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Arroyo v. Varga

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 2, 2018

ASTOL ARROYO K54449, Petitioner,
v.
JOHN VARGA, Warden, Dixon Correctional Center, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Robert Blakey, United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Astol Arroyo brings a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction in the Circuit Court of Cook County. In 1997, Petitioner was convicted of three counts of armed violence and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in connection with gang-related violence. Petitioner was sentenced to three consecutive 16-year terms for the armed violence charges, as well as a concurrent seven-year term for the conspiracy charge. Petitioner is classified as a Class X felon. Petitioner remains incarcerated at the Dixon Correctional Center in Dixon, Illinois, where he is in the custody of Respondent John Varga, the facility's warden.

         For the following reasons, the Court denies the Petition, and declines to grant a certificate of appealability.

         I. Background

         The facts and procedural posture summarized below are drawn from the state court record. This Court presumes that the state court's factual determinations are correct for the purpose of habeas review, as Petitioner neither contests them nor points to any clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. See § 2254(e)(1); Kidd v. Lemke, 734 F.3d 696, 703 (7th Cir. 2013).

         A. State Court Proceedings

         Following Petitioner's 1997 conviction by the Cook County Circuit Court, he appealed. [16-1] at 1. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the lower court's ruling, id. at 15, and the Illinois Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. [16-2] at 3. The claims raised on direct appeal are not relevant to Petitioner's habeas petition.

         Petitioner's first petition for post-conviction relief was dismissed as untimely. Id. Although that petition was untimely, the Illinois Appellate Court granted a resentencing hearing based upon the Illinois Supreme Court's decision in People v. Cervantes, 723 N.E.2d 265 (Ill. 1999). Id. In November 2005, Petitioner was resentenced to three consecutive 16-year terms for the armed violence convictions, as well as a concurrent term of seven years for his conviction for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Id. The resentencing resulted in Petitioner receiving a total of 48 years in custody. [16-25] at 255. As of the date of resentencing, Petitioner had served 3, 478 days that the trial court credited toward the new sentence. Id. at 256.

         Petitioner then filed two successive petitions for post-conviction relief with the Cook County Circuit Court and the Illinois Appellate Court; both were denied. [16-2] at 13; [16-3] at 2. The claims in those post-conviction relief petitions are not relevant to Petitioner's habeas petition.

         B. Request for Good Conduct Credit

         In July 2013, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Cook County Circuit Court to compel the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC Director) to grant him good conduct credit, pursuant to 730 ILCS § 5/3-6-3(a). [16-31] at 30. The claims before this Court arise from that petition.

         Good conduct credit reduces an inmate's sentence. See § 5/3-6-3(a). Granting good conduct credit is discretionary for the DOC Director, as governed by section 5/3-6-3(a). Activities that may earn good conduct credit include, among other things, participating in educational, vocational, and correctional industry programs. Id.

         Several classes of offenders, however, remain ineligible to receive good conduct credit, including Class X felons. Id. A Class X felon is a person over the age of 21 who is convicted of a Class 1 or Class 2 felony after having twice been convicted of an offense equivalent to a Class 2 or greater felony in Illinois, when the charges are brought and tried separately and arise from different acts. 730 ILCS § 5/5-4.5-95. Petitioner was convicted as a Class X felon. Despite his classification, Petitioner requested good conduct credit from DOC in 2011. [16-31] at 37-40. The DOC Director denied Petitioner's request because Petitioner, as a Class X felon, is ineligible for good conduct credit under Illinois law. Id. at 37-38.

         Petitioner argues that a plain reading of section 5/3-6-3 required the DOC Director to grant him 55 months of good conduct credit for completing two correctional industry assignments, a vocational assignment, and his GED. Id. at 33. Alternately, Petitioner argues that he is entitled to the good conduct credit because section 5/3-6-3 is ambiguous. [16-31] at 32-33. The Cook County Circuit Court denied the mandamus petition, finding ...


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