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Buggs v. Warden of Tyger River Correctional Institution

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

August 14, 2019

Arimatia Buggs, Petitioner,
Warden of Tyger River Correctional Institution, Respondent.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Henry M. Herlong, Jr., Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court for review of the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Jacqueline D. Austin, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina.[1] Arimatia Buggs (“Buggs”), a state prisoner proceeding pro se, seeks habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In her Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Austin recommends dismissing Buggs' petition with prejudice and without requiring the Respondent to file an answer or return because the petition is untimely under the one-year statute of limitations set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the Report and Recommendation and dismisses Buggs' § 2254 petition.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Buggs is currently incarcerated at the Tyger River Correctional Institution, a South Carolina Department of Corrections facility. On April 11, 2000, Buggs pled guilty in state court to murder, attempted murder, first degree burglary, and attempted armed robbery. (§ 2254 Pet. 1, ECF No. 1.) Buggs was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment. (Id., ECF No. 1.) Buggs did not appeal his conviction or sentence. On April 2, 2001, Buggs filed an application for post-conviction relief (“PCR”). See Buggs v. State, No. 2001-CP-10-01209.[2] An evidentiary hearing was held on November 22, 2002, and on January 30, 2003, the PCR court vacated Buggs' conviction for attempted murder on the basis that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over that charge and denied relief on the remaining grounds. (§ 2254 Pet. Attach. 1 (Jan. 30, 2003 Order 7-39), ECF No. 1-1.) Buggs filed a motion to reconsider, which was denied on August 21, 2007. (Id. Attach. 1 (Supp. Docs. 2), ECF No. 1-1.) Buggs did not appeal.

         On June 21, 2005, Buggs filed a second PCR application. Buggs v. State, No. 2005-CP-10-02621.[3] A hearing was held on January 23, 2008. (§ 2254 Pet. Attach. 1 (Supp. Docs. 1-4), ECF No. 1-1.) In the second PCR action, the parties reached an agreement to allow Buggs to file a belated appeal of his first PCR application pursuant to Austin v. State, 409 S.E.2d 395 (S.C. 1991), and agreed on which issues were preserved for appeal. (Id. Attach. 1 (Supp. Docs. 1-6), ECF No. 1-1.) The PCR court approved the agreement and dismissed the action on February 20, 2008. (Id. Attach. 1 (Supp. Docs. 5-6), ECF No. 1-1.) On January 6, 2010, the South Carolina Court of Appeals denied Buggs' petition for writ of certiorari. Buggs v. State, No. 2005-CP-10-02621.

         Buggs filed the instant § 2254 petition on June 18, 2019, [4] raising the following grounds for relief: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel, (2) actual innocence, (3) false arrest, (4) appeal of guilty plea based on counsel's statement that Buggs did not have the right to appeal. (§ 2254 Pet., generally, ECF No. 1.) Magistrate Judge Austin issued a Report and Recommendation on July 17, 2019, and recommends that Buggs' petition be dismissed with prejudice and without requiring the Respondent to file an answer or return. (R&R 16, ECF No. 7.) Buggs filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on July 30, 2019.[5] (Objs., ECF No. 9.) This matter is now ripe for review.

         II. Discussion of the Law

          Objections to the Report and Recommendation must be specific. Failure to file specific objections constitutes a waiver of a party's right to further judicial review, including appellate review, if the recommendation is accepted by the district judge. See United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 & n.4 (4th Cir. 1984). In the absence of specific objections to the Report and Recommendation of the magistrate judge, this court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983).

         Upon review, the court finds that many of Buggs' objections are nonspecific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, or merely restate his claims. However, the court was able to glean one specific objection. Buggs objects to the magistrate judge's conclusion that the statute of limitations should not be equitably tolled. (Objs., generally, ECF No. 9.)

         When a § 2254 petition is untimely, “[a] petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling only if he shows (1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing.” Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010) (citing Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Equitable tolling is appropriate when, but only when, extraordinary circumstances beyond the petitioner's control prevented him from complying with the statutory time limit.” Rouse v. Lee, 339 F.3d 238, 246 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). The petitioner bears the burden of showing that he is entitled to equitable tolling. Pace, 544 U.S. at 418.

         In this case, Buggs argues that his claims have merit, which establishes “extraordinary circumstances.” (Objs. 2-5, ECF No. 9.) Specifically, Buggs submits that he

initially believed his time had expired for any further review based upon the advice of his counsel immediately following his belated appeal and the language of the court in the order from that review. It was understood by the petitioner that the Austin or belated appeal would only allow petitioner the chance for a writ of certiorari. It was June of 2019 when petitioner learned that “actual innocence, ” which he asserted at PCR[, ] could potentially overcome procedural default.

(Id. 6-7, ECF No. 9.) Buggs further submits that the court should find that he has diligently pursued his rights because he exhausted his state court remedies. (Id. 7, ECF No. 9.)

         Upon review, the state proceedings in Buggs' case concluded on January 6, 2010, the date that his petition for writ of certiorari was denied by the South Carolina Court of Appeals, and the AEDPA limitations period expired nineteen days later on January 25, 2010. Buggs filed the instant petition on June 8, 2019, over nine years later. This extended lapse of time fails to show that Buggs has diligently pursued his rights. See United States v. Oriakhi, No. 08-8224, 2010 WL 3522005, at *1 (4th Cir. Sept. 10, 2010) (unpublished) (applying equitable tolling standard to motion filed pursuant to 28 ...

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