Richard Dix Young, III,
#190500, Minnesota Correctional Facility - Lino Lakes, pro se.
Peter R. Marker, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney, RAMSEY COUNTY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT & RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
JOHN R. TUNHEIM, District Judge.
On August 10, 2012, petitioner Richard Dix Young, III filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Pet., Aug. 10, 2012, Docket No. 1.) In a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") dated February 21, 2013, United States Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel recommended that the Court deny Young's petition. (R&R, Feb. 22, 2013, Docket No. 9.) Young has filed timely objections to the R&R. (Objection to R&R ("Objections"), Mar. 8, 2013, Docket No. 10.) The Court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which Young objects. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); D. Minn. LR 72.2. Because the majority of Young's objections focus on potential errors of state law, which are not reviewable in federal habeas proceedings, and because the 26&LH federal claims Young raises are without merit, the Court overrules Young's objections and adopts the R&R of the Magistrate Judge.
As the R&R noted, the facts of the present case are undisputed and the procedural history is relatively simple. In 2009, Young fired a gun into a vehicle three or four times from close range. (Resp't's App. at 13, Sept. 14, 2012, Docket No. 7.) Young missed his intended target but hit the vehicle's other occupant in the mouth, causing significant injuries. ( Id. at 13-15.) In December 2009, Young pled guilty to second degree assault and attempted first degree assault in the state district court for Ramsey County, Minnesota. ( Id. at 74-75.) The plea agreement provided that Young's sentences for the two crimes would run consecutively. ( Id. at 75.) At the plea hearing, however, Young's attorney stated that "the sentence would be consecutive if permitted under the Guidelines." ( Id. at 2.)
At sentencing, the trial court stated that the plea agreement "calls for consecutive sentencing, which is permissive in this case." ( Id. at 19.) The court noted that the plea agreement clearly contemplated consecutive sentences and found that "consecutive sentencing is consistent with the seriousness of the offenses." ( Id. at 22, 26.) The trial court sentenced Young to 67.5 months for the attempted first degree assault conviction and 57 months for the second degree assault conviction, for a total sentence of 124.5 months. ( Id. at 26-28.)
In November 2010, Young filed a motion in the trial court seeking to correct his sentence pursuant to Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 27.03, subd. 9, which allows the trial court to "at any time correct a sentence not authorized by law." (Resp't's App. at 30.) Young argued that his sentences must run concurrently because at the time of his offense attempted first degree assault was not included in the Minnesota Sentencing Guideline's list of offenses eligible for permissive consecutive sentencing. ( Id. at 31.) While the trial court agreed that the applicable version of the Guidelines did not authorize Young's consecutive sentences, the court concluded that the sentence was nonetheless permissible under Minnesota caselaw. ( See id. at 56-57.) Thus, the trial court denied the motion. ( Id. at 55.)
Young appealed, arguing that his consecutive sentences were not authorized, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed. See Young v. State, No. A11-317, 2011 WL 2623454 (Minn.Ct.App. July 5, 2011). The Court of Appeals concluded, like the trial court, that although the then-existing Guidelines did not authorize consecutive sentences for Young's crimes, the sentence was authorized by caselaw. Id. at *1. Young also argued that his sentence was not authorized because it "constituted a departure from the sentencing guidelines and the district court failed to state on the record the grounds for the departure." Id. at *2. While Young's argument was primarily grounded in Minnesota state law, Young asserted that the imposition of consecutive sentences "implicates [Young]'s right to a jury trial on sentencing enhancement." (Resp't's App. at 49.) Because Young did not admit any aggravating factors to support consecutive sentences and a jury did not find such factors, Young contended that his sentence violated the constitutional principles set forth in Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), and Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). The Court of Appeals did not refer to the federal cases cited by Young but rejected Young's argument on the basis that the consecutive sentences were authorized by Minnesota caselaw. Young, 2011 WL 2623454, at *2.
The Minnesota Supreme Court denied Young's petition for review on September 28, 2011, (Respondent's App. at 206), and Young timely filed the present petition in this Court on August 10, 2012.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court must analyze the present petition within the framework provided by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), which "imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings and demands that state-court rulings be given the benefit of the doubt." Renico v. Lett, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 1862 (2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Specifically, AEDPA provides that:
An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State ...