United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to United States
District Judge James M. Moody Jr. You may file written
objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do
so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the
factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be
received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days
of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the
right to appeal questions of fact.
before the Court is a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition for a
Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Petitioner, Justin Baker
(“Baker”). Docs. 3 & 7. Before
addressing Baker's claims, the Court will review the
procedural history of the case in state court.
February 4, 2003, Baker appeared in White County Circuit
Court and pleaded guilty to one count of sexual indecency
with a child. He was sentenced to four months of
imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised probation.
Doc. 12-2. His Judgment and Disposition Order
states: “Defendant is a Sex or Child Offender as
defined in A.C. A. 12-12-903, and is ordered to complete the
Sex Offender Registration Form.” Id. at 2.
December 9, 2003, the State filed a Petition for Revocation
of Probation.On May 27, 2004, Baker pleaded guilty to
violating his probation; his probation was revoked and then
reinstated; and he was ordered to continue reporting to his
probation officer and to “not violate his probation in
any manner.” Doc. 12-3.
November 22, 2004, the State filed a second Petition to
Revoke Probation. Doc. 12-4. On April 28, 2005,
Baker appeared in the trial court and pleaded guilty to
violating his probation. The trial court revoked his
probation and sentenced him to thirty-six months in the
Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”) on the
2003 White County conviction for sexual indecency with a
child. Doc. 12-5. The Judgment and Commitment Order
requires him to register as a sex offender under the Arkansas
statutes. Id. at 2.
October 9, 2007, Baker was paroled from the ADC. Docs.
12-6, 12-7. On February 6, 2008, he was discharged from
parole supervision. Doc. 12-7.
December 2010, Baker was convicted of failure to register as
a sex offender and was sentenced to eighteen months in the
ADC. Doc. 12-7 at 1; Doc. 12 at 3 n.1. On June 20,
2011, he was released on parole; on April 17, 2012, he was
discharged from supervision. Doc. 12-7 at 1.
November 23, 2016, Baker filed this federal habeas action.
Doc. 3. At the time of filing, he was incarcerated
in the Cleburne County Jail on a new charge of failure to
register as a sex offender that “stem[med] from”
his 2003 White County conviction for sexual indecency with a
child. Id. at 1. He alleged: (1) he was
being “illegally restrained of his liberty” on
the failure-to-register charge from Cleburne County Circuit
Court; (2) the White County Circuit Court lacked subject
matter jurisdiction to convict him of sexual indecency
because, at the time of the offense, Baker was a minor; and
(3) the White County judgment is “invalid on its
face” and violates due process. Id. at 3-4.
December 12, 2016, Baker filed an Amended § 2254
Petition. Doc. 7. As the “judgment of
conviction you are challenging, ” Baker listed the
White County conviction for sexual indecency with a child,
for which he received five years of probation in February
2003. Doc. 7 at 1. He alleged that he was
“only 17 when the incident occurred” and he was
“now facing a Class C felony for not registering when
the charge that the requirement stems from was
unlawful.” Id. at 5. He asked to “be
relieved of the obligation to register [as a sex offender]
and [for] dismiss[al of] this new charge.” Id. at
February 13, 2017, the Court received a letter from Baker.
Doc. 10. In the letter, Baker stated that, on
February 6, 2017, he had “accepted a plea bargain of 7
years probation because [he] in fact was guilty of failing to
comply with registration requirements” in the Cleburne
County failure-to-register case. Id. He asked if
this would “affect the habeas petition on the
underlying charge out of White County.” Id.
February 24, 2017, Respondent Arkansas Attorney General
Leslie Rutledge filed a Response. Doc. 12.
Construing Baker's habeas action as challenging
only the White County sexual indecency conviction,
Respondent argued that the action should be dismissed
because: (1) he was not “in custody” for the
White County conviction or sentence, nor was he at the time
of initiating this action; and (2) his claims challenging
that conviction are untimely. Although directed to file a Reply
addressing Respondent's arguments, Baker elected not to
do so. Doc. 13.
reasons that follow, the Court recommends that Baker's
Petition and Amended Petition be denied, and that the case be
dismissed, with prejudice.