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Thomas v. State

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

July 30, 2019

STEVEN TROY THOMAS, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF GEORGIA, et al., Respondents.

         Proceedings Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Before the U.S. Magistrate Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Charles H. Weigle United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is a motion to dismiss Steven Troy Thomas's petition for habeas corpus relief filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 14). Because Petitioner has not yet exhausted his state court remedies, it is RECOMMENDED that the motion to dismiss be GRANTED, and that this action be DISMISSED without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 8, 2018, Petitioner was found guilty on charges of driving without a license, reckless driving, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, and obstruction of an officer. (Doc. 15-1, p. 1; Doc. 15-2, p. 1). The record indicates that Petitioner was stopped by a Butts County Sheriff's Officer for speeding on I-75. When the officer determined that Petitioner was driving without a license, Petitioner fled in his vehicle, resulting in a high-speed chase culminating in a “PIT maneuver.” See (Doc. 15-4, p. 3).

         Following his conviction, on February 21, 2018, Petitioner filed a motion for new trial. (Doc. 15-3, p. 1). That motion was denied on July 3, 2018. (Doc. 15-4, pp. 1-4). Petitioner has not litigated a direct appeal, and he has not commenced state habeas proceedings. See (Doc. 4, pp. 2- 3). See also (Doc. 19-1, p. 1).

         PETITIONER'S MOTION TO EXPAND THE RECORD

         Petitioner has filed a “motion to compel Respondents to file a full and complete record herein.” (Doc. 20). This motion is DENIED for two reasons. First, Petitioner fails to identify with any particularity what records he seeks to obtain. Instead, Petitioner merely asserts that Respondents have “overlooked those portions of said record that are material and relevant to Thomas' Habeas Grounds.” (Doc. 20, p. 1). Second, the Court is currently entertaining Respondents' motion to dismiss solely on the basis that Petitioner failed to exhaust his claims through “one complete round” of review before the courts of the State of Georgia. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999). Insofar as Petitioner seeks records associated with his trial, or with proceedings relating to his motion for new trial, Petitioner has failed to demonstrate why those records are relevant to the exhaustion inquiry. Accordingly, Petitioner is not now entitled to expand the record.

         EXHAUSTION

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254 provides that an “application for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that … the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). This provision, as interpreted, requires Section 2254 petitioners to exhaust their claims by fairly presenting them to the State courts through one complete round of review. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999). See also Pope v. Rich, 358 F.3d 852, 854 (11th Cir. 2004) (“Boerckel applies to the state collateral review process as well as the direct appeal process”).

         The record shows that Petitioner has not exhausted his Section 2254 claims. As Respondent notes, Petitioner's failure to adhere to state procedural rules governing the appeals process, including rules setting the time within which an appeal must be commenced, amounts to a failure to exhaust. See, e.g., Mason v. Allen, 605 F.3d 1114, 1119 (11th Cir. 2010) (“If a petitioner fails to ‘properly' present his claim to the state court-by exhausting his claims and complying with the applicable state procedure-prior to bringing his federal habeas claim, then AEDPA typically bars us from reviewing the claim”). Furthermore, while the record suggests that Petitioner may have requested leave from the state courts to file an out-of-time appeal, see (Doc. 19-1, p. 6), there is no indication that Petitioner has been granted such leave, much less that Petitioner has concluded his out-of-time appellate proceedings.

         As to state habeas corpus proceedings, Petitioner acknowledges that he has not yet filed a state habeas corpus petition. (Doc. 4, p. 3). See also (Doc. 19-1, p. 1) (“nor did Thomas seek to challenge his convictions in a state collateral proceeding or attack”) (internal punctuation omitted). Petitioner argues that his motion for new trial was a form of collateral attack, but again, exhaustion requires Petitioner to “give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established … review process.” O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999). As to both the state appellate process and the state habeas process, Petitioner has failed to exhaust one complete round of review.

         Finally, nothing in the record - neither Petitioner's frivolous sovereign citizen arguments, (Doc. 21, pp. 2-10), nor his vague allusions to a “prejudicial atmosphere” (Doc. 19, p. 1) - suggests that state process was unavailable to Petitioner, or that it was ineffective to protect his rights. Rather, the record shows that Petitioner commenced this Section 2254 action prematurely, before granting the state courts an opportunity to rule upon his claims of constitutional wrong. As a result, Petitioner's ...


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