home. Ramirez testified: “I guess [defendant] was saying my son was smoking and smoking.” Later that night, an officer was informed by dispatch that defendant had been located and stopped. The officer went to defendant and observed he was slurring speech, smelled of alcohol, was acting belligerently, and had red eyes and an unsteady gait. The number of a cell phone found on defendant's person matched the number that had been placing the false emergency calls.
Defendant was convicted of falsely reporting an emergency (Pen. Code, § 148.3, subd. (a)) after pleading no contest.
Marriage and Family Therapist
A licensed marriage and family therapist testified as a domestic violence expert for the prosecution. The expert explained that victims often minimize what happened to them, alcoholism increases the severity of the abuser's violence and verbal assaults, and victims can testify with an emotionless response because they become “numb” in the course of developing “learned helplessness.”

Rodriguez, 2014 WL 4723434, at *1-4.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Jurisdiction

         Relief by way of a petition for writ of habeas corpus extends to a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court if the custody is in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 n. 7 (2000). Petitioner asserts that he suffered violations of his rights as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The challenged conviction arises out of the ...


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