United States District Court, D. New Jersey
C. Cecchi United States District Judge
Hozay Royal files the instant Petition for a Writ of Habeas
Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging a
conviction and sentence imposed by the State of New Jersey
for credit card fraud and other related crimes. ECF No. 12.
Respondents have filed a Response, (ECF No. 18), and
Petitioner has filed a Reply (ECF No. 22). For the reasons
stated below, the Court DENIES the Petition.
purposes of this Opinion, the Court recites only relevant
facts, as summarized by the state appellate court on direct
appeal in State v. Royal, No. A-6069-12T2, slip op.
at 2-8 (N.J. Sup. Ct. App. Div. Feb. 17, 2016) (ECF No.
18-17). On July 17, 2010, the owner of a retail appliance
store in Flanders, New Jersey, received a call from a person
who identified himself as "Eldridge" to purchase
goods totaling $1, 612.49. Eldridge provided a credit card
number as payment. Two days later, a man who claimed to be
Eldridge's nephew arrived in a white Ryder van to pick up
the merchandise. The owner, suspicious of fraud, asked for
identification, and the man immediately left without taking
possession of the merchandise. The owner contacted the
authorities, and gave them the license plate number of the
van as well as the paperwork for the credit card transaction.
The credit card number, as it turned out, belonged to a
person in Switzerland who did not authorize the purchase.
separate incident that occurred a few days earlier on July
12, 2010, a man who identified himself as "Tom
Hanson" called a different appliance store in
Rutherford, New Jersey, also to purchase some merchandise
with a credit card. The first credit card number given to the
store clerk was declined, but the second was accepted. Hanson
also provided a phone number to the store clerk that was the
same phone number provided to the Flanders store. A person
driving a white Ryder van picked up the item a few days
later. On July 16, 2010, Hanson placed another purchase with
the Rutherford store, using the same credit card that was
accepted on July 12. This time, the card was declined, so
Hanson gave the clerk a third credit card, but instructed the
clerk to charge only $300 on the card, and that the rest
would be paid at pickup. The clerk immediately called the
20, Hanson called the Rutherford store again, and provided a
fourth credit card number to pay the remaining balance. The
card was declined, and Hanson provided a fifth credit card
number. Although this fifth card was again declined, at the
instruction of the police, the clerk told Hanson the card had
been accepted. That afternoon, Petitioner, who identified
himself as Hanson's nephew, arrived in the same white
Ryder van to pick up the merchandise. The clerk testified at
trial that this was the same man who picked up the July 12
order. When Petitioner was loading the merchandise into the
van, police officers, who had been posing as store employees
while waiting for Petitioner's arrival, arrested him.
Police then searched the van, and seized a bag inside, which
contained a number of documents with numerous credit card
numbers on them. The white Ryder van seized on July 20 had
the same license plate number as the one identified by the
owner of the Flanders store.
the details of the Rutherford incident, as well as
information obtained in the documents seized, Rutherford
police created and disseminated a "Critical Reach
Flyer" (the "Flyer"), intended to inform other
jurisdictions of the charges against Petitioner. Flanders
police saw the Flyer, and recognized that Petitioner may be
the same person who committed the Flanders offense. A photo
array identification procedure was conducted with the owner
of the Flanders store, and Petitioner was identified as the
person who attempted to pick up the merchandise at the
Flanders store. Petitioner was charged for the Flanders crime
after this positive identification. This charge and the
subsequent conviction is the subject of the instant Petition.
pretrial, Petitioner filed two motions to suppress, arguing
that the information obtained from the search of the van and
seizure of the bag at Rutherford was the result of an illegal
search and seizure. Because the information used to create
the Flyer contained this illegally obtained information,
Petitioner asserts that the Flyer, and all subsequent
evidence procured through the Flyer, must be suppressed. The
trial court found the search and seizure illegal, and
suppressed part of the Flyer that was derived using the
illegally obtained information. It refused to suppress the
rest of the Flyer, created using information related to the
investigation and arrest that occurred before the search, and
found that the unsuppressed portion contained enough
information to sufficiently connect Petitioner to the
Flanders crime to arrest and charge Petitioner. Petitioner
was convicted in a jury trial.
the instant Petition was filed, the Court screened the
Petition, and dismissed Ground Two of the Petition for
failure to state a cognizable habeas claim, and allowed the
rest of the Petition to proceed. ECF No. 15. Petitioner
sought reconsideration of the dismissal, which was denied.
ECF No. 26.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254, "a district
court shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas
corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the
judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in
custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties
of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). When a
claim has been adjudicated on the merits in state court
proceedings, a writ for habeas corpus shall not issue unless
the adjudication of the claim (1) resulted in a decision that
was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of,
clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme
Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision
that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts
in light of the evidence presented in the State court
proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); see also Parker v.
Matthews, 132 S.Ct. 2148, 2151 (2012).
state-court decision involves an "unreasonable
application" of clearly established federal law if the
state court (1) identifies the correct governing legal rule
from the Supreme Court's cases but unreasonably applies
it to the facts of the particular case; or (2) unreasonably
extends a legal principle from Supreme Court precedent to a
new context where it should not apply or unreasonably refuses
to extend that principle to a new context where it should
apply. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 407 (2000).
Federal courts must follow a highly deferential standard when
evaluating, and thus give the benefit of the doubt to, state
court decisions. See Felkner v. Jackson, 131 S.Ct.
1305, 1307 (2011); Eley v. Erickson, 712 F.3d 837,
845 (3d Cir. 2013). A state court decision is based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts only if the state
court's factual findings are objectively unreasonable in
light of the evidence presented in the state-court
proceeding. Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340
(2003). Moreover, a federal court must accord a presumption
of correctness to a state court's factual findings, which
a petitioner can rebut only by clear and convincing evidence.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e); see Rice v. Collins, 546
U.S. 333, 339 (2006) (petitioner bears the burden of
rebutting presumption by clear and convincing evidence);
Duncan v. Morton, 256 F.3d 189, 196 (3d Cir. 2001)
(factual determinations of state trial and appellate courts
are presumed to be correct).
raises three claims in the Petition: (1) the trial court
erred in not suppressing the Flyer in its entirety, and all
evidence that was gathered due to the existence of the Flyer;
(2) the government did not follow proper identification
procedures under state law; and (3) evidence on the record
did not sustain the government's burden of proof at
trial. As stated above, the Court has already ...