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Mengisteab v. Springfield Hospital Center

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 21, 2019



          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Petitioner Jonathan Mengisteab's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (ECF No. 1). The Petition is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the following reasons, the Court will dismiss the Petition without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On October 1, 2014, Howard County police responded to a report that Mengisteab was using a shovel to attempt to break into an apartment. (Resp'ts' Resp. Pet. [“Resp.”] Ex. 1 at 6-7, ECF No. 5-1). Mengisteab told the police that he was there to see his friend and to get his things from his friend's apartment, but the only information Mengisteab was able to provide was a first name. (Id.). Police arrested Mengisteab. (Id. at 7). Mengisteab later told police that he went to the apartment to check on a girl he had met the previous evening and that none of his things were in the apartment. (Id.). Mengisteab was charged with fourth degree burglary, malicious destruction of property, and fourth degree attempted robbery. (Id. at 1); see also Maryland v. Mengisteab, No. 0T00089824 (D.Ct. Howard Cty. Oct. 1, 2014). Police advised Mengisteab not to return to the apartment complex and released him. (See Resp. Ex. 1 at 7)

         The next day, October 2, 2014, Mengisteab returned to the same apartment at approximately 12:10 a.m., banged on the door, and identified himself as a police officer. (Id.). Mengisteab fled before the police arrived, and he returned several hours later. (Id.). Police responded, and Mengisteab told them that he was there to check on a female friend, but he was unable to provide any of her identifying information. (Id.). Mengisteab was charged with trespass and harassment and was again instructed not to return to the apartment complex. (Id. at 1); see Maryland v. Mengisteab, No. 4T00089828 (D.Ct. Howard Cty Oct. 2, 2014). Later the same day, the District Court of Maryland, sitting in Howard County, issued a Peace Order against Mengisteab for the occupant of the apartment. No. 1001SP009752014 (D.Ct. Howard Cty); (see also Resp. Ex. 1 at 8; Id. Ex. 2 at 5, ECF No. 5-2).[2]

         On October 13, 2014, Mengisteab called 911 for an ambulance for medical assistance for a woman he said was in an apartment at the complex and he could not gain access. (Resp. Ex. 1 at 7). A tenant at the apartment complex also called 911, but he to reported that Mengisteab was again on the property and that he was banned from the apartment complex. (Id.). When the police arrived, they found Mengisteab in front of the apartment building. (Id. at 7-8). He “appeared confused” and “stated that someone in either Apartment C1 or C4 needed medical attention.” (Id. at 8). Apartment C4 was the apartment involved in the October 1 and 2, 2014 incidents and where the occupant with the Peace Order resided. (Id.). The resident of Apartment C1 denied needing medical attention and the resident of Apartment C4 denied having any connection to Mengisteab prior to the October 1, 2014 incident and resulting Peace Order. (Id.). Based on this incident, Mengisteab was charged with failing to comply with a Peace Order. Maryland v. Mengisteab, No. 2T00089882 (D.Ct. Howard Cty Oct. 13, 2014); (see also Resp. Ex. 2 at 3).

         On December 18, 2014, the District Court ordered a mental health evaluation for Mengisteab to assess his criminal responsibility at the time he allegedly committed the offenses and his competency to stand trial. (Resp. Ex. 3, ECF No. 5-3). On February 19, 2015, Dr. Charles Zeitler and Lindsey Peterson, M.S., J.D., filed their report. (Resp. Ex. 2 at 1). In their report, they opined that Mengisteab understood the nature and objective of the proceedings against him, was able to assist in his own defense, and was competent to stand trial. (Id. at 5). They reported, however, that Mengisteab “lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct and to conform his behavior to the requirements of law.” (Id. at 13).

         On September 18, 2015, the District Court found Mengisteab not criminally responsible (“NCR”) on the charge of failing to comply with a peace order. (Resp. Ex. 4, ECF No. 5-4). The remaining charges were entered as nolle prosequi. (Id. Ex. 2 at 1, 6). The District Court committed Mengisteab to the Department of Health[3] at Springfield Hospital (“Springfield”) in Sykesville, Maryland. (Id. Ex. 4).

         On August 22, 2016, Mengisteab filed his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 1). Respondents filed their Response to the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on October 10, 2016. (ECF No. 5). On February 21, 2017, Mengisteab filed a Reply. (ECF No. 7).


         In his Petition, Mengisteab asserts that he is being unlawfully held at Springfield. (Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus [“Pet.”] at 5-6, ECF No. 1).[4] Mengistead avers that: (1) he is “held without bond, which was prepaid for a length of two weeks in Howard County Jail” and is from Virginia where he is on probation, (Pet. at 6);[5] (2) he was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic after a one-day evaluation; (3) he is eligible for discharge as a committed person who is not a danger as a result of mental disorder, “according to [the] “Maryland Code, ” (Pet. at 10); and (4) he is a “highly functioning individual who is Level 2, ” has maintained a job, and had “never been in seclusion or restraints, ” (Id.). Respondents counter that Mengisteab is lawfully confined at Springfield pursuant to a court order that found him NCR, and the Petition should be dismissed because Mengisteab has not exhausted his state law remedies.[6] The Court agrees that Mengisteab has failed to exhaust his state remedies.

         As a threshold matter, the Court notes that Mengisteab filed his Petition using a preprinted form for 28 U.S.C. §2254 petitions. (See Pet.). Mindful that Mengisteab is self-represented, the Court liberally construes the Petition and treats it as properly filed under to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (See Sept. 22, 2016 Order, ECF No. 3).

         Under § 2241, federal district courts have the “broad authority” to hear petitions for writs of habeas corpus filed by those claiming to be held “in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” Timms v. Johns, 627 F.3d 525, 530 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a)). Nevertheless, the Court's authority to issue a writ “is not boundless.” Id. Even where the Court has the power to issue a writ, it must consider whether to exercise that power. Id. (quoting Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 693 (2008)). Thus, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, courts generally require the exhaustion of alternative remedies before an individual can seek federal habeas relief. Id. at 530-31 (first quoting Bowen v. Johnston, 306 U.S. 19, 27 (1939); and then quoting Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723, 793 (2008)) (applying exhaustion requirement to § 2241 petition challenging civil commitment); see also Toomer v. Corcoran, No. DKC-18-1252, 2018 WL 6423904, at *2 (D.Md. Dec. 6, 2018) (“Thus, before seeking federal habeas corpus relief, Petitioner must exhaust each claim presented by pursuing remedies available in state court.”).

         To establish exhaustion, each claim must be “fairly presented” to the state courts. Baker v. Corcoran, 220 F.3d 276, 289 (4th Cir. 2000) (quoting Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971)). A claim is “fairly presented” where “both the operative facts and the controlling legal principles” were presented to the state court. Id. (quoting Matthews v. Evatt, 105 F.3d 907, 911 (4th Cir. 1997)). In this case, “[e]xhaustion includes appellate review in ...

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