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Musciotto v. Nardelli

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 10, 2019

ERIN NARDELLI, Respondent.



         Statement of the Case

         On January 9, 2019, the Petitioner, David Musciotto, a prisoner currently confined at the Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the district of New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 against the Respondent, Erin Nardelli, for a violation of due process. Pet. (DE#1). Specifically, the Petitioner claims that a detainer lodged against him by the State of Connecticut for a probation violation charge prevents him from participating in early release or rehabilitative programs available through the New Jersey Department of Corrections (“NJDOC”). Id. at 6-7. For relief, he asks that this Court (1) provide him with “an opportunity to address [the detainer] in a timely manner, ” (2) “abate [the detainer] so [that he] may partake of programming intended by the NJDOC for [his] rehabilitation or transition back to society, ” or (3) “dissolve the detainer.” Id. at 8. Because the Petitioner challenges a detainer lodged by the State of Connecticut, the court (Hillman, U.S.D.J.) sua sponte transferred the case to this court.[1]

         In response to an order to show cause issued by this Court, the Respondent moved to dismiss the petition on two grounds: (1) an arrest warrant for a violation of probation charge does not trigger the protections of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (“IAD”), and (2) to the extent the Court interprets the Petitioner's claim as a violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial, the Petitioner has failed to state such a claim. The Petitioner filed an amended opposition[2] to the Respondent's motion on August 19, 2019 in which he clarifies that while he “is not concerned with speedy trial, ” the unnecessary delay caused by the detainer combined with state officials' refusal to respond to his letters requesting relief violate his right to due process. He also argues that the IAD should be liberally interpreted to apply to all detainers, including those for violation of probation charges. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

         Standard of Review

         This Court reviews a motion to dismiss a habeas petition according to the same principles as a motion to dismiss a civil complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Purdy v. Bennett, 214 F.Supp.2d 348, 353 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). To survive a motion to dismiss, the petition “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         “Where . . . the [petition] was filed pro se, it must be construed liberally with ‘special solicitude' and interpreted to raise the strongest claims that it suggests.” Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011)). Nevertheless, a pro se petition still must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 Fed.Appx. 60, 61 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678). In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court may “take judicial notice of public records such as pleadings, orders, judgments, and other documents from prior litigation, including state court cases.” Lynn v. McCormick, No. 17-CV-1183 (CS), 2017 WL 6507112, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 18, 2017) (citing Lou v. Trutex, Inc., 872 F.Supp.2d 344, 349 n.6 (S.D.N.Y. 2012)); see also Samuels v. Air Transport Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 15 (2d Cir. 1993).

         Procedural History

         The Petitioner's prosecution history is not in dispute. On July 1, 2015, the Petitioner pleaded guilty in the Connecticut Superior Court to unlawful restraint in the first degree[3] and carrying a dangerous weapon.[4] State v. Musciotto, No. A05D-CR14-0151059-S (Conn. Super. Ct. July 1, 2015). The state court imposed a total effective sentence of five years of incarceration, execution suspended after eighteen months, and three years of probation. Id. At the Petitioner's request, supervision of his probationary term was transferred to the State of New Jersey pursuant to Connecticut's Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision.[5] See Pet'r's Attach. 2 (DE#1-3), 14; Pet'r's Attach. 3 (DE#21), 4.

         On May 4, 2017, New Jersey authorities arrested the Petitioner and subsequently charged him with manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance or intent to do so, in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:35-5a(1). On March 23, 2018, the New Jersey Superior Court sentenced him to five years of incarceration.

         Connecticut authorities subsequently issued an arrest warrant charging the Petitioner with violating his probation and lodged a detainer in the NJDOC facility where he was confined. Pet'r's Attach. 3 at 4. The Petitioner then wrote letters to both Connecticut and New Jersey officials complaining that the detainer was preventing him from receiving minimum security status and/or participating in rehabilitative programs while serving his New Jersey sentence, to include the potential for early release to a halfway house or rehabilitation facility. See Pet'r's Attach. 2 at 1-17. Accordingly, he sought immediate transfer to Connecticut under the IAD so he could address the violation of probation charge. The New Jersey authorities denied his request on the ground that the IAD does not apply to detainers based on violation of probation charges. Pet'r's Attach. 2. at 3; Pet'r's Attach. 3 at 5. They informed him that “[i]t is permissible, however, to resolve this matter via [video conference], should the Court in Connecticut be amenable.” Pet'r's Attach. 3 at 5. On March 5, 2019, Connecticut authorities responded to the Petitioner's letters seeking relief, stating that they are unable to execute the arrest warrant or take custody of him until he completes his sentence in New Jersey. Id. at 4. They also informed him that they are “unable to conduct remote arraignments or hearings from out of state facilities.” Id. The Petitioner remains incarcerated in New Jersey.


         The Petitioner purports to bring this petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Section 2241 authorizes “[t]he Supreme Court, any justice thereof, the district courts and any circuit judge” to grant writs of habeas corpus within their respective jurisdictions. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a). “The writ of habeas corpus shall not extend to a prisoner unless . . . [h]e is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). This provision of § 2241 “generally permits federal prisoners to challenge the execution of a sentence, including the computation of the sentence and parole decisions, rather than the imposition of that sentence or the underlying federal conviction . . .” Blanchard v. New York, No. 9:18-CV-0448 (GTS/CFH), 2018 WL 2324054, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. May 22, 2018) (citing Cook v. New York State Div. of Parole, 321 F.3d 274, 278 (2d Cir. 2003)); see also Jiminian v. Nash, 245 F.3d 144, 146 (2d Cir. 2001). In this case, however, the Petitioner is a state prisoner, not a federal prisoner, and he is challenging a detainer lodged by another state jurisdiction.

         A prisoner's challenge to a detainer is not a challenge to the validity or imposition of a state court sentence insofar as it does not seek to change the fact or duration of a sentence. Rather, it is more akin to a challenge to the execution of a sentence. See e.g. Roberts v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation & Parole, No. 09-0609 (RMB), 2009 WL 1351674, at *2 (D.N.J. May 12, 2009). And challenges to the execution of a state sentence, of the type presented here, must be brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Cook v. New York State Div. of Parole,321 F.3d 274, 278 (2d Cir. 2003). In Cook, the petitioner, a state prisoner, sought to avoid the prohibition against successive habeas petitions by bringing his petition pursuant to § 2241 relying on cases in which such petitions were permitted when brought by federal prisoners. The Court of Appeals held that “because a federal prisoner cannot challenge the execution of his or her sentence by a motion under [§] 2255, he or she must resort to a [§] 2241 petition to do so. A state prisoner, such as Cook, by contrast, not only may but according to the terms of [§] 2254 must, bring a challenge to the execution of his or her sentence … under [§] 2254.” (emphasis original) Id. at 278; see also, In Re: Wright,826 F.3d 774, 778 (4th Cir. 2016) (“Almost every circuit has addressed some version of the broader question at play here - that is, whether convicted state prisoners' petitions challenging the execution of a sentence are to be governed by § 2241 or § 2254. The majority view is that § 2241 habeas petitions from convicted state prisoners challenging the execution of a sentence are governed by § 2254”) (collecting cases). Therefore, although filed under § 2241, the Court construes this Petition as one governed by § 2254. See Cook, 321 F.3d at 278 (“[I]f an application that should be brought ...

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