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Caward v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 27, 2017

TODD M. CAWARD, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          OPINION

          FREDA L. WOLFSON, U.S.D.J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This § 2255 motion arises out of Petitioner Todd M. Caward's guilty plea and sentencing for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 871 and 18 U.S.C. § 876 arising from charges contained in two separate Indictments. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78, upon review of all submissions, this matter is decided without oral argument, and for the reasons stated below, the Court denies the Motion and denies a certificate of appealability.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

         On February 15, 2012, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, a one-count Indictment was filed against Caward charging him with mailing a threatening letter to the President of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 871. Specifically, the Indictment charged Caward with mailing President Obama a letter on or about October 15, 2011, in which Caward stated that he was affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood and was coming to take the President's life. On November 8, 2012, a Rule 20 consent to transfer case for plea and sentence to the District of New Jersey was filed. This Indictment was assigned to the undersigned for entry of the plea and indexed in the District of New Jersey under Crim. No. 12-0721 (the “M.D. Pa. Case”).

         On April 5, 2012, a four-count Indictment was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, indexed under Crim. No. 12-0152, and assigned to the undersigned in the District of New Jersey. Count One and Three of the Indictment charged Caward with offenses related to the following threat contained in a letter mailed on or about December 1, 2011 to a judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:

Its time for you to pay and I don't mean in a monetary sense. I mean with your life!! [Y]ou and your family are a bunch of Jew ass loving punks who kiss ass with the n...s (racial epithet)! Your (sic) trying to take over but that will never happen because you may be taken off the count before you read this, and if not then in only a few hours you'll be dead. [A]long with your family they will be tormented to a slowly (sic) death and thats (sic) the Aryan truth. Me and my people are to (sic) smart for your out of date security. So get ready I am coming to choke the life out of you and your punk ass family you Jew loving Punk!!

         Counts Two and Four charged Caward with offenses related to the following threat contained in a letter mailed on or about December 7, 2011 to the same judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:

You Jew ass Loving Punks Just don't get the picture. I [a]m coming to kill your n...r (racial epithet)/Jew ass so get ready!! You can send whoever you want to try and talk me down[.] I [a]m not changing my mind[.] [Y]ou've made decisions That had directly effected white associates of mine And I [a]m the man for the Job[.] I [have] got a .308 bullet with your name on it!! So get ready asshole!! Your (sic) a deadman!!

         Specifically, Counts One and Three charged Caward with mailing threatening communications to a federal judge, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876(c) and Counts Two and Four charged Caward with threatening a federal judge in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 115(a)(1)(B). This Indictment was assigned to the undersigned because the judiciary in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was recused from this matter. (the “E.D. Pa. Case”).

         On November 14, 2012, Caward entered guilty pleas in the M.D. Pa. Case and to Counts One and Three of the Indictment in the E.D. Pa. Case. A plea agreement, associated with the M.D. Pa. Case, was electronically filed in that District on June 26, 2012. (See ECF No. 7-1, Exhibit A.) A plea agreement associated with the E.D. Pa. Case was filed on November 14, 2012, when Caward entered his plea. (See ECF No. 7-2, Exhibit B.) Both plea agreements were reviewed in open Court on November 14, 2012 prior to Caward's guilty pleas. (See ECF No. 7-3, Exhibit C (Transcript of November 14, 2012 Plea Proceeding) at 8:7-18:10.) Mr. Caward advised the Court that he reviewed and fully understood the terms of both plea agreements. Id. at 14:10-17.)

         Caward was represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender Brian Reilly, Esq. at the plea proceedings in regard to both charges. Prior to the transfer of the M.D. Pa. Case to the District of New Jersey, Caward was represented by Anne Gingrich Cornick, Esq. in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

         On July 8, 2013, Caward was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 56 months in the M.D. Pa. Case and 56 months in the. E.D. Pa. Case to run concurrent to each other. (See ECF No. 7-4, Exhibit D (Judgment)). The Court also sentenced Caward to a three year term of supervised release in both cases. Id. Caward did not file an appeal. Caward was represented by Mr. Reilly at sentencing.

         Caward's Section 2255 Petition was docketed on September 29, 2014, and is dated September 23, 2014. (ECF No. 1, Motion at 14.) Caward alleged four grounds for relief in his Section 2255 Petition. First, Caward alleges that Mr. Reilly was ineffective for failing to submit to the Court a psychiatric evaluation purportedly prepared by Dr. Gerald Cooke, and that Caward “surely would have been given a lesser sentence” if this examination had been submitted. Second, Caward alleges that he suffers from severe mental illness and he is not receiving treatment. Third, Caward alleges that Mr. Reilly was ineffective because he allegedly said that “all things would not be mentioned, ” that Caward would be sent to a prison where he would receive mental health treatment, and that Caward would “get less time” because of the psychological evaluation. Finally, Caward claims that Mr. Reilly was ineffective because he “lied to” Caward by allegedly telling Caward he would be better off by pleading guilty and that he would submit Dr. Cooke's psychological evaluation.

         On October 2, 2014, the Court entered an Order after screening the Section 2255 Petition for dismissal in accordance with Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings. (ECF No. 3.) The Court summarily dismissed Ground Two because this claim is not cognizable in a motion to vacate under Section 2255. (Id.) The Court ordered the Government to file an answer to Grounds One, Three, and Four. The Government filed its Answer on December 17, 2014. (ECF No. 7.) Caward did not file a reply, but instead submitted several letters, which the Court addresses below. (See ECF Nos. 6, 11.)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255 permits a court to vacate, correct, or set aside a sentence

upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized ...

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