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Baker v. D'Ilio

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 5, 2018

FORREST M. BAKER, SR., Petitioner,
STEPHEN D'ILIO, et al., Respondents.



         Presently before this Court is the petition for a writ of habeas corpus of Forrest M. Baker, Sr. brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging Mr. Baker's state court conviction. (ECF No. 1.) Following an order to answer, Respondents filed a response to the petition. (ECF No. 12.) Mr. Baker thereafter filed a letter formal reply, (ECF No. 18), and provided a handful of additional documents related to his state court proceedings. (ECF No. 15.)

         Mr. Baker seeks to have this Court overturn his state conviction based on his claim that the multiple transfers of him to and from the federal detention center where he was serving his federal sentence to attend court proceedings in his subsequent New Jersey state criminal matter violated the Interstate Agreement on Detainer Act's (“IAD's”) mandates that “trial shall be commenced within one hundred and twenty days of the arrival of the prisoner in the receiving State[, ]” 18 U.S.C.App. 2 § 2, Art. IV(c), and that “[i]f trial is not had on any indictment, information, or complaint . . . prior to the prisoner's being returned to the original place of imprisonment . . . the court shall enter an order dismissing the same with prejudice.” Id. at Art. IV(e). (Accord Pet'r's Pet. at Ground One ¶ 5, ECF No. 1.) For the following reasons, this Court will deny the petition and will deny Mr. Baker a certificate of appealability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         From April 29, 2002 through October 30, 2002, Mr. Baker committed five separate bank robberies in southern New Jersey. (See, e.g., ECF Nos. 12-7, 12-8.) During that period, on June 29, 2002, Mr. Baker and his then-thirteen-year-old son also robbed a Rite Aid store located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. See State v. Baker, 945 A.2d 723, 725-27 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. 2008).

         On July 23, 2003, Mr. Baker pled guilty in United States District Court to five bank robbery charges. (See Criminal J., United States v. Baker, No. 1:03-cr-539 (RBK) (D.N.J. Nov. 25, 2003), appended to Resp'ts' Answer at ECF No. 12-7.) On November 25, 2003, this Court sentenced Mr. Baker to seventy-eight months of imprisonment. (Id.) On January 6, 2004, Mr. Baker began serving his federal sentence at the federal correctional facility at Fort Dix. Baker, 945 A.2d at 728.

         Mr. Baker's plea in federal court did not, however, address the Rite Aid robbery he and his son committed on June 29, 2002; instead, that crime was prosecuted by the State of New Jersey. On June 5, 2003, Mr. Baker was charged in a two-count state indictment with: (i) robbery in the first degree and; (ii) using a juvenile to commit a crime in the first degree. Id. at 725. Mr. Baker entered a formal plea of “not guilty” to these charges in September 2005. (Resp'ts' Answer 7, ECF No. 12.)

         Between July 1, 2003 and February 2, 2006, Judges Thomas S. Smith Jr. and Marvin E. Schlosser of the Superior Court of New Jersey collectively executed sixteen separate “Order[s] to Produce” by which the state trial court requested that Mr. Baker be produced from federal custody to attend various hearings and appear at trial; thirteen of these Orders to Produce were executed prior to Mr. Baker pleading not guilty to his state charges in September 2005.[1] (ECF No. 12-11.) It also appears that many of those Orders to Produce were accompanied by separate Prosecutor's Certifications executed by the Burlington County Prosecutor requesting temporary custody of Mr. Baker pursuant to the Orders to Produce.[2] (See ECF No. 12-12.)

         On or about August 12, 2005, Mr. Baker filed a pre-trial motion to dismiss the New Jersey indictment based on the argument, discussed in greater detail infra, that the Orders to Produce represented “detainers” which triggered application of the IAD and required dismissal of that indictment pursuant to the IAD's anti-shuttling provision. (ECF No. 12-5.) Mr. Baker's self-prepared certification in support of that argument universally refers to these Orders to Produce as “writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum.” (Id.) The trial court denied Mr. Baker's motion to dismiss during a hearing on October 14, 2005, and Mr. Baker's state criminal matter proceeded to trial. (Tr. 1T, 8:17-10:23, ECF No. 12-33.)

         On January 31, 2006, after five days of trial, a jury returned a verdict of guilty against Mr. Baker on both counts charged in the indictment. (Tr. 7T, 125:6-16, ECF No. 12-39.) The trial court concluded proceedings on that date with the following exchange with the prosecutor:

MR. MORMANDO: As to any detainer, Your Honor, I know he's in federal custody right now. Is there any specific detainer we need to lodge at this point in time or -
THE COURT: Well, if he's - he goes back in federal custody, he's not going anywhere.
MR. MORMANDO: All right. Thank you.
THE COURT: All right? Okay. Because he's - his bail is here. So, if they were going to release him, he'd still have to come back here anyway, all right?

(Id. at 129:9-19.)

         At Mr. Baker's sentencing on February 17, 2006, “the trial judge imposed a mandatory life sentence without parole on the first-degree robbery [count], and a concurrent sentence of fifteen years, seven and one-half years without parole, on the second count.” Baker, 945 A.2d at 725. Notably, Mr. Baker acknowledges that “[o]nly after [Mr. Baker's] sentencing did the State send the [federal] Bureau of Prisons an actual detainer letter.” (Pet'r's Reply 23, ECF 17.)

         A. Mr. Baker's Direct Appeal to the State

         Mr. Baker appealed his conviction and sentence, based on, inter alia, his assertion that his pre-trial motion to dismiss the State's indictment should have been granted in light of the State's alleged violations of IAD Article IV's anti-shuttling provision. Baker, 945 A.2d at 727. This appears to be the lone IAD-related argument which Mr. Baker presented on direct appeal. (See Pet'r's Mar. 5, 2007 Appeal Br. at Point I, ECF No. 12-16.)

         On April 14, 2008, the Appellate Division affirmed Mr. Baker's conviction and sentence. Baker, 945 A.2d at 736. In so doing, the Appellate Division expressly found that the IAD was not implicated because “the State never filed a detainer with the federal correctional authorities.” Id. at 730. That appellate court also found it “unnecessary” to remand Mr. Baker's case to the trial court “for a plenary hearing to determine exactly how he was produced from the federal facility for the several appearances he made before his trial commenced.” Id. at 728.

         The New Jersey Supreme Court granted certification in June 2008. (ECF No. 12-19.) On March 16, 2009, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a written opinion affirming[3] Mr. Baker's conviction “substantially for the reasons expressed” in the written opinion of the Appellate Division. State v. Baker, 966 A.2d 488, 489 (N.J. 2009). The New Jersey Supreme Court then went on to add the following:

On several occasions, the State procured the presence of [Mr. Baker] from federal custody (where [Mr. Baker] was serving a term of imprisonment) to appear in then-pending State criminal proceedings. The State never lodged a detainer against [Mr. Baker]. Instead, in each instance [Mr. Baker] was transferred between federal and New Jersey custody via a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum or an order to produce. . . . [A]lthough orders equivalent to an order to produce, such as writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, qualify as the required “written request for temporary custody [under IAD Art. 4(a)], ” they do not constitute a detainer. United States v. Mauro, [436 U.S. 340');">436 U.S. 340, 360-61(1978)] (“[W]hen [Congress] used the word ‘detainer, ' it meant something quite different from a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum . . . . We therefore conclude that a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum is not a detainer for purposes of the [IAD].”). Viewed thusly, it is clear that, in the circumstances presented, the two necessary conditions precedent to the invocation of the IAD never coalesced.
[Mr. Baker] nevertheless asserts that the repeated use of orders to produce or writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum subverts the purposes of the IAD and must, in the ...

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