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Baker v. Brown

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division

November 13, 2017

JUSTIN BAKER PETITIONER
v.
CHRIS BROWN, Sheriff, Cleburne County, Arkansas; ARKANSAS ATTORNEY GENERAL RESPONDENTS

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The 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.

         I. Introduction

         Pending 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.

         On 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.

         On December 9, 2003, the State filed a Petition for Revocation of Probation.[1]On May 27, 2004, Baker pleaded guilty to violating his probation; his probation was revoked and then reinstated; and he was ordered to continue reporting to his probation officer and to “not violate his probation in any manner.”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.

         On November 22, 2004, the State filed a second Petition to Revoke Probation.[2] 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.

         On 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.

         In 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.

         On 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.[3] 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.

         On 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 13.

         On 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.

         On 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.[4] Although directed to file a Reply addressing Respondent's arguments, Baker elected not to do so. Doc. 13.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court recommends that Baker's Petition and Amended Petition be denied, and that the case be dismissed, with prejudice.

         II. ...


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