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Hugal v. Dolan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 17, 2018

JOSEPH C. HUGAL, Petitioner,
EDWARD DOLAN, Respondent.


          Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge

         Joseph Hugal (“Hugal” or “petitioner”) filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus against Edward Dolan, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Probation, (“Dolan” or “respondent”), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner, who is currently not in state custody, claims that his sentence of lifetime probation violates the state statutes of conviction and several of his constitutional rights.[1] Before this Court are petitioner's motion for summary judgment and respondent's motion to dismiss the habeas petition as time-barred.

         I. Background

         In March, 1999, Hugal pled guilty to a four-count indictment in Norfolk Superior Court which charged him with assault with intent to murder, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, assault by means of a dangerous weapon and mayhem. That same day, the Superior Court sentenced him to seven to nine years in state prison for the charge related to armed assault with intent to murder and to lifetime probation with respect to the other three charges. In June, 2004, petitioner was released from state custody after receiving credits for previous jail time and he commenced his term of lifetime probation.

         In 2006, petitioner's probation was transferred to Florida at his request. In July, 2008, petitioner filed a motion to modify the terms of his probation which was denied. In September, 2009, he filed another motion to modify the terms of his probation and in April, 2010, he filed a motion to leave the United States. The court did not rule on either of those motions. In June, 2011, petitioner filed motions to terminate and modify his probation which were denied. In November, 2014, he filed another motion to terminate his probation which the Superior Court denied in March, 2015. Thereafter, Hugal filed an appeal to the Massachusetts Appeals Court which affirmed the order denying the motion to modify or terminate probation in February, 2016. He then filed an application for leave to obtain further appellate review which was denied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

         In October, 2016, petitioner filed a motion to correct illegal sentence. The Superior Court denied that motion in December, 2016. Hugal appealed and the Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the denial of that motion in November, 2017. In February, 2018, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court again denied petitioner's application for leave to obtain further appellate review.

         In March, 2018, Hugal filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In that petition, he alleges that his term of lifetime probation is an illegal sentence because 1) none of the charges for which he was convicted carry a life sentence and 2) it violates his due process rights, his right to interstate travel and his right to be free from double jeopardy. In May, 2018, petitioner filed a motion for summary judgment. A few weeks later, respondent filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that petitioner's claim was time-barred because it was not filed within the one-year statute of limitations under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In considering the merits of a motion to dismiss, the Court may look only to the facts alleged in the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint and matters of which judicial notice can be taken. Nollet v. Justices of Trial Court of Mass., 83 F.Supp.2d 204, 208 (D. Mass. 2000), aff'd, 248 F.3d 1127 (1st Cir. 2000). Furthermore, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Langadinos v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 199 F.3d 68, 69 (1st Cir. 2000). Although a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in a complaint, that doctrine is not applicable to legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

         B. Section 2254 Habeas Petition

         A person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court may file an application for a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that “he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States”. § 2254(a). The AEDPA provides that such a petition must be brought within one year from the date on which the state court judgment becomes final either “by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review”. § 2244(d)(1)(A).

         Under Massachusetts law, the entry of a guilty plea is a final judgment of conviction that begins the running of the limitations period. See Turner v. Massachusetts, Civil Action No. 12-12192-FDS, 2013 WL 3716861, at *2 (D. Mass. July 11, 2013); Commonwealth v. Cabrera, 874 N.E.2d 654, 659 (Mass. 2007) (“A guilty plea, once accepted, leads to a final judgment of conviction; like a verdict of guilty, it is conclusive.”); see also Bermudez v. Roden, Civil Action No. 14-10257-IT, 2016 WL 4007553, at *2 (D. Mass. July 26, 2016) (explaining that “[i]n Massachusetts, a Rule 30(b) motion [for a new trial] is the proper way to challenge a guilty plea . . . [and] [i]n this District, a majority of courts have . . . treated the motions as seeking collateral, rather than direct, review” (collecting cases)).

         While a properly filed application for state post-conviction or collateral review tolls the limitations period, those motions for post-conviction relief “cannot revive a time period that has already expired”. Cordle v. Guarino, 428 F.3d 46, 48 n.4 (1st Cir. 2005) (quoting Dunker v. Bissonnette, 154 F.Supp.2d 95, 103 (D. Mass. 2001)); see also § 2244(d)(2). The one-year limitations period, however, may also be tolled on equitable grounds. Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 645 (2010). The petitioner bears the burden of establishing that he is entitled to equitable tolling. Delaney v. Matesanz, 264 F.3d 7, 14 (1st Cir. 2001). The petitioner must establish that 1) “he has been pursuing his rights diligently” and 2) “some extraordinary circumstances stood in his way and prevented timely filing”. Holland, 560 U.S. at 650 ...

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