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Rockefeller v. Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 22, 2019




         On August 7, 2019, Petitioner filed a habeas petition ostensibly pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [Dkt. 1, “Petition”]. The Petition seeks Section 2254 habeas relief with respect to a pending criminal case, namely, Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BA471603 (the “Pending Criminal Case”). On the same date that the Petition was filed, Petitioner filed a Request for Emergency Stay [Dkt. 3, “Request], in which he asked the Court to stay the trial in the Pending Criminal Case.

         Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts requires summary dismissal of Section 2254 petitions “[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254. The Court has reviewed the Petition and its attachments, the August 14, 2019 Order to Show Cause issued by United States Magistrate Judge Gail J. Standish [Dkt. 6, “OSC”], and Petitioner's untimely response to the OSC [Dkt. 7, “Response”] carefully and, further, has taken judicial notice, pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 201, of the dockets for the California courts available electronically. Having done so, and for the following reasons, the Court finds that summary dismissal of this action, without prejudice, is required pursuant to the abstention doctrine.


         The dockets for the Los Angeles County Superior Court show that the Pending Criminal Case stems from a charged September 20, 2018 criminal violation, and was initiated on September 24, 2018, against someone named “Nicholas Garcia.” “Nicholas Garcia” was charged with domestic violence, violation of a protective or stay away order, stalking, and criminal threats. Following the October 30, 2018 preliminary hearing, the Pending Criminal Case thereafter proceeded against “Levi Princeton Rockafellor.” Petitioner has filed this action under the name “Levi Rockefeller, ” The Court assumes that Petitioner is the same person as “Levi Princeton Rockafellor” and, presumably, “Nicholas Garcia.”[1]

         The Pending Criminal Case was set for trial in January, in February, and then again in May 2019, but trial has not yet occurred. The most recent docket entries for the Pending Criminal Case are: one on July 23, 2019, which reflects a hearing into Petitioner's mental competence; and one on September 1, 2019, which simply reads “Docket Line Entry.”

         The dockets for the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court show that, in connection with the Pending Criminal Case, Petitioner has filed numerous mandamus petitions, stay requests, and petitions for review in March, June, and July 2019, all of which were denied. Petitioner filed a habeas petition in the California Supreme Court on July 29, 2019 (Case No. S257128), which was denied on October 16, 2019. He also filed two petitions for a writ of mandate/prohibition in the state high court on October 7, 2019 (Case Nos. S258442 and S258464), which apparently are pending.

         Thus, the record shows that Petitioner has not yet been convicted in connection with the Pending Criminal Case, the predicate for the Petition .

         On August 14, 2019, Magistrate Judge Standish issued the OSC in this case. As discussed below, the OSC explained to Petitioner that abstention appears to be required in this case, as well as dismissal of the action without prejudice. The OSC directed Petitioner to file a response by no later than September 18, 2019, addressing the abstention issue as well as clarifying various other matters identified in the OSC. The September 18, 2019 deadline passed, and Petitioner neither responded to the OSC on a timely basis nor sought additional time to do so. However, belatedly on October 3, 2019, Petitioner filed the Response to the OSC, which the Court has considered despite its untimeliness.


         As noted in the OSC, the claims Petitioner has alleged through the Petition are difficult to determine clearly.[2] The Petition directs the Court to see “Grounds One through Ten in the attached handwritten petition” but there is no such document attached to the Petition. The Response (at 12) confirms the OSC's assumption that this directive was a reference to Petitioner's lengthy Request instead, which at pages 7-10, lists 12 items under “Grounds raised, ”[3] followed by close to 60 pages of rambling narrative. The Response (at 14-15) purports to restates the 12 grounds assertedly raised through the Petition, which when read with the Petition and Request, appear to complain about the following briefly summarized matters:

         Petitioner alleges that he is proceeding pro se in the Pending Criminal Case and that various persons - the trial court judge, former counsel, the prosecutor - have failed to provide him with materials he has requested, such as pretrial transcripts, prior attorney case files, etc. and/or have failed to meet their purported Brady obligations. Petitioner asserts that the prosecutor made a “not true” statement about Petitioner's prior counsel, which somehow relates to the filing of a “second case in (No GA105379) charging Petitioner.” According to the Los Angeles County Superior Court dockets, Case No. GA105379 has been brought against “Nicholas Garcia.”[4] In his Response (at 16), Petitioner explains that this “not true” contention stems from an instance in which his counsel declared a conflict in September 2018, in a different case (No. BA471603) and “then imposed itself in a second case” (No. GA105379) without notice or authority, which he states means that counsel referred Petitioner for a mental competency evaluation in No. GA105379. Petitioner also complains that an unspecified “structural error” by the prosecutor somehow caused Petitioner to be arrested and imprisoned for violating a restraining order following his 2015 conviction in a separate case (No. BA428706).[5]

         In addition, Petitioner complains that the prosecutor submitted altered bodycam evidence in audio format only and submitted altered photographs in lieu of the bodycam video. Petitioner further complains that he told the trial court and his former counsel that unspecified interviews, the preliminary hearing, and unspecified transcripts are inaccurate, “because a wrong language interpreter was used” in connection with his wife, which he now (Response at 15) characterizes as “rendering interpolations rather than interpretations.” Petitioner contends that the trial judge committed Brady error and violated judicial canons by ruling adversely to him. Petitioner asserts that court reporters keep creating transcripts that omit information relating to his defense, although they include information favorable to the prosecution. Petitioner alleges that the prosecutor violated Brady by failing to disclose an October 30, 2018 interview to Petitioner prior to the preliminary hearing. Finally, as the twelfth claim, the Petition alludes to the No. GA105379 case and unspecified government misconduct, violations of the California Penal Code, Brady violations, judicial misconduct, State Bar ethical violations, fraud upon the court, etc. In the Response (at 15), Petitioner describes this claim as one challenging various of the trial judge's rulings, although the allegations in this respect are unclear.

         As noted in the OSC, the remaining close to 60 pages of the Request are difficult to follow, and Petitioner's Response does little to clarify, instead (for the most part) directing the Court to review the Request or the Response itself or to obtain and review the entirety of Petitioner's trial court and state appellate and high court filings. In connection with the Pending Criminal Case, Petitioner appears to contend that the prosecutor has wrongfully denied the existence of, and failed to disclose, third and fourth interviews of his wife as recorded via police officer bodycam. Petitioner is unhappy (to put it mildly) with a number of rulings made by the trial judge as well as by her treatment of his investigator. Petitioner repeatedly characterizes the trial judge and the prosecutor as “vindictive” and retaliatory, although it is unclear to what he refers given the rambling nature of the Request and garbled nature of Ground 12 as set forth in the Response. In the Request, Petitioner also alludes to “criminal conduct” by the prosecutor, which in the Response, he explains means Brady error. In the Request, Petitioner labels Case No. GA105379 a “vindictive prosecution” but in his Response (at 20), states that what he really meant was: he experienced vindictive prosecution in the Pending Criminal Case when the prosecutor added a domestic violence charge after Petitioner exercised “his legal rights against the original ...

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