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Ridgeway v. Bonds

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 18, 2018

CARL W. RIDGEWAY, Petitioner,
v.
WILLIE BONDS, et al., Respondents.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Petitioner Carl W. Ridgeway (“Petitioner”) is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A jury convicted Petitioner of aggravated sexual assault of a victim less than thirteen years old and related offenses and he is currently serving a twenty-six-year sentence. Respondents have filed a motion to dismiss the petition as untimely. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion to dismiss and dismiss Petitioner's habeas petition because he filed it beyond the one-year limitations period.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On November 18, 2008, a jury convicted Petitioner of two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2a(1) (penetration of a child less than thirteen) and N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2a(2)(c) (penetration of a child by a person standing in loco parentis); three counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child for whose care he was responsible, N.J.S.A. § 2C:24-4a; one count of second-degree sexual assault, N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2(c); and one count of second-degree sexual assault by one with supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim, § N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2c(3)(b). (ECF No. 17-9, at 2). On May 19, 2009, Petitioner received a sentence of among other things, an aggregate term of twenty-six-years imprisonment subject to an eighty-five percent term of parole ineligibility. (ECF No. 17-7).

         Petitioner filed a notice of appeal with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division on September 14, 2009, and then filed an amended notice on October 15, 2009. (ECF No. 17-8). On March 9, 2011, the Appellate Division affirmed Petitioner's conviction, but remanded the matter for resentencing. (ECF No. 17-9). The Appellate Division found that the trial court sentenced Petitioner consecutively, without engaging in the requisite and separate sentencing analysis under State v. Yarbough, 100 N.J. 627, 643-44 (1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. (1986). (ECF No. 17-9). The New Jersey Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for certification on July 14, 2011. (ECF No. 17-10).

         On remand, on February 6, 2012, the trial court issued an amended judgment of conviction, which set forth the court's Yarbough analysis and re-sentenced Petitioner to, among other things, an aggregate term of twenty-six years imprisonment subject to an eighty-five percent term of parole ineligibility. (ECF No. 17-11).

         Petitioner then filed a motion for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) on April 4, 2013, and the trial court denied that motion on September 13, 2013 (ECF Nos. 17-13, 17-14). On December 9, 2013, Petitioner filed a PCR notice of appeal with the Appellate Division, and the Appellate Division denied that appeal on August 17, 2015. (ECF Nos. 17-15, 17-16). Thereafter, Petitioner filed a petition for certification to the New Jersey Supreme Court on August 19, 2015, and the New Jersey Supreme Court denied that petition on February 17, 2016. (ECF Nos. 17-17, 17-18).

         Petitioner then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on March 22, 2017.[1] (ECF No. 1, at 16). Respondents have filed a motion to dismiss the habeas petition as untimely. (ECF No. 17). Petitioner filed a response in opposition arguing that the Court should equitably toll the statute of limitations because his PCR counsel failed to file a protective petition. (ECF No. 20).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Respondents argue that the Court should dismiss the habeas petition as untimely. “A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). That limitations period begins to run when the criminal judgment becomes “final.”[2] “Final judgment in a criminal case means sentence. The sentence is the judgment.” Burton v. Stewart, 549 U.S. 147, 156 (2007) (citing Berman v. United States, 302 U.S. 211, 212 (1937)). A judgment becomes “final” within the meaning of § 2244(d)(1) at the conclusion of direct review or at the expiration of time for seeking such review. Swartz v. Meyers, 204 F.3d 417, 419 (3d Cir. 2000); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A) (stating that the one-year period begins on “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review”).

         Here, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for certification on direct appeal on July 14, 2011. (ECF No. 17-10). As a result of those direct appeals, on February 6, 2012, the New Jersey Superior Court amended Petitioner's judgment of conviction. (ECF No. 17-11). Although Petitioner did not seek to appeal his amended judgment of conviction, he enjoys the benefit of the 45-day time period in which he could have appealed to the Appellate Division. Burton, 549 U.S. at 156-57. Thus, the amended judgment of conviction became final within the meaning of § 2244(d)(1)(A), and the one-year habeas deadline began to run, on March 22, 2012. Petitioner, however, did not file his federal habeas petition until five years later, on March 22, 2017. (ECF No. 1, at 16). Accordingly, unless our jurisprudence tolls the limitations period, Petitioner's habeas petition is untimely.

         A. Statutory Tolling

         The filing of a PCR petition may statutorily toll (i.e., suspend) the running of the one-year habeas limitations period. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2) (“The time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection.”). A prisoner's application for state collateral review is “‘properly filed' when its delivery and acceptance are in compliance with the applicable laws and ...


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