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Gustafson v. Reiser

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 23, 2016

JOSEPH GUSTAFSON, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN B. REISER, Respondent.

          Joseph Gustafson, pro se.

          J. Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney,, HENNEPIN COUNTY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM Chief Judge

         In 2012, Petitioner Joseph Gustafson was found guilty by a jury in Minnesota state court of (1) racketeering, (2) aiding and abetting kidnapping, (3) aiding and abetting second-degree assault, and aiding and abetting first-degree arson. In the trial, witnesses testified that Gustafson instructed a man named Brian Tiedens to “take care of” - as in beat up - the victim, “J.K.” Tiedens did exactly that. Tiedens forced J.K. into a garage, demanded that J.K. strip so that Tiedens could search him for a wire, and punched J.K. with weighted gloves and unleashed a pit bull on him.

         Gustafson is now serving a sentence of 180-months imprisonment on the racketeering conviction concurrent with 150-months imprisonment on the three aiding and abetting convictions. Gustafson has filed a § 2254 habeas petition requesting that the Court order that he be given a new trial. Gustafson argues in his petition that the state trial and appellate courts committed various constitutional errors, unreasonably determined the facts of his case, and permitted him to be represented by ineffective counsel.

         As with all habeas petitions, the Court's role is limited. The Court may not determine anew whether it thinks Gustafson is guilty or not guilty.

         In light of the constraints of habeas review, United States Magistrate Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the Court deny Gustafson's petition because it does not meet § 2254's high bar. Gustafson has filed objections. Because the Court finds that the state court's determination of the facts, in light of the evidence presented, was not “unreasonable, ” and that Gustafson has not presented successful Strickland arguments of ineffective assistance of counsel, the Court will overrule Gustafson's objections, adopt the R&R, and deny Gustafson's petition.

         BACKGROUND

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In 2012, Gustafson was tried in Minnesota state court on seven counts: one count of racketeering, one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and five counts for aiding and abetting the following crimes of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, kidnapping, second-degree assault, and first-degree arson. The jury returned a guilty verdict on four of the counts: racketeering, and aiding and abetting the three crimes of kidnapping, second-degree assault, and first-degree arson. For the racketeering charge, the jury needed to find that Gustafson had engaged in a pattern of criminal activity, defined as participation in three or more criminal acts. See Minn. Stat. § 609.902, subd. 6. The jury found that he had committed four such predicate acts: aiding and abetting kidnapping, aiding and abetting second-degree assault, aiding and abetting first degree arson, and accessory after the fact to aggravated robbery. (R&R at 4, June 4, 2015, Docket No. 20.)

         Much of Gustafson's objections to the R&R focus on the kidnapping and second-degree assault. Gustafson does not dispute the following facts: Tiedens called J.K. over to the house at issue. Once there, Tiedens ordered J.K. into the garage and required J.K. to strip so that Tiedens could search him for a wire. Once the search was complete, Tiedens permitted J.K. to put his clothes back on, J.K. sat on a chair, and Tiedens then assaulted J.K by punching him with weighted gloves and unleashing a pit bull on him. See State v. Gustafson, No. A12-0918, 2013 WL 1705029, at *3 (Minn.Ct.App. Apr. 22, 2013), review denied, (Minn. July 16, 2013); (see also Mem. of Objs. at 3, Oct. 13, 2015, Docket No. 28).

         Much of what Gustafson objects to involves the evidence linking Gustafson to these events. At trial, J.K. testified that Tiedens told him, during the course of the assault, that “this is from Big Joe, ” with “Big Joe” being Gustafson. (Second Appendix, Ex. D at 303, Nov. 26, 2014, Docket No. 15.) Later, Tiedens testified too. In the midst of Tiedens's testimony, the judge gave a limiting instruction, stating that the jury was to use the remainder of Tiedens's testimony for the “limited purpose” of “deciding whether or not there was an enterprise relating to the charge of racketeering” and that the jury was “not [to] use this evidence to decide whether the defendant committed any of the other specific crimes.” (Id., Ex. E at 31-32.) Then Tiedens restarted his testimony and stated that prior to the events in question, Gustafson had instructed him to “get[ J.K., ] over to [Gustafson's] house” and to “tak[e] care of him, ” which Tiedens understood to mean that he was supposed to “[b]eat him up, shut him up, ” and “[i]ntimidate him, scare him so he shuts up and doesn't talk to the cops anymore.” (Id. at 46.)

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         After his trial, Gustafson appealed his case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, where his conviction was affirmed in April 2013. Gustafson, 2013 WL 1705029, at *9. The ...


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