United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.
In 2009, after a bench trial, an Illinois judge convicted Deybi Sanchez of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault in connection with the abduction and beating of Katina Lionikis on a Chicago street in 2005. The judge imposed concurrent prison sentences of eighteen and five years. Sanchez appealed, challenging his sentence as excessive, but the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. Sanchez did not file a petition for leave to appeal (PLA) with the Illinois Supreme Court. Nor did he file a post-conviction petition under 725 ILCS 5/122-1.
After Sanchez's conviction became final in 2011, he filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The Court denied a motion to dismiss filed by Donald Gaetz, the warden of the prison where Sanchez is incarcerated, finding that Sanchez's petition was not time-barred. See Sanchez v. Gaetz, No. 12 C 6717, 2013 WL 4836697 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 9, 2013). Respondent Gaetz now argues that all of Sanchez's claims are defaulted, because he did not present them to the Illinois Supreme Court in a PLA. He also argues that each of the claims lacks merit. For the following reasons, the Court denies Sanchez's petition.
A. State court proceedings
Sanchez was arrested just after midnight on September 30, 2005, near the corner of Whipple Street and Bloomingdale Avenue in Chicago. He was charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated battery. Before his trial, Sanchez made a motion to suppress statements he made to police after his arrest, contending that he was intoxicated when arrested, which rendered him incapable of understanding Miranda warnings. The court denied the motion.
Sanchez's bench trial commenced in April 2009. Katina Lionikis testified that Sanchez kidnapped and beat her while she was walking home from work on September 30, 2005. The prosecutor also called two Chicago police officers as witnesses, one of whom apprehended Sanchez while he was beating Lionikis. The other testified that he translated Miranda warnings into Spanish for Sanchez and that Sanchez told him that he understood the warnings. Sanchez did not call any witnesses at the bench trial. His counsel conceded that Sanchez had committed a battery on Lionikis. Counsel argued, however, that Sanchez did not commit aggravated kidnapping or aggravated battery because he did not secretly confine Lionikis or cause her great bodily harm. Sanchez made a motion for directed finding on these points, which the court denied.
After closing arguments, the trial court made an oral ruling finding Sanchez guilty of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated battery. After his conviction, Sanchez filed via counsel a motion for a new trial, arguing that the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof on the issues of great bodily harm (as to aggravated battery) or secret confinement (as to kidnapping). In the motion, Sanchez also argued that he had been denied due process and equal protection and that the trial court's rejection of his motion for directed finding was in error. The court denied the motion and sentenced Sanchez to concurrent terms of five and eighteen years in prison.
Sanchez, still represented by counsel, appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court, making two arguments relating to his sentence. First, he contended that that his sentence should have been reduced, given his rehabilitative potential, his dedication to his family, and his having taken responsibility for his actions. Second, he argued that he was entitled to two additional days of credit for the time he served in custody prior to his sentencing. Sanchez did not raise in his appeal any issues regarding the sufficiency of the evidence or rulings before or at the bench trial.
The appellate court affirmed Sanchez's sentence in April 2011, and Sanchez filed a petition for rehearing. The appellate court struck the motion but then appointed a public defender to determine whether such a motion should be filed. The assigned public defender reviewed the record and informed the court that she did not find a basis for a petition for rehearing. Upon learning this, the appellate court let stand its order rejecting Sanchez's appeal. See Resp.'s Ex. I. As indicated earlier, Sanchez did not file a PLA in the Illinois Supreme Court challenging that judgment, nor did he file a post-conviction petition in the Illinois courts.
B. Sanchez's habeas corpus petition
On July 10, 2011, Sanchez filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court. As the Court noted previously, this petition and the associated proceedings were "plagued with procedural missteps." Sanchez, 2013 WL 4836697, at *2. Sanchez did not use the proper form for the petition, nor did he comply with the Court's order to resubmit the petition using the proper form. The Court dismissed Sanchez's initial petition because he did not comply with the Court's orders, but the Court did not say whether the dismissal was with or without prejudice. Sanchez then tried to appeal the dismissal, but the court of appeals declined to issue a certificate of appealability. Sanchez then filed a motion to appeal in forma pauperis, which was accompanied by a letter stating Sanchez's habeas corpus documents to that point had been prepared by another inmate because Sanchez did not read, write, speak English, or understand legal matters. Sanchez stated he relied on the other inmate to file the proper documents, but had since acquired the help of a different, bilingual inmate. Sanchez then stated he did not know how to proceed.
The Court granted Sanchez's i.f.p. motion, and Sanchez sought another certificate of appealability, which the court of appeals again declined to issue. Sanchez then asked the court of appeals to recall the mandate so that he might file a new habeas corpus petition in this Court; the court of appeals also denied that motion. At this point, the bilingual inmate helping Sanchez became unavailable until August 9, 2012, at which point Sanchez completed the proper form and submitted it to this Court. By then, however, Sanchez was thirty-four days past the one-year cutoff for filing his petition. On that ground, Gaetz moved to dismiss Sanchez's petition, arguing that equitable tolling should not apply because Sanchez had not shown the necessary extraordinary circumstances or diligence.
The Court rejected these arguments and denied Gaetz's motion to dismiss in September 2013. Gaetz's response to Sanchez's petition followed, in which Gaetz argued that all of Sanchez's claims are procedurally defaulted because he did not present any of them in a PLA to the Illinois Supreme Court. Gaetz also attacked the merits of each individual claim. ...