United States District Court, D. Maryland
CATHERINE C. BLAKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Andre Scott (“Mr. Scott”) is an inmate at the
Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland. Now
pending is his petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Pet., ECF No. 1). Respondents, Warden
Kathleen Green and the Attorney General of the State of
Maryland, have filed a limited Answer asserting that to the
extent the claims presented are cognizable, they should be
dismissed as time-barred. (Answer 1-2, ECF 5). Petitioner has
replied. (Reply, ECF 13). After considering the pleadings,
exhibits, and applicable law, the court finds a hearing
unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016);
Rule 8, Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings in the
United States District Courts. For reasons to follow, this
case shall be stayed and held in abeyance pending the
disposition of Woodfolk v. Maynard, No. 15-6364.
10, 1991, Mr. Scott pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for
Montgomery County to charges in two cases. In particular, he
pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual offense (Count 1) and
unlawful use of a handgun (Count 5) in Case No. 60652C and to
first-degree rape (Count 1) and unlawful use of a handgun
(Count 4) in Case No. 61488C. (Pet. 2-3; Answer Ex. 1, 1-2,
ECF No. 5-1; Answer Ex. 2, 1-2, ECF 5-2). On January 27,
1992, the Circuit Court sentenced him to serve twenty years
in prison in Case No. 60652C, (Answer Ex. 1, 8), and to serve
a consecutive twenty years in prison in Case No. 61488C,
(id. Ex. 2, 7).
Scott claims in the instant petition that he is illegally
incarcerated in violation of his rights under the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments, because the sentence imposed by the
Circuit Court in Case No. 61488C was improperly construed as
running consecutive to the sentence imposed in Case No.
60652C. (Pet. 6). Mr. Scott claims the sentences expired
eleven years ago, and he seeks immediate release from
incarceration. (Id. 6, 16). He further claims the
Circuit Court “issued (3) three different sentences for
the same offenses on January 27, 1992, during sentencing,
” (id. 8), and that neither “[t]he
Court, the Prosecutor, nor the petitioner could comprehend
the structure of the sentence, ” (id. 9).
Scott did not file a motion for leave to appeal the entry of
his guilty plea, and he did not initiate state
post-conviction proceedings until 2010. (Answer Ex. 1, 16;
Ex. 2, 19). However, Mr. Scott filed motions for
reconsideration of sentence in both cases on March 16, 1992,
and April 7, 1992. (Id. Ex. 1, 9; Ex. 2, 8).
Although the Circuit Court denied the motions to reconsider
sentence in Case No. 61488C on July 7, 2008, (see
Id. Ex. 2, 15), the record indicates that the Circuit
Court never ruled on the companion motions in Case No.
60652C, (see Id. Ex. 1, 9). Mr. Scott also filed at
different times motions to correct an illegal sentence in
both cases, all of which were unsuccessful. (See Id.
Ex. 1 at 12, 15; Ex. 2 at 10, 12). On November 15, 2010, Mr.
Scott filed a petition for post-conviction relief in both
cases. (Id. Ex. 1, 16; Ex. 2, 19). The Circuit Court
granted Mr. Scott's motion to withdraw the petition on
September 14, 2011. (Id. Ex. 1, 17; Ex. 2, 20). On
December 18, 2012, Mr. Scott filed a new petition for
post-conviction relief in both cases and, after a hearing, it
was denied on June 12, 2014. (Answer Ex. 1, 18-19, 23; Ex. 2,
27). Mr. Scott's motion to correct an illegal sentence,
filed in both cases on February 6, 2014, was denied at the
same time. (Id. Ex. 1, 23; Ex. 2, 27). Mr.
Scott's application for leave to appeal the denial of his
post-conviction petition was denied by the Court of Special
Appeals of Maryland on January 14, 2015. (Id. Ex. 3,
ECF No. 5-3).
one-year limitations period that applies to habeas petitions
begins to run on the date on which the underlying judgment
becomes final by the conclusion of direct review or, if no
appeal is taken, upon the expiration of the time for seeking
such review. See 28 U.S.C. §
2244(d)(1)(A); see also Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S.
545, 549 (2011). In cases where a petitioner's conviction
became final before April 24, 1996 - the effective date of
the statute which enacted the limitations period - the
petitioner has one year, until April 24, 1997, to file a
petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal court. See
Brown v. Angelone, 150 F.3d 370, 375 (4th Cir. 1998);
Hernandez v. Caldwell, 225 F.3d 435, 438-39 (4th
Cir. 2000). The one-year period is statutorily tolled while
properly filed post-conviction proceedings are pending and
may otherwise be equitably tolled. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(d)(2); Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d
325, 328-30 (4th Cir. 2000). In order to be entitled to
equitable tolling of the limitations period, a petitioner
must establish that either some wrongful conduct by the State
contributed to the delay in filing his federal habeas corpus
petition or that circumstances beyond his control caused the
delay. See Rouse v. Lee, 339 F.3d 238, 246 (4th Cir.
2003); Harris, 209 F.3d at 330. “[A]ny resort
to equity must be reserved for those rare instances where . .
. it would be unconscionable to enforce the limitation period
against the party and gross injustice would result.”
Harris, 209 F.3d at 330; see also Pace v.
DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005) (recognizing that
equitable tolling requires a showing that the petitioner
“has been pursuing his rights diligently, and . . .
that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his
Mr. Scott's judgments of conviction became final before
April 24, 1996, he had until April 24, 1997, absent tolling,
to file this petition for federal habeas relief. Mr. Scott
filed the instant petition on February 5, 2015,
well after that deadline had elapsed. Respondents thus argue
that this petition is time-barred. (Answer 1-2). Mr. Scott
appears to argue the limitations period began to run after
the Court of Special Appeals denied his application for leave
to appeal the denial of his post-conviction petition on
January 14, 2015. (Reply 2). This is incorrect. Further, an
incorrect assumption or lack of familiarity about the running
of the limitations period does not provide a basis for
equitable tolling. See United States v. Sosa, 364
F.3d 507, 512 (4th Cir. 2004) (“Sosa's
misconception about the operation of the statute of
limitations is neither extraordinary nor a circumstance
external to his control.”).
other hand, it is at least possible that this petition is not
time-barred for another reason not raised by Mr. Scott. The
record indicates that the Circuit Court never ruled on two
motions to reconsider sentence filed by Mr. Scott in Case No.
60652C. Those motions were filed on March 16, 1992, and April
7, 1992, before the limitations period began to run. Whether
a Maryland motion for reconsideration of sentence statutorily
tolls the limitations period of Section 2244(d) is one of the
issues currently pending before the Fourth Circuit in
Woodfolk v. Maynard, No. 15-6364. Depending on the
outcome of that Fourth Circuit case, it may be that even if
the limitations period would have otherwise begun to run on
April 24, 1996, these motions tolled the one-year clock such
that the limitations period has not yet expired.
Respondents claim that the petition is nonetheless
time-barred. Even if the motions to reconsider sentence
tolled the limitations period, there were no post-conviction
or other collateral proceedings pending between September 14,
2011, and December 18, 2012, they claim. According to
Respondents, this 15-month period exhausted the one-year
limitations period before Mr. Scott filed his petition for
habeas relief. (Answer 6). But the Respondents appear to
simply assume that the Circuit Court dismissed the motions to
reconsider sentence in Case No. 60652C at the same time it
dismissed motions to reconsider sentence in Case No. 61488C,
even though that is not apparent in the record. This court cannot
dismiss a habeas petition as time-barred based on such an
this court finds that, contrary to the assertions of the
Respondents, this petition is not necessarily time-barred.
Because the decision in Woodfolk likely will affect
the resolution of the timeliness question presented here,
this case ...