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Harris v. Lagana

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 16, 2015

GILES HARRIS, Petitioner,
v.
PAUL K. LAGANA, Respondent.

OPINION

KEVIN McNULTY, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The petitioner, Giles Harris, is a state prisoner at Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. From 1989 to 1993 he was serving a sentence on sexual assault charges. From 1995 to 2001 he served a sentence on drug charges. His current incarceration does not result from either of those earlier charges, but from a third, 2006 drug offense.

Mr. Harris's claims in this habeas petition all relate to the 1989 sexual assault case. He asserts unlawful amendment to his 1989 judgment of conviction, violation of the principle of ex post facto, violation of his due process rights, and judicial abuse of discretion in sentencing. Because he is no longer in custody on that sexual assault conviction, this habeas petition will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 18, 1988, Mr. Harris pled guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault, N.J. STAT. ANN. § 2C:14-2a(4). He was sentenced to two concurrent prison terms of eleven years, only four years of which were mandatory. The remaining thirteen counts in the indictment were dismissed. ( See ECF No. 11-5 at 2.) Mr. Harris was paroled on March 23, 1993, after serving his four mandatory years. ( See ECF No. 12-1 at 6.) On March 15, 1994, Mr. Harris was arrested on unrelated drug offenses. After a jury trial, Mr. Harris was convicted of said drug offenses and was sentenced on January 27, 1995 to a five-year prison term. ( Id. ) Upon his release from prison in August 2001, Mr. Harris was informed that he was now subject to the registration requirements of Megan's Law, N.J. STAT. ANN. § 2C:7-1 et seq, which had been passed by the New Jersey legislature and signed by Governor Whitman while Mr. Harris was on trial for the drug charges. ( Id. )

In 2010, while incarcerated for an unrelated drug offense, Mr. Harris filed a petition for post-conviction relief ("PCR") with the New Jersey state courts. In that PCR petition, he argued ( inter alia ) that his 1988 guilty plea to the sexual assault charges was not voluntary, and that the retroactive imposition of Megan's Law registration requirements for sex offenders was unconstitutional. ( Id. at 7.) The PCR court denied all of Mr. Harris's claims in a written opinion. ( Id.; see also ECF No. 11-4.) Mr. Harris appealed the PCR court's denial, and the Appellate Division affirmed. (ECF No. 11-5.) The Supreme Court of New Jersey denied certification on January 6, 2013. See State v. Harris, 213 N.J. 568 (2013).

In October of 2013, Mr. Harris filed a petition for habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and thereafter filed an amended habeas petition. (ECF Nos. 1, 5) On December 12, 2013, the State filed an Answer to the amended petition. (ECF Nos. 11, 12) On January 9, 2014, Harris filed a reply to the State's Answer. (ECF No. 14)

The amended petition raises the following claims:

(1) State of New Jersey Unlawfully Amended Judgment of Conviction to Add
Restrictions to Plea Contract Years After Finality;
(2) State of New Jersey Violated the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the Federal and State Constitutions;
(3) State of New Jersey Violated Due Process of Law When it Failed to Allow Petitioner to Withdraw Plea and Pursue Trial; and
(4) The PCR Court, Appellate Court and Supreme Court All Abused its Discretion in Failing to Allow Defendant to Withdraw ...

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