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Gerald R. v. Martin

Supreme Court of West Virginia

May 14, 2018

Gerald R., Petitioner Below, Petitioner
v.
Michael Martin, Acting Warden, Huttonsville Correctional Center, Respondent Below, Respondent

          (Webster County 16-P-2)

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

         Petitioner Gerald R., by counsel Andrew Chattin, appeals the Circuit Court of Webster County's February 9, 2017, order denying his petition for writ of habeas corpus.[1] Respondent Michael Martin, Acting Warden, by counsel Gordon L. Mowen II, filed a response in support of the circuit court's order.[2] On appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court erred in denying his habeas petition on the following grounds: (1) judicial conflict; (2) ineffective assistance of counsel; (3) improper preliminary hearing; (4) failure to receive pre-sentence investigation report; (5) prosecutorial conflict; (6) failure to disclose victim impact statement; (7) abuse of discretion and plain error; and (8) violation of plea agreement.

         This Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented, the Court finds no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

         In 2013, petitioner was indicted on the following three charges: first-degree sexual assault; incest; and sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, or custodian. The victim of these crimes was eleven years old at the time the crimes were committed. The parties reached an agreement in November of 2013 whereby petitioner would plead no contest to one count of incest and the State would recommend that any sentence imposed be ordered to run concurrently with a sentence petitioner was already serving for an unrelated criminal conviction. Thereafter, the circuit court held a hearing and accepted petitioner's plea. Following the completion of a pre-sentence investigation report, petitioner was sentenced to a term of incarceration of five to fifteen years in May of 2014. The circuit court further ordered that the sentence run consecutively to a sentence petitioner was already serving for conviction of an unrelated crime. Moreover, petitioner was required to register as a sex offender for life upon his release and undergo fifteen years of supervised release.[3] During the hearing, the State honored its agreement and recommended the imposition of concurrent sentences. It did, however, notify the circuit court that the sentencing order in the unrelated criminal case indicated that the judge who imposed that sentence indicated that it should be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed upon petitioner.

         In February of 2016, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Thereafter, the circuit court appointed petitioner counsel and eventually held an omnibus evidentiary hearing in November of 2016. In his petition below, petitioner raised the following grounds for relief: (1) judicial conflict; (2) ineffective assistance of counsel; (3) improper preliminary hearing; (4) failure to receive pre-sentence investigation report; (5) prosecutorial conflict; (6) failure to disclose victim impact statement; (7) abuse of discretion and plain error; and (8) violation of plea agreement. Additionally, following the omnibus hearing, the circuit court noted that petitioner also raised another ground for relief predicated on a lack of jurisdiction. Ultimately, the circuit court denied petitioner relief. It is from this order that petitioner appeals.

         This Court reviews appeals of circuit court orders denying habeas corpus relief under the following standard:

"In reviewing challenges to the findings and conclusions of the circuit court in a habeas corpus action, we apply a three-prong standard of review. We review the final order and the ultimate disposition under an abuse of discretion standard; the underlying factual findings under a clearly erroneous standard; and questions of law are subject to a de novo review." Syllabus point 1, Mathena v. Haines, 219 W.Va. 417, 633 S.E.2d 771 (2006).

Syl. Pt. 1, State ex rel. Franklin v. McBride, 226 W.Va. 375, 701 S.E.2d 97 (2009).

         On appeal, petitioner simply alleges anew the same arguments he presented to the circuit court. Namely, he asserts that he is entitled to habeas relief upon the following grounds: (1) judicial conflict; (2) ineffective assistance of counsel; (3) improper preliminary hearing; (4) failure to receive pre-sentence investigation report; (5) prosecutorial conflict; (6) failure to disclose victim impact statement; (7) abuse of discretion and plain error; and (8) violation of plea agreement. Indeed, petitioner fails to even allege how he believes the circuit court erred in denying his petition.[4] Upon our review and consideration of the circuit court's order, the parties' arguments, and the record submitted on appeal, we find no error or abuse of discretion by the circuit court. Our review of the record supports the circuit court's decision to deny petitioner post-conviction habeas corpus relief based on these alleged errors, which were also argued below. Indeed, the circuit court's order includes well-reasoned findings and conclusions as to the assignments of error raised on appeal. Given our conclusion that the circuit court's order, as it relates to these assignments of error, and the record before us reflect no clear error or abuse of discretion, we hereby adopt and incorporate the circuit court's findings and conclusions as they relate to petitioner's assignments of error and direct the Clerk to attach a copy of the circuit court's February 9, 2017, "Final Order On Petition For Writ Of Habeas Corpus" to this memorandum decision.

         For the foregoing reasons, we affirm.

         Affirmed.

          CONCURRED Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman Justice Robin Jean Davis Justice Menis E. Ketchum Justice Allen H. Loughry II Justice Elizabeth D. Walker.

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