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Hamilton v. Clarke

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

December 29, 2017

JOHN E. HAMILTON, Petitioner,
HAROLD W. CLARKE, Director of Virginia Department of Corrections, Respondent.


          Leonie M. Brinkema, United States District Judge.

         In this Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, John Hamilton ("petitioner" or "Hamilton") seeks an order vacating the Supreme Court of Virginia's decision, which upheld "his convictions for two counts of aggravated sexual battery, one count of sodomy, one count of indecent liberties with a child under the age of 14, and one count of indecent liberties by a person in a custodial position." Amend. Pet. at 1.

         Before the Court is respondent's Rule 5 Answer and Motion to Dismiss to which petitioner, who is represented by counsel, has filed a response. For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Circuit Court Proceedings

         This case arose from allegations that petitioner, a former little league coach, sexually abused several minors in Fairfax County over an extended period of time. See Amend. Pet. at 1; [Dkt. No. 14]. Although the initial allegation came from one individual, as the investigation progressed multiple victims came forward to report that when they were children, they were molested by petitioner. Before being indicted, petitioner hired counsel who reached an agreement with the prosecution under which Hamilton would plead guilty to one sex offense for each of the five known victims. Id. at 1-2. As part of this agreement, Hamilton agreed to meet with Fairfax County Police detectives and disclose all of his sexual crimes in exchange for immunity for everything disclosed except for facts relating to the five offenses to which he agreed to plead guilty. Id.

         On August 17, 2009, after being interviewed, Hamilton was indicted on five counts: two counts of aggravated sexual battery in violation of Va. Code § 18.2-67.3, two counts of indecent liberties with a child in violation of Va. Code § 18.2-370, and one count of sodomy (crimes against nature) in violation of Va. Code § 18.2-361(A). See Indictment, Commonwealth v. Hamilton, Nos. FE-2009-1470 to -73, 1478 (Va. Cir. Ct. Aug 17, 2009).

         On October 7, 2009, Hamilton failed to appear for the scheduled plea hearing. Amend. Pet. at 2-3. He had travelled to Germany with his mother on August 26, 2009, and instead of returning to the United States, he remained in Europe. Id. After the circuit court issued a bench warrant for his arrest, an international arrest warrant was issued, resulting in petitioner being detained in Poland on August 25, 2010. Id. at 3. In September 2010, the United States and the Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney formally requested that petitioner be extradited back to the United States on the basis of the five crimes for which he had been indicted. See [Dkt. No. 7] at 125-33. Hamilton was extradited back to the United States on or about January 20, 2011. Amend. Pet. at 3.

         On March 29, 2011, Hamilton pleaded guilty to the five charges in the indictment. At the plea hearing, the prosecutor proffered the following facts in support of the charges:[1]

[I]f these [cases] had gone to trial the Commonwealth's evidence would be that for Felony 2009-1471, in 2009 a young man by the name of [K.E.] came forward to the Fairfax County Police Department and reported that his little league coach, ... John E. Hamilton, had sexually molested him when he was 12 years old. During the summer of 1997.
[K.E.] reported that one day after baseball practice he was in [Hamilton's] vehicle, in the parking lot of Carl Sandburg Middle School, and [Hamilton] grabbed [K.E.'s] penis inside his pants and then pulled his own penis out and masturbated in front of [K.E.].
[K.E.] also reported that [on] one occasion when he was cleaning [Hamilton]'s apartment in exchange for payment he observed [Hamilton] disrobe and masturbate while watching [K.E.] clean.
... Detective Jeremy Hinson of the Fairfax County Police Department investigated [K.E.'s] report and went to [Hamilton's] residence to interview him. A 16 year old Danish foreign exchange student named [F.G] came to the door. Shortly after introducing himself as a police officer, [F.G.] told Detective Hinson that [Hamilton] walked around naked in front of [F.G.] and had [F.G.] wake him up in the mornings before school.
When [F.G.] would wake [Hamilton] he would be naked, uncovered in his bed and aroused. During a subsequent interview [F.G.] reported that within a week of his arrival in fall of 2008, [Hamilton] had masturbated in front of him, masturbated [F.G.] and performed fellatio on [F.G.]. [Hamilton] also performed massage on [F.G.] which ... ended in fellatio and anal intercourse.... [T]hose facts related to felony 2009-1473.
A press release on Detective Hinson's investigation resulted in several victims coming forward to report that they too had been molested by [Hamilton] when they were children. With regard to felony 2009-1470, [J.C.] reported that he met [Hamilton] as his little league baseball coach back in 1991. [Hamilton] moved into [J.C.'s] home to act as a nanny to assist [J.C.'s] father, who was a widower. When [J.C.] was between the ages of 10 and 13, [Hamilton] began exposing himself and walking naked around [J.C.].
[Hamilton] would masturbate [J.C] and have [J.C] masturbate him. He escalated to performing fellatio on [J.C] and having [J.C] perform fellatio on him and [J.C] reported that this would occur approximately three to four times per week.
For Felony 2009-1472, [T.T.] reported to Fairfax County Police that he met [Hamilton] as a little league baseball coach in 1999. [T.T.], then age 14, had asked [Hamilton] for extra batting practice so that he could attempt to get on the junior varsity team.
Since his parents had a hectic work schedule [Hamilton] would pick [T.T.] up and take him home after these batting practices. During that time [Hamilton] would take [T.T.] and another boy bowling and he bargained with them that if he beat them in bowling[, ] they would have to do yard work or painting at his house.
On several occasions when [T.T.] was doing the yard work or painting at [Hamilton's] home, [Hamilton] would wear only boxer shorts and would get erections and his penis would come out the slit of the boxer shorts and [he] would turn towards [T.T.] to show him his penis.
For Felony 2009-1478, the facts would be that [Hamilton] was the coach for the Fort Hunt Little League All-stars when a boy named [P.V.] was 11 years old, in the fall of 2001. One of [Hamilton's] duties was to take care of mowing the grass on the baseball field during that summer.
[Hamilton] allowed [P.V.] to help and offered to teach him how to drive the tractor and had [P.V.] sit on his lap. While driving that tractor [Hamilton] would place his hand on [P.V.'s] penis through his shorts. [P.V.] attempted to move [his] hand away but [Hamilton] would just put his hand back on [P.V.'s] penis. And this continued until [P.V.] stopped resisting. [P.V.] could also feel [Hamilton's] own erection through his shorts.
On other occasions [Hamilton] would touch [P.V.] while in his car and masturbated [P.V.] to the point of ejaculation. On another occasion [Hamilton] had [P.V.] at his own home and [he] attempted anal intercourse on [P.V.] and performed fellatio on [him].
All of the above events took place within Fairfax County.

         During the plea colloquy, the Commonwealth attorney also mentioned that petitioner had failed to appear at his original plea hearing because he had travelled to Europe before his court date and refused to return, forcing the Commonwealth "to obtain an international red notice through INTERPOL." [Dkt. No. 9] at 252. The prosecutor further stated that Hamilton had been arrested by Polish border guards as he attempted to enter Poland. Id.

         Hamilton was sentenced on June 24, 2011. Id. at 256. As part of its sentencing memorandum, the prosecution included portions of Hamilton's interview session with Detective Hinson. Id. at 261-62. [2] Hamilton's trial counsel objected to the inclusion of the debriefing transcripts as a violation of the plea agreement, which stated that the "contents of the discussion with Detective Hinson will not be turned over to any other law enforcement agency or be used against him in any legal proceeding, including sentencing except as it pertains to the five charges to which he has pleaded guilty." Id. at 338. The circuit court reviewed the proffered memorandum and exhibits, and ruled that the inclusion of the transcripts was not a violation of the plea agreement. Id. at 263-64. Further, the court heard testimony from five witnesses, including four of the five victims and the mother of one of the victims, regarding the length of the abuse and the manner in which it was carried out. Id. at 268-295.[3]

         Hamilton was sentenced to 20 years on each of the two counts of aggravated sexual battery, and five years for each of the other counts. Id. at 316-17, 321. Each sentence was imposed to run consecutively, resulting in a total sentence of 55 years of incarceration.[4] Id. In reaching this sentence, the court found that the sentencing guidelines, which recommended a high end of 13 years, did not properly reflect the extreme abuses perpetrated by petitioner. See Id. at 315-16; [Dkt. No. 14], Ex. A at 4. The court concluded that the conduct at issue and petitioner's abuse of a position of trust warranted an upward departure. See [Dkt. No. 9] at 315-316.

         B. Direct Appeals

         Hamilton timely filed a notice of appeal, asserting three assignments of error by the circuit court. Amend. Pet. at 5. Specifically, he alleged that the court erred in allowing evidence of unrelated criminal accusations in violation of the plea agreement, in refusing to grant a continuance to enable him to file a motion for resentencing, and in failing to comply with Va. Code Ann. § 9.1-902(H).[5] Id. Hamilton's petition for appeal was denied with respect to the first two assignments of errors, and allowed as to whether the circuit court complied with §9.1-902(H). The Court of Appeals rejected this argument after considering it and affirmed Hamilton's convictions and sentences. See Hamilton v. Commonwealth, 738 S.E.2d 525 (2013). The Supreme Court of Virginia denied Hamilton's petition for further review. See Amend. Pet. at 5.

         C. State Court Habeas Petitions

         On September 24, 2014, Hamilton filed a timely habeas corpus petition in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County, alleging six assignments of error. See Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Hamilton v. Wright, No. 2014-12512 (Va. Cir. Ct. June 10, 2015). First, he argued that his conviction for sodomy must be vacated as void ab initio under the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas,539 U.S. 558 (2003) and the Fourth Circuit's decision in MacDonald v. Moose,710 F.3d 154 (4th Cir. 2013). Second, he argued that the Commonwealth violated the Supreme Court decisions in Brady v. Maryland,373 U.S. 83 (1963) and Napue v. Illinois,360 U.S. 264 (1959) by concealing exculpatory evidence and presenting false evidence when it allowed Detective Hinson to assert that petitioner had stated he was sexually abused but could not recall the name of his abuser.[6] Additionally, Hamilton raised four distinct claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, claiming that his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to argue at the sentencing hearing that the extradition treaty between the United States and Poland had been violated; failing to memorialize properly the plea agreement to reflect his understanding of the charges to which he would plead guilty; and failing to object to the admission of the interview ...

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