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Spiker v. Clarke

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

June 7, 2016

GEORGE H. SPIKER, JR., Petitioner,
HAROLD W. CLARKE, Respondent.

          George H. Spiker, Jr., Pro Se Petitioner

          John W. Blanton, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Richmond, Virginia, for Respondent.


          James P. Jones United States District Judge

         George H. Spiker, Jr., a Virginia inmate, has filed a pro se petition for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, contending that his 2010 state convictions for computer solicitation of a minor for sexual acts are void.

         Spiker relies on MacDonald v. Moose, 710 F.3d 154, 156 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 200 (2013). In MacDonald, the Fourth Circuit granted habeas relief to a Virginia inmate who had been convicted of soliciting a minor to commit a felony. The predicate felony charged was MacDonald’s solicitation of a minor to perform oral sex on him, in violation of Virginia’s "Crime Against Nature" statute, Va. Code § 18.2-361(A), which criminalized carnal knowledge "by the anus or by or with the mouth, " commonly known as sodomy. Relying upon Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), which struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy statute as unconstitutional, the Fourth Circuit held that section 18.2-361(A) was facially unconstitutional because by its terms it criminalized sodomy between consenting adults, and thus could not support MacDonald’s solicitation conviction, even though his actual conduct involved a minor.

         Upon review of the record, I conclude that the respondent’s Motion to Dismiss must be granted, because the habeas petition is untimely, procedurally defaulted, and without merit.


         On September 14, 2009, a Virginia grand jury charged Spiker with five counts of using a computer to solicit a person under 15 years of age to perform certain proscribed sexual acts in violation of Va. Code § 18.2-374.3. One of the proscribed sexual acts included in section 18.2-374.3 referenced Va. Code 18.2-361. Spiker pleaded not guilty and was tried before a jury. As described in more detail hereafter, the Commonwealth’s evidence included screen shots of online chats Spiker had had with a police detective who had identified himself online as a 13-year-old girl. Spiker was convicted on all five counts. On March 15, 2010, based upon the verdict of the jury fixing the punishment, the Circuit Court of Louisa County sentenced Spiker to 20 years in prison on each count, for a total of 100 years.

         Spiker sought an appeal to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, challenging venue and the sufficiency of the evidence. The court affirmed his convictions, Spiker v. Commonwealth, 711 S.E.2d 228 (Va. Ct. App. 2011), and the Supreme Court of Virginia refused his subsequent appeal, Spiker v. Commonwealth, Record No. 111392 (Va. Oct. 25, 2011). (ECF No. 20, p. 24.) Spiker did not file a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court or seek habeas relief in the state courts.

         On October 3, 2012, Spiker filed a pleading in state court called "Petition/Motion to Void Judgment." Spiker contended that he was entitled to relief from his convictions for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and because of fraud on the court, related to his waiver of a preliminary hearing. The Circuit Court of Louisa County dismissed this petition by order dated July 1, 2013.

         Spiker returned to the same court on February 18, 2014, with a "Motion to Void Judgment." In this motion, Spiker alleged that his conviction should be voided because (1) Va. Code § 18.2-361 had been held unconstitutional in MacDonald; (2) the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to convict him because there had been no preliminary hearing; and (3) he had been deprived of various trial-related rights, including the effective assistance of counsel. The court found that Spiker "ha[d] not established a jurisdictional defect and the Court [found] that no fraud, extrinsic or otherwise, ha[d] been established" and noted that his claims should have been raised in a habeas corpus petition. Spiker v. Commonwealth, No. CL14-74 (Va. Cir. Ct. May 28, 2014). (ECF No. 14-5, p. 8.) Because Spiker had filed his motion outside the time limit under Virginia law for filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the court found that such a petition would be untimely. (Id. at p. 2 n.1.) The Supreme Court of Virginia refused his petition for appeal, Spiker v. Commonwealth, Record No. 141322 (Va. Jan. 22, 2015) (ECF No. 20, p. 59), and his subsequent petition for certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court, Spiker v. Virginia, 135 S.Ct. 2319 (2015).

         Spiker signed and dated his present federal habeas petition on June 3, 2015. He alleges one ground for relief - that "his state criminal convictions violate the due process clause of the 14th Amendment because state statute 18.2-361 subsection (A) is unconstitutional facially and as applied to his cases." (Pet. 17, ECF No. 1.) The respondent has moved to dismiss Spiker’s petition as untimely, procedurally defaulted, and without merit. Spiker has responded to the Motion to Dismiss, making the matter ripe for consideration.


         The one-year period of limitation for filing a habeas petition under § 2254 begins to run on the latest of four dates:

(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). A conviction becomes final once the availability of appeal is exhausted and the time for filing a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court has expired. Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 525 (2003); See Sup. Ct. R. 13(1) (providing time limit of 90 days from entry of state court final judgment to file certiorari petition).

         "The time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). No such tolling of the federal filing period is invoked, however, by an improperly filed application for state post-conviction relief. Artuz v. Bennett, 531 U.S. 4, 8-9 (2000).

         Spiker’s convictions became final and his federal habeas time clock began to run on January 23, 2012, 90 days after the Supreme Court of Virginia refused his direct appeal and he failed to file a petition for a writ of certiorari. On October 3, 2012, 254 days after the federal filing period had elapsed, Spiker filed his "Petition/Motion to Void Judgment, " in state court seeking to have these convictions vacated. The state court dismissed this motion as untimely filed, however. Specifically, the court held

that it lacks jurisdiction to consider Spiker’s motion because it is untimely. An otherwise final judgment is subject to collateral attack only if the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction or if the judgment was secured by extrinsic fraud. The Court finds Spiker has failed to establish either circumstance in this matter. Accordingly, the Court holds Spiker’s motion is untimely and it is, therefore, DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Rule 1:1.

Spiker v. Commonwealth, No. CL12-367 (Va. Cir. Ct. July 1, 2013). (ECF No. 14-2, p. 2.) Because the state court found Spiker’s petition to be untimely, and therefore improperly filed, the filing and pendency of the petition did not toll the federal filing period under § 2244(d)(2). See Artuz, 531 U.S. at 9 ("If, for example, an application is erroneously accepted by the clerk of a court lacking jurisdiction, . . . it will be pending, but not properly filed.") Thus, under § 2244(d)(1)(A), Spiker’s one-year filing period expired on January 22, 2013, more than two years before he filed his present habeas petition.

         Spiker argues that his current claim should be deemed timely under § 2244(d)(1)(D), using the date when he could first have discovered the MacDonald decision as the "factual predicate" ...

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