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Snyder v. Crowther

United States District Court, D. Utah

September 12, 2018

BARRY SNYDER, Petitioner,
v.
SCOTT CROWTHER, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER DENYING HABEAS RELIEF

          DISTRICT JUDGE ROBERT J. SHELBY

         Petitioner, Barry Snyder, filed a pro se habeas corpus petition. See 28 U.S.C.S. § 2254 (2018). Having thoroughly reviewed the contents of the petition, the State's answer and Petitioner's response to the answer, the Court denies the petition.

         BACKGROUND

         For viewing child-pornography images over the internet, Petitioner was charged with ten counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Petitioner agreed to plead guilty to one count; in exchange, the State dropped the other nine counts. The trial court engaged Petitioner in a thorough Rule 11 colloquy before accepting his guilty plea. Petitioner appealed, but then withdrew his appeal.

         A. State Post-Conviction Petition

         He went on to seek post-conviction relief in state court, contending as follows:

         1. Images he pleaded guilty to viewing were protected speech under the First Amendment.

         2. Ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

a. Pre-Plea.
i. Counsel spent little time conferring with Petitioner.
ii. Counsel incorrectly told Petitioner that there were four or five pornographic images found on his computer when it was alleged that there were only three.
b. Post-Plea.
i. Counsel did not change the plea, specifically once Petitioner brought him case law that would provide him a defense and when recognizing there were fewer images than counsel had originally thought.
ii. Counsel did not ensure Petitioner's presentence investigation report was correct.

         3. The guilty plea was involuntary and induced by threat of additional charges.

         4. The search was illegal because it was done before the search warrant was issued.

         Petitioner recognized these possible grounds to withdraw his guilty plea and wrote the trial court letters about them, between the time he entered his plea and the time when he was sentenced. Further, when Petitioner responded to the State's summary-judgment motion, he conceded that the pre-plea constitutional issues he raised were not separate grounds for withdrawing his plea, but were “examples of the ineffective assistance of counsel.” Snyder v. State, No. 120100137, slip. op at 2 (Utah Dist. Ct. Mar. 28, 2014) (quotation marks and citation omitted). The trial court thus analyzed all the issues under the umbrella of ineffective assistance of counsel.

         So, the first issue challenging the viewed images as protected under the First Amendment must instead be framed in terms of ineffective assistance: Thus, counsel was ineffective in not challenging the viewed images as protected under the First Amendment. And the third issue: Counsel was ineffective because he threatened Petitioner with more charges to induce a guilty plea. And the fourth issue: Counsel was ineffective because he failed to challenge the legality of the search of Petitioner's computer that revealed the pornographic images.

         The trial court ruled that all but the two pre-plea instances of ineffective assistance raised were procedurally barred. This is because they all could have been raised on the direct appeal that was withdrawn. Id. at 4-5 (“Pursuant to Utah Code Ann. § 78B-9-106(1)(b), the [Post-Conviction Remedies Act] is identified as ‘the sole remedy for any person who challenges a conviction or sentence for a criminal offense and who has exhausted all other legal remedies, including a direct appeal.' Also under the PRCA, ‘a person is not eligible for relief under this chapter upon any ground that . . . was raised or addressed at trial or appeal.' Utah Code Ann. § 78B-9-106(1)(b). The statute also identifies another procedural bar that arises when a petitioner raises a claim that ‘could have been but was not raised a trial or appeal.' Utah Code Ann. § 78B-9-106(1)(C).”).

         In denying Petitioner post-conviction relief, the trial court also analyzed the two pre-plea instance of ineffective assistance of counsel on the merits using the standard Strickland analysis. Id. at 3-6 (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984)).

         B. Appeal of State Trial Court's Denial of Post-Conviction Relief

         Petitioner appealed the denial to the Utah Court of Appeals, raising these grounds:

         1. The trial court erred in concluding that Petitioner was barred from raising ineffective-assistance-of counsel claims under PCRA.

         2. The trial court erred in ruling against Petitioner on summary judgment because there were genuine issues of material fact in dispute regarding ineffective assistance of counsel.

         3. The trial court improperly denied him representation by pro bono counsel.

         In affirming the trial court's denial of post-conviction relief, the court of appeals first noted that “[t]o the extent that the claims raised would be substantive challenges to his conviction, the claims were waived by his guilty plea.” Snyder v. State, 2015 UT App 37, ¶ 4. The court further affirmed the trial court in its dismissal of claims based on the procedural bar found in the PCRA. Id. ¶ 6. The court noted that Petitioner tried on appeal to overcome the procedural bar by asserting ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, but that, “because this claim is argued for the first time on appeal in his postconviction case, it is not properly before this court.” Id. ¶ 6 n.1 (citation omitted). Also in affirming the trial court, the court of appeals analyzed the two pre-plea ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims under the Strickland analysis. Id. ¶ 8. The court finally upheld the trial court in denying Petitioner appointed counsel in his state post-conviction proceedings. Id. ¶ 10 n.2 (“Snyder is not entitled to counsel in this postconviction proceeding.” (Citation omitted.)).

         C. Petition for Writ of Certiorari Regarding Utah Court of Appeals' Affirmance of State Trial Court ...


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