United States District Court, D. Maryland
REGINALD GILES, Prisoner Identification No. 3334399, Petitioner,
STATE OF MARYLAND and WARDEN PHILLIP MORGAN, Respondents.
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Reginald Giles, who is currently confined at the Maryland
Correctional Training Center, has filed a Petition for a Writ
of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the
reasons set forth below, the Petition is DENIED.
August 24, 2010, Giles was charged in the Circuit Court for
Caroline County, Maryland (“the circuit court”)
with possession with intent to distribute narcotics,
possession of narcotics, and possession of drug
paraphernalia. The case, State v. Giles, No.
K-10-8374 (Cir. Ct. Caroline Cty. 2010) (“Case
8374”), available at
http://casesearch.courts.state. md.us/casesearch/, was
scheduled for trial on December 14, 2010. The Assistant
State's Attorney (“ASA”) and defense counsel
engaged in plea negotiations prior to the trial date. On
December 14, believing that a plea agreement had been
reached, the ASA released the prosecution's witnesses
from appearing on that date. When Giles proved unwilling to
plead guilty, the ASA was not prepared to proceed to trial
and requested a continuance. The trial judge, who was a
visiting judge, stated that he did not have the authority to
grant a continuance. The Administrative Judge, who did have
the necessary authority, was unavailable. The trial judge
then noted that if the State entered a nolle
prosequi, it could still re-indict Giles on the same
charges. Based on this suggestion, the State entered a
nolle prosequi in Case 8374.
February 9, 2011, Giles was indicted on the same charges in a
new case, State v. Giles, No. K-11-8607 (Cir. Ct.
Caroline Cty. 2011) (“Case 8607”), available
at http://casesearch. courts.state.md.us/casesearch/.
Defense counsel moved to dismiss the charges on the basis
that Giles's right to a speedy trial had been denied. The
motion to dismiss was argued and denied on August 10, 2011.
On August 17, 2011, following a jury trial, Giles was
convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and
possession of cocaine. Giles was acquitted of possession of
drug paraphernalia. On December 6, 2011, Giles was sentenced
to the 10-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment.
noted a timely appeal of his conviction on December 16, 2011.
However, at a March 21, 2012 status conference in a separate
felony narcotics case, State v. Giles, No. K-11-8919
(Cir. Ct. Caroline Cty. 2012) (“Case 8919”),
available at http://casesearch.courts.state.
md.us/casesearch/, Giles agreed to withdraw his appeal in
Case 8607 in exchange for the State dropping the charges in
Case 8919. The appeal was dismissed on April 24, 2012, and
the State entered a nolle prosequi in Case 8919 on
or about April 25, 2012.
20, 2012, Giles filed a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief
in the Circuit Court for Caroline County, raising two claims
of error: (1) that he received ineffective assistance of
counsel; and (2) that the trial court erred in denying his
Motion to Dismiss in Case 8607. After a December 21, 2012
hearing, at which Giles testified, the state post-conviction
court denied the petition on March 8, 2013. Giles filed an
Application for Leave to Appeal the Denial of Post-Conviction
Relief with the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, which
was denied on December 15, 2014.
filed a timely federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus
in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging
his 2011 convictions and sentence in Case 8607. Although the
Court received the Petition on January 28, 2015, it is dated
January 15, 2015 and is deemed filed on that date. See
Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988) (holding that
pleadings filed by prisoners are deemed filed on the date the
prisoner relinquishes control over the documents).
raises three grounds for relief in this Court. First, he
asserts that he was coerced into dropping his direct appeal
in Case 8607 by the State's offer to drop the indictment
in Case 8919. Second, he claims that he received ineffective
assistance of trial counsel in pursuing the Motion to Dismiss
Case 8607. Third, he contends that the trial court erred in
denying his Motion to Dismiss Case 8607.
Dismissal of Direct Appeal
claims that he was improperly coerced or induced into
dropping his appeal in Case 8607 by the State's offer to
dismiss the charges in Case 8919. He alleges that the
prosecutor and defense counsel told him that if he
“pursued a direct appeal on case 8607, ” he would
receive “no less than a 40 year sentence when, not
‘if, '” he was found guilty in Case 8919.
Pet. at 7, ECF No. 1. According to Giles, the plea deal was
“an offer I couldn't refuse, ” such that
“[t]here was nothing ‘voluntary' about the
plea.” Reply at 6, ECF No. 13.
assert that Giles has failed to specify what particular
federal constitutional right or law was violated by the trial
court's action. See 28 U.S.C. 2254(a) (2012)
(stating that federal courts may consider on a petition for a
writ of habeas corpus only claims that the petitioner
“is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws
or treaties of the United States”). Although his
argument rests primarily on a state case, Giles asserts that
the alleged coercion deprived him of his rights to due
process and equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the
Fourteenth Amendment. Reading the pro se Petition
liberally, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106
(1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972),
the Court construes the claim as raising a due process
violation. The Court therefore finds that the allegation that
Giles was coerced into withdrawing his direct appeal in Case
8607 asserts a cognizable claim for relief.
noted above, on December 16, 2012, Giles filed a timely
notice of appeal in Case 8607. He subsequently filed a motion
to dismiss his appeal pursuant to an agreement with the State
to dismiss the charges in Case 8919. In agreeing to this
arrangement, Giles was aware that if he was convicted in Case
8919, he would potentially face a 40-year sentence as a
this issue was not raised as a separate claim in the state
post-conviction proceedings, the post-conviction court
directly addressed the allegation of improper coercion. The
court found that:
Petitioner knowingly and voluntarily chose not to continue
with the appeal in order to obtain the plea agreement from
the State in Criminal No. K-11-8919. While Petitioner
testified that he was “induced” to withdraw the
appeal, this Court views the plea agreement as nothing short
of a beneficial, bargained-for exchange. The Court does not
find petitioner's assertion of improper inducement to be
State Post-Conviction Op. at 10-11, Answer Ex. 10, ECF No.
12-10. Further, the court noted that:
[T]he record clearly indicates that the purpose for
withdrawing the appeal was for petitioner to maintain his
current ten-year sentence from the conviction in Criminal No.
K-11-8607 and avoid the possible forty-year sentence as a
subsequent offender in case Criminal No. K-11-8919. The State
followed through with their part of the bargain and entered
the charges in the pending case as nolle prosequi
and, in exchange, petitioner withdrew his appeal as agreed.
Id. at 11.
state post-conviction court's finding that there was no
improper inducement is supported by the underlying record. On
March 21, 2012, the date on which the circuit court was
informed of the agreement, the court presided over a voir
dire examination of Giles by defense counsel regarding