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Villafane v. Commissioner of Correction

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 11, 2019

ANGEL VILLAFANE
v.
COMMISSIONER OFCORRECTION

          Argued January 9

         Procedural History

         Petition for a writ of habeas corpus, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Tolland and tried to the court, Sferrazza, J.; judgment denying the petition; thereafter, the court denied the petition for certification to appeal, and the petitioner appealed to this court. Appeal dismissed.

          Cheryl A. Juniewic, assigned counsel, for the appellant (petitioner).

          Nancy L. Walker, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Kevin D. Lawlor, former state's attorney, and Angela R. Macchiarulo, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (respondent).

          Keller, Moll and Bishop, Js.

          OPINION

          KELLER, J.

         The petitioner, Angel Villafane, appeals following the denial of his petition for certification to appeal from the judgment of the habeas court denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petitioner claims that the habeas court abused its discretion in denying his petition for certification to appeal and improperly (1) denied his motions to appoint habeas counsel, and (2) rejected his claim that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. We disagree and, accordingly, dismiss the petitioner's appeal.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to our resolution of this appeal. On December 17, 2014, the petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of burglary in the first degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-101 (a) (2) and one count of criminal violation of a protective order in violation of General Statutes § 53a-223. The petitioner also admitted to violating his probation in two instances and violating a conditional discharge in violation of General Statutes § 53a-32. According to the factual basis provided by the state at the petitioner's plea hearing, the petitioner forced his way into a house occupied by a woman with whom he had a previous relationship, where he proceeded to strike her ‘‘several times in the head, and then grabbed a knife from the kitchen and attempted to stab her . . . .'' The prosecutor indicated that the woman's daughter called the police, and, at that time, the petitioner fled from the residence. After canvassing the petitioner, the court determined that the pleas had been ‘‘knowingly and voluntarily made'' and were supported by a factual basis.

         At the petitioner's sentencing hearing on February 25, 2015, the court imposed a total effective sentence of eight years incarceration followed by seven years of special parole. The court terminated the other probations that the petitioner was serving at the time.

         On June 29, 2015, the petitioner, who was self-represented at the time, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petitioner alleged, inter alia, that he was living at the victim's house on the day on which the crime was committed. He contended that, because he lived there, he ‘‘could not be guilty of burglary in the first degree . . . .'' Based on this contention, he alleged that his attorney at the time of the plea hearing, public defender David Egan, provided ineffective assistance by recommending that he plead guilty to that crime and ‘‘take [nine] years and [seven] years special parole.'' Id. He also contended that Egan never ‘‘did his due diligence to remotely look into fighting'' his case, nor did he investigate ‘‘the facts in the case or the witnesses . . . .'' Additionally, the petitioner asserted that Egan and the trial court, Iannotti, J., had violated his sixth and fourteenth amendment rights because Egan was ineffective and the trial court had refused to grant his motion to dismiss Egan as his attorney.

         In his return, the respondent, the Commissioner of Correction, indicated that he was without sufficient information to admit or deny any of the factual allegations contained in the petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. As such, the respondent indicated he would leave the petitioner to his proof.

         On July 9, 2015, after the court received the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, it referred the petitioner to the Office of the Chief Public Defender for appointment of counsel. On August 17, 2015, Attorney James Ruane and his law firm, Ruane Attorneys at Law, entered an appearance on the petitioner's behalf. On December 6, 2016, however, the petitioner moved to dismiss counsel because, in his view, since the time he was appointed counsel, the petitioner had been ‘‘represented by [three] different attorneys'' from the firm. He argued that each of the attorneys had ‘‘done nothing at all in the petitioner's case'' and that his most recent attorney, Daniel F. Lage, had refused to investigate his case. The petitioner requested that the habeas court dismiss Lage and permit him to represent himself, and that a trial be scheduled for March 20, 2017.

         On January 30, 2017, the habeas court, Bright, J., heard arguments on the petitioner's motion to dismiss counsel. After canvassing the petitioner and cautioning him about the challenges of self-representation, the court stated: ‘‘[The petitioner] has thought through this. He understands the challenges of representing himself, but he's been working diligently in preparing his case. He has a ...


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