United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Troy M. Wright, Petitioner,
Warden of Manning Correctional Institution, Respondent.
OPINION & ORDER
M. Herlong, Jr., Senior United States District Judge
matter is before the court for review of the Report and
Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon
Baker, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and
Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South
Carolina. Troy M. Wright (“Wright”), a
state prisoner proceeding pro se, is seeking habeas corpus
relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In her Report and
Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Baker recommends granting
the Respondent's motion for summary judgment and
dismissing Wright's petition with prejudice.
Factual and Procedural Background
is currently incarcerated at Fairfield County Detention
Center. In 2013, Wright was charged with first-degree assault
and battery after he attacked his former girlfriend at her
place of employment. (Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Attach. 1
(App. 9-12), ECF No. 8-1.) The state offered to allow Wright
to plead guilty to first-degree assault and battery on the
condition that the state would recommend the maximum prison
term of ten years. (Id. Attach. 1 (App. 50-52), ECF
No. 8-1.) Wright refused the plea deal. (Id. Attach.
1 (App. 52), ECF No. 8-1.) After Wright refused this deal and
after the prosecutor learned about the extent of the
victim's injuries, Wright was indicted for assault and
battery of a high and aggravated nature (“ABHAN”)
on December 1, 2014. (Id. Attach. 1 (App. 59-60,
79), ECF No. 8-1.)
pled guilty to ABHAN pursuant to North Carolina v.
Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970). According to Wright, the
prosecutor allegedly promised not to make a recommendation at
sentencing regarding the length of Wright's sentence.
(Id. Attach. 1 (App. 7-9, 53-54), ECF No. 8-1.)
However, at sentencing, the prosecutor asked the court to
impose the maximum sentence of twenty years'
imprisonment. (Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Attach. 1 (App. 13),
ECF No. 8-1.) On January 7, 2015, Wright was sentenced to
twenty years' imprisonment, suspended to eight years'
imprisonment upon good behavior. (Id. Attach. 1
(App. 19), ECF No. 8-1.) Wright did not file a direct appeal.
March 27, 2015, Wright filed an application for
post-conviction relief (“PCR”) and raised three
grounds for relief: (1) his attorney coerced him into
pleading guilty, (2) ineffective assistance of plea counsel,
and (3) the state prosecutor violated the plea agreement.
(Id. Attach. 1 (App. 21, 23, 44-45), ECF No. 8-1.)
An evidentiary hearing was held on August 2, 2016.
(Id. Attach. 1 (App. 47), ECF No. 8-1.) On August
15, 2016, the PCR court denied Wright's PCR application.
(Id. Attach. 1 (App. 76), ECF No. 8-1.) However, in
its opinion, the PCR court did not address Wright's
second and third grounds for relief. The PCR court addressed
Wright's first ground for relief, which the court
interpreted as a claim that plea counsel exposed Wright to
“a possible twenty[-]year, violent, and serious offense
of Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature
(ABHAN), by not informing him of the statute's collateral
consequences associated with ABHAN.” (Mem. Supp. Mot.
Summ. J. Attach. 1 (App. 75-76), ECF No. 8-1.) Wright's
PCR counsel did not make a motion to alter or amend the PCR
appealed the PCR court's decision, and filed a petition
for writ of certiorari with the South Carolina Supreme Court
on December 9, 2016, raising the following grounds:
1. Whether Petitioner's guilty plea was knowingly,
intelligently, and voluntarily made where he pled guilty
pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, 200 U.S. 25
(1970)[, ] based on plea counsel's assurance that the
state would not make a sentence recommendation during the
hearing and where instead the assistant solicitor asked the
court to sentence Petitioner to the maximum twenty years'
2. Did the PCR court err by failing to rule on
Petitioner's claim that his guilty plea was not
knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made based on plea
counsel's ineffective assistance of counsel since
Petitioner properly raised the claim in his amended
application, presented extensive evidence related to the
claim at the evidentiary hearing, and the PCR court accepted
oral argument from counsel on the claim at the conclusion of
(Id. Attach. 2 (Pet. Writ Cert.), ECF No. 8-2.) The
South Carolina Supreme Court transferred the petition to the
South Carolina Court of Appeals, and on October 24, 2018, the
Court of Appeals denied the petition. (Id. Attach. 4
(Oct. 24, 2018 Order) ECF No. 8-4.)
filed the instant § 2254 petition on December 11, 2018,
alleging the following three grounds for relief: (1)
ineffective assistance of counsel based on Wright's
assertion that his attorney coerced him to plead to a greater
offense (“ground 1”), (2) breach of plea
agreement (“ground 2”), and (3) ineffective
assistance of counsel based on Wright's assertion that
his attorney was inexperienced and unfamiliar with sentencing
guidelines (“ground 3”). (§ 2254 Pet., ECF
No. 1.) On February 22, 2019, Respondent filed a motion for
summary judgment. (Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 9.) Wright filed a
response on March 29, 2019. (Resp. Opp'n Mot. Summ. J.,
ECF No. 13.) Respondent filed a reply on April 8, 2019.
(Reply, ECF No. 14.) On June 3, 2019, Magistrate Judge Baker
issued a Report and Recommendation. (R&R, ECF No. 15.)
Magistrate Judge Baker recommends granting Respondent's
motion for summary judgment and dismissing Wright's
petition with prejudice because all grounds for relief are
procedurally defaulted. (Id., ECF No. 15.) Wright
filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on July 15,
2019. (Objs., ECF No. 19.) This matter is now
ripe for review.
Discussion of the Law
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is
to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn
in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes
over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under