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United States v. Stegawski

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

December 6, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER STEGAWSKI, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Michael R. Barrett, Judge.

         In early 2018, Defendant filed a motion and amended motion for a new trial in his criminal case (No. 12-cr-054-2). (Docs. 227, 228).[1] Over a year later, he requested that the Court characterize them, together, as a motion for § 2255 relief (Doc. 229) (collectively with Docs. 227 and 228, the “first motion”). On May 14, 2019, [2] two days before this latter filing in his criminal case, Defendant had filed a § 2255 motion in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. (See W.D. Ky. No. 3:19-cv-380-DJH). After determining that the challenged sentence was imposed in this Court, the Kentucky district court transferred Defendant's second § 2255 motion (no. 19-cv-428, Doc. 1, the “second motion”) to the Southern District of Ohio. (No. 19-cv-428, Doc. 3). The parallel proceedings were docketed under the new civil case number with reference to his criminal case, but they were not filed in his criminal case or otherwise referenced therein, as is ordinarily the practice in this district upon the filing of a § 2255 motion. As a result, the Court entered an Order denying the § 2255 relief in Defendant's criminal case (Doc. 230), while the second motion in case number 19-cv-428 remained pending.

         The filings forming the substantive basis for the first motion (Docs. 227, 228) predate the second motion by over a year. But while the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, §§ 104-06, placed significant restrictions on “second or successive” applications under § 2255, see § 2255(h), it does not apply, categorically, to all second-in-time applications. Magwood v. Patterson, 561 U.S. 320, 331-32 (2010). In this case, where the second motion was filed prior to adjudication of the first, and given the unusual administrative issues related to the Kentucky filing, the Court does not find it “second or successive” as used in AEDPA. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(b), 2255(h); In re Smith, 690 F.3d 809, 809 (6th Cir. 2012) (“A district court has jurisdiction to consider numerically second petitions that are not ‘second or successive' . . . .”) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)).

         If the Court had considered the second motion prior to adjudicating the first, the Court would have considered the second motion as a motion to amend the first motion. Clark v. United States, 764 F.3d 653, 659 (6th Cir. 2014) (“A habeas petition submitted during the pendency of an initial § 2255 motion should be construed as a motion to amend the initial motion.”) (quoting Ching v. United States, 298 F.3d 174, 175 (2d Cir. 2002)).[3] Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 governs amendments to § 2255 motions. Oleson, 27 Fed.Appx. at 568 (6th Cir. 2001). While the standard is liberal to promote the interests of justice, it is limited by several factors that a court may consider in exercising its discretion as to proposed amendments. See Id. at 569; Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Courts may consider “undue delay in filing, lack of notice to the opposing party, bad faith by the moving party, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment.” Id. (quoting Coe v. Bell, 161 F.3d 320, 341 (6th Cir. 1998)). “Amendment of a complaint is futile when the proposed amendment would not permit the complaint to survive a motion to dismiss.” Wright v. United States, No. 2:16-CR-00059, 2018 WL 1899293, at *2 (S.D. Ohio April 20, 2018) (quoting Miller v. Calhoun Cnty., 408 F.3d 803, 817 (6th Cir. 2005)), rec. adopted, 2018 WL 3410057 (S.D. Ohio July 13, 2018)). The overarching purpose of the Rule 15 is “to ensure that cases are decided on their merits.” Oleson, 27 Fed.Appx. at 569 (citation omitted).

         While more voluminous, Defendant's second motion largely follows in the tracks of his first motion. The content otherwise consists of allegations that are procedurally defaulted or that are “palpably incredible” or “patently frivolous or false” such as to warrant summary dismissal. Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 76 (1977) (quoting Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 495 (1962) and Herman v. Claudy, 350 U.S. 116, 119, 76 S.Ct. 223, 100 L.Ed. 126 (1956)). In either case, allowing the amendment would be futile and the interests of justice are therefore not frustrated by the Court exercising its discretion to deny the amendment.[4] The Court summarizes, below, the 49 “grounds” asserted in Defendant's second motion.

• Ground one contains a “statement of the case” that does not state a claim.
• Ground two asserts actual innocence and the failure by the Plaintiff to produce urine test manuals seized during Defendant's investigation. The former rests on the allegations raised in Defendant's first motion (see Doc. 227, PAGEID #: 2773-77) and is, in any event, supported only by conclusory allegations. (See, e.g., No. 19-cv-428, Doc. 1-2, PAGEID #: 27 (“Conviction was assured by mischaracterization and fabrication of evidence, lack of adversarial testing because of conflict of the defense counsel and public opinion that every physician treating pain is a pill-miller.”)); Green v. Wingo, 454 F.2d 52, 53 (6th Cir. 1972) (“Except for conclusional averments, his petition supplied no factual material upon which to test the validity of his conclusions. Such a pleading does not call for an evidentiary hearing.”) (citations omitted); O'Malley v. United States, 285 F.2d 733, 735 (6th Cir. 1961) (“Conclusions, not substantiated by allegations of fact with some probability of verity, are not sufficient to warrant a hearing.”). Defendant's first motion raised the latter- allegations related to urine test manuals. (See Doc. 227, PAGEID #: 2787).
• Ground three is listed as “inquisition” and includes a narrative about the history of pain treatment. (No. 19-cv-428, Doc. 1-2, PAGEID #: 34-36). The Court cannot discern an asserted federal basis for relief from Defendant's sentence.
• Ground four asserts the prosecution's lack of probable cause. The allegations here appear to largely restate allegations made in Defendant's first motion. (See Doc. 227, PAGEID #: 2773-79). Defendant also includes a narrative regarding his dissatisfaction with his co-defendant's alleged conduct during the investigation and trial, but the Court cannot discern an asserted federal basis for relief from his sentence.
• Ground five asserts that the prosecution withheld various evidence. For much of the evidence referenced, Defendant does not point to its exculpatory value at all or it is redundant (e.g., urine test manuals). Where Defendant does attempt to connect the withheld evidence to prejudice, it is significantly overstated. (See, e.g., No. 1:19-cv-428, Doc. 1-2, PAGEID 41-42 (Defendant argues that allegedly withheld evidence would have shown that he saw fewer patients per day than suggested at trial, but he does not demonstrate how this evidence would have necessarily impacted the result in his case)). Regardless, these concerns were not raised on direct appeal.[5] Having shown no cause for failing to raise this issue, the claim would be procedurally defaulted and an amendment to the first motion on that basis would be futile. Smith v. Brunsman, 626 F.Supp.2d 786, 796 (S.D. Ohio 2009) (leave to amend denied where new claims would have been procedurally defaulted under state law and the defendant demonstrated neither cause for the default nor resulting prejudice); Turner v. Lindamood, No. 3:16-cv-2593, 2017 WL 5885276, at *7 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 29, 2017) (“Because the new claims were never raised in the state court . . . and because the petitioner has failed to allege, not to mention establish, cause for his failure to raise the new claims . . ., the new claims are procedurally defaulted and amendment would be futile.”).
• Ground six asserts lack of transcripts. Defendant acknowledges that this concern has already been raised in prior motions. (See No. 19-cv-428, Doc. 1-2, PAGEID #: 43).
• Ground seven asserts lack of adversarial process. To the extent that this asserts a claim, Defendant appears to challenge the adequacy of his trial counsel's assistance in the same manner as was done in his first motion. (See, e.g., Doc. 227, PAGEID #: 2790-91).
• Grounds eight and nine assert prosecutorial misconduct. Defendant raised this in his first motion. (See Id. at PAGEID #: 2779).
• Ground ten expresses general discontent with Defendant's prosecution, but the Court does not discern an asserted federal basis for relief from Defendant's sentence.
• Ground eleven raises issues with the prosecution's medical expert. To the extent that this presents a claim, Defendant appears to challenge the adequacy of his trial counsel's assistance in the same manner as was done in his first motion. (See, e.g., Doc. 227, PAGEID #: 2790-91).
• Ground twelve asserts that the prosecution withheld Plaintiff's medical expert's report to the Ohio State Pharmacy Board. He argues that it contains exculpatory information, but the Court fails to see this same value from Defendant's description. Moreover, it was not raised on direct appeal and Defendant cites no cause for such ...

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