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Enow v. Wolfe

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 23, 2018

NDOKEY ENOW, #435845, #1990859 Petitioner
v.
JOHN WOLFE, WARDEN and THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND Respondents

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge.

         Ndokey Enow[1] challenges his 2015 guilty plea and conviction for solicitation to commit first degree murder in this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which he later supplemented. Pet., ECF No. 1; Supp., ECF No. 3. Respondents filed an Answer to the Petition seeking denial of the Petition. ECF No. 7. Before the Court imposed limitations on the length of Enow's filings, as discussed in note 1, Enow filed a 44 page handwritten Reply, ECF No. 11, along with 119 pages of exhibits.[2] The case is briefed and ready for adjudication. After careful review, I deem a hearing unnecessary to resolve the issues. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts; and Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014); see also Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000) (petitioner not entitled to a hearing under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2)).

         BACKGROUND

         Plea and Sentencing Hearings[3]

         On January 9, 2015, Enow pleaded guilty before the Honorable Steven G. Salant in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, to one count of solicitation to commit first degree murder. State v. Enow, Case No. 125462C (Cir. Ct. Montgomery Cty.). He pleaded guilty after swearing under oath that he understood the nature of the charge to which he was pleading guilty, his sentencing exposure, and the rights he was waiving by pleading guilty. He swore in open court that he was in fact guilty of solicitation to commit first degree murder, was pleading guilty without threats of coercion, and was freely and voluntarily entering his plea. Plea Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 6-2 in Enow Habeas I.

         Specifically, the prosecutor informed the Court during the plea hearing that Enow and the State had agreed to propose a binding “sentence of 40 years to include 20 years of executed incarceration and 20 years suspended.” Plea Hr'g Tr. 3-4, 6, 11; State Ct. Docs. 29-30, ECF No. 9-3 in Enow Habeas I.[4] The prosecutor explained the sentence in the plea agreement was two years above the guidelines, and offered to discuss the criteria set for in the sentencing guidelines manual. Plea Hr'g Tr. 4.

         During the lengthy plea colloquy, Enow informed the Court that he holds a doctorate of science in cybersecurity. Id. at 7. Enow told the Court that he had been considering pleading guilty for about seven months, had read the charging document, and had a full opportunity to discuss this charge with his attorney. Id. at 10. Enow acknowledged he understood that he was waiving his right to trial by entering the plea. Id. at 12-18. Enow told the Court that he suffers from depression, but stated that his condition is effectively managed with medication. Id. at 8-9. Enow informed the Court that he understood his plea and the plea proceedings. Id. He indicated that his medication did not impede his understanding or ability to make informed choices. Id.

         The Court stated the maximum sentence for the offenses charged was life imprisonment. Reply, ECF No. 6 in Enow Habeas I; State Ct. Docs. 27, ECF No. 1-2 in Enow Habeas II. Enow told the Court that he was satisfied with his attorney's legal representation. State Ct. Docs. 27, ECF No. 1-2 in Enow Habeas II. Enow represented to the Court that his attorney had reviewed with him the elements of solicitation to commit first degree murder. Plea Hr'g Tr. 10. The State read aloud the elements of the offense in open court. Id. at 19. Enow confirmed he was pleading guilty to solicitation to commit first degree murder because he was guilty of the offense. Id. at 18. The Court accepted Enow's guilty plea to solicitation to commit first degree murder as entered freely and voluntarily, and because he was, in fact, guilty of the offense. Id. at 18, 28.

         The State proffered that had the case gone to trial, the evidence presented would have shown that on June 3, 2014, an informant told the police that Enow had offered to pay the informant to kill Enow's ex-wife, Glory, in Montgomery County, Maryland. Id. at 19. The police then arranged a meeting between Enow and an undercover officer, who posed as a hitman for hire.

         On June 6, 2016, Enow offered the undercover police officer $1, 000 to kill Glory. That meeting was recorded on audio and video equipment. Enow and the undercover officer then drove to the victim's neighborhood to survey the area. Enow gave the undercover officer a $300 deposit and photographs of Glory to identify her. After arrest, Enow agreed to talk to the police and admitted that he had solicited his wife's murder. Id. at 19-23.

         On February 27, 2017, Judge Salant sentenced Enow pursuant to the plea agreement to forty years of incarceration with all but twenty years suspended, and five years of supervised release. Per the plea agreement, the State entered a nolle prosequi to the remaining count against Enow.[5] State Ct. Docs. 60, ECF No. 1-2 in Enow Habeas II; State Ct. Docket 7, ECF No. 8-1 in Enow Habeas II; State Ct. Docs. 29, ECF No. 9-3 in Enow Habeas I.[6]

         Post-Plea Proceedings

         On March 23, 2015, Enow filed an Application for Leave to Appeal his guilty plea in which he argued that his counsel[7] provided ineffective assistance and his plea was not knowing and voluntary. ECF No. 7-1. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland summarily denied the Application for Leave to Appeal by unreported opinion filed on August 12, 2015. State Ct. Docs. 1-2, ECF No. 9-3 in Enow Habeas I; State Ct. Docket 8. Enow did not pursue appellate review further.

         Enow initiated state post-conviction proceedings on July 23, 2015. The post-conviction proceedings were held in abeyance pending a determination on Enow's Application for Leave to Appeal. State Ct. Docket 11-12. Following the denial of Enow's Application for Leave to Appeal, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County held a hearing on his Petition for Post-Conviction Relief on October 19, 2016. Id. at 20. Enow claimed that his guilty plea was not voluntarily entered, he was illegally entrapped, the police committed a wiretap violation, and he received ineffective assistance of plea counsel. State Ct. Docs. 2, ECF No. 1-2 in Enow Habeas II. On December 28, 2016, the Circuit Court denied post-conviction relief. Id. at 5; State Ct. Docket 21.

         On January 13, 2017, Enow filed an Application for Leave to Appeal the denial of his Petition for Post-Conviction Relief. ECF No. 7-2. Enow raised the following claims: (1) he was subjected to an illegal wiretap; (2) his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary; and (3) his counsel provided ineffective assistance. Id. On June 23, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals summarily denied Enow's Application, and the mandate issued on July 31, 2017. See Denial of Appl. for Leave to Appeal 1-2, ECF No 1-1; Mandate, ECF No. 11-1. Respondents do not dispute that Enow has exhausted his claims per 18 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). Resps.' Answer 13.

         CLAIMS PRESENTED

         Enow raises the following claims in this Petition: (1) the indictment was based on “false evidence” and unlawful wiretapping; (2) his guilty plea was not entered voluntarily and knowingly; and (3) he was provided ineffective assistance of counsel.[8]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The federal habeas statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended, sets forth a “highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings.” Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333 n.7 (1997); see also Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447, 455 (2005). The standard is “difficult to meet, ” and requires courts to give state-court decisions the benefit of the doubt. Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011) (“If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be.”).

         A federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus unless the state's adjudication on the merits: (1) “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” or (2) “resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). A state adjudication is contrary to clearly established federal law under § 2254(d)(1) where the state court “arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law, ” or “confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives at a result opposite to [the Supreme Court].” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000). Under 2254(d)(1), a “state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 101 (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). A federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because it concludes that the relevant state-court decision applied established federal law incorrectly. Renico ...


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