United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING DISMISSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.
Rolando Robles has filed this pro se petition for a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He
challenges his 2007 convictions for kidnapping, attempted
kidnapping, and sexual assault. For the reasons set forth
below, I will dismiss the petition on the ground that he has
not fully exhausted available state remedies.
August 29, 2007, Robles pleaded guilty in state court under
the Alford doctrine to one count of kidnapping in
the first degree in violation of Connecticut General Statutes
§ 53a-92(a)(2)(A); one count of sexual assault in the
fourth degree in violation of Connecticut General Statutes
§ 53a-73a(a)(2); and one count of attempt to commit
kidnapping in the first degree in violation of Connecticut
General Statutes §§ 53a-92(a)(2)(A) and 53a-49.
See Doc. #11 at 13-47. On October 17, 2007, the
trial court judge sentenced Robles to fifteen years of
imprisonment, execution suspended after time served, followed
by twenty years of probation. See Id . at 48-78.
Robles did not challenge his convictions on direct appeal.
See Doc. #1 at 3. Robles did, however, eventually
file several post-conviction motions for relief.
22, 2011, Robles filed a motion to correct an illegal
sentence in state court. The motion was denied on November
10, 2011. See State v. Robles, 169 Conn.App. 127,
2016 WL 6081826 (2016) (reviewing history of filings). It
does not appear that Robles appealed the denial of this first
motion to correct.
January 11, 2012, Robles filed a habeas corpus petition in
state court. See Robles v. Warden, State Prison,
TSR-CV12-4004528-S (Conn. Super. Ct. 2012). He argued that
his convictions were obtained in violation of his right to
due process, because he was convicted of kidnapping based on
conduct that the Connecticut Supreme Court later determined
did not constitute kidnapping. See State v. Salamon,
287 Conn. 509, 546-48 (2008) (holding that a defendant cannot
be convicted of kidnapping, in conjunction with another
crime, if the confinement or movement is merely incidental to
the commission of the other crime). He also raised a claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel. Following an evidentiary
hearing, the habeas court dismissed his petition on December
16, 2014, concluding that his convictions were not invalid
under Salamon and that his trial counsel had not
rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel.
See Robles v. Warden, State Prison, 2014 WL 7647800
(Conn. Super. Ct. 2014).
February 9, 2015, Robles appealed the denial of his state
habeas petition to the Connecticut Appellate Court. See
Robles v. Comm'r of Corr., AC 37686 (Conn. App. Ct.
2015). But instead of pursuing the same claims
that he had pressed before the state habeas trial court,
Robles argued instead that his Alford pleas were not
made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. On December
20, 2016, the Appellate Court ruled that it could not review
Robles' appeal, because the claim he raised in his appeal
was not distinctly raised in the habeas trial court. See
Robles v. Comm'r of Corr., 169 Conn.App. 751, 2016
WL 7211161 (2016). On December 27, 2016, Robles filed a
motion for reconsideration en banc of the Appellate
Court's decision, which is pending.
meantime, apart from his effort to seek habeas corpus relief,
Robles also pursued a renewed motion to correct an illegal
sentence. On September 3, 2014, while his habeas petition was
pending at the state trial court, Robles filed a second
motion to vacate or correct an illegal sentence or, in the
alternative, for a writ of error coram nobis.
See State v. Robles, 169 Conn.App. 127, 2016 WL
6081826, at *2. He argued that the Salamon decision
rendered his sentence unconstitutional. On March 19, 2015,
the trial court dismissed Robles's motion to correct an
illegal sentence, holding that because Robles was essentially
challenging the validity of his conviction, the court lacked
subject matter jurisdiction over the motion, because the
motion sought to challenge his convictions rather than his
sentence. See id. The court also dismissed the
petition for a writ of error coram nobis, due to the
untimely filing of the petition. See id.
April 30, 2015, Robles appealed the dismissal of his motion
to correct an illegal sentence to the Connecticut Appellate
Court. See State v. Robles, AC 37881 (Conn. App. Ct.
2015). On October 25, 2016, the Appellate Court
affirmed the judgment, ruling in relevant part that “a
motion to correct an illegal sentence is not the proper
procedural path for the defendant in this case to contest the
validity of his guilty pleas following the change to our
kidnapping laws.” See State v. Robles, 169
Conn.App. 127, 2016 WL 6081826, at *4. On November 23, 2016,
Robles filed a petition for certification in the Connecticut
Supreme Court, on which the Connecticut Supreme Court has not
18, 2016, Robles filed the instant petition for federal
habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. His
petition seeks relief under Salamon and objects to
what he claims is the state courts' refusal to consider
his claim. Doc. #1 at 9-15.
federal court “shall entertain an application for a
writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody
pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground
that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or
laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(a). With certain exceptions, a prerequisite to
habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is that a
petitioner have previously presented and fully exhausted his
federal claims in the state courts. Id., §
2254(b)(1)(A); Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170,
181 (2011). “This requires that the prisoner fairly
present his constitutional claim to the state courts, which
he accomplishes by presenting the essential factual and legal
premises of his federal constitutional claim to the highest
state court capable of reviewing it.” Jackson v.
Conway, 763 F.3d 115, 133 (2d Cir. 2014). As the Second
Circuit has explained, the exhaustion rule “ensur[es]
that state courts receive a legitimate opportunity to pass on
a petitioner's federal claims and that federal courts
respect the state courts' ability to correct their own
mistakes.” Galdamez v. Keane, 394 F.3d 68,
72-74 (2d Cir. 2005) (Sotomayor, J.).
failure to exhaust may be excused if “there is no
opportunity to obtain redress in state court or if the
corrective process is so clearly deficient to render futile
any effort to obtain relief.” Duckworth v.
Serrano, 454 U.S. 1, 3 (1981) (per curiam). A
petitioner, however, may not simply wait until appellate
remedies are no longer available and then argue that the
claim is exhausted. See Galdamez, 394 F.3d at 73-74.
raises four grounds for relief in his federal habeas
petition. The first two grounds relate to his argument that
his convictions are invalid pursuant to the Connecticut
Supreme Court's decision in State v. Salamon. In
ground three, Robles contends that he has been denied his
right to access state court to challenge his convictions and
sentence. In ground four, Robles alleges violations of ...