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Linnon v. Clarke

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

February 23, 2018

Angela Roviralta Linnon, Petitioner,
v.
Harold W. Clarke, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Angela Roviralta Linnon, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the constitutionality of her convictions in the Circuit Court of Hanover County. Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss and Rule 5 Answer, along with a supporting brief and exhibits. Petitioner was given the opportunity to file responsive materials, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975) and Local Rule 7K. After receiving additional time, petitioner filed a response with supporting exhibits. For the reasons that follow, respondent's Motion to Dismiss will be granted and the petition will be dismissed.

         I.

         The record reflects the following facts and proceedings.[1] Petitioner is incarcerated pursuant to a final judgment of the Circuit Court of Hanover County, entered November 3, 2011.[2] Sentencing Order, Linnon v. Commonwealth, CR10000341, (Hanover Cty. Cir. Ct. November 3, 2011). Petitioner was convicted by a jury of one count of sodomy in violation of Va. Code § 18.2-361(A);[3] one count of conspiracy to commit sodomy in violation of Va. Code §§ 18.2-22, [4] 18.2-361(A); and two counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor in a custodial or supervisory role in violation of Va. Code § 18.2-3 70.1.[5] Pet. at 1; Linnon v. Commonwealth, Nos. CR10000341-02 to 05 (Hanover Cty. Cir. Ct. 2011). Petitioner was sentenced to nine years imprisonment: two years for each of the indecent liberty counts and the conspiracy count and three years for the sodomy count. Pet. at 2.

         A. Facts Supporting Petitioner's Convictions

         The facts related to petitioner's convictions for sodomy and conspiracy to commit sodomy are as follows. Craig Linnon, petitioner's husband at the time of the incident, taught a building trades class at a vocational school and petitioner was the school nurse.[6] Trial Tr. Vol. I, March 29, 2011 at 173, 181, 214-15. In November 2009, a sixteen-year-old male minor, T.D., was a student in Craig Linnon's building trades class at Hanover Trade School. Id. at 168, 172- 73. One morning in November 2009, Craig Linnon sent a text message to T.D. asking if T.D. "would let [petitioner] give [T.D.] a blow job." Id. at 180. T.D. answered affirmatively and Craig instructed T.D. "to meet him at the door at school." Id. at 181-82. When T.D. arrived at the school later that day, he met Craig at the building trades classroom door. Id. Craig took T.D. to a storage closet where petitioner was waiting. Id. at 182-86. Craig asked T.D. if he could videotape T.D.'s interaction with petitioner. Id. at 186. Craig then left the storage closet, and petitioner asked T.D. if he was "sure [he] want[ed] to do this?" to which he replied affirmatively, and she performed oral sex on T.D. until he ejaculated; T.D. then returned to class and petitioner left the storage closet using the back door. Id. at 187-89. Craig told his other students that T.D. was in the storage closet "working on a project." Id. at 190. T.D. testified that when police first asked him about the encounter he told them that he "didn't know what they were talking about," but after police told T.D. that they had a video of petitioner performing oral sex on him, he believed he had been "caught" and admitted to the encounter. Id. at 207.

         The facts supporting petitioner's convictions of taking indecent liberties with a minor in a custodial or supervisory role are as follows. As the school nurse, petitioner had the authority to excuse students from school. Id. at 243. She also occasionally taught a cosmetology class when the teacher was out. Id. at 302. A.G. was a sixteen-year-old minor female student in the cosmetology class. Id. A.G. had grown close to petitioner during her time at the trades school, frequently talked to her, and looked up to her. Id. at 304. On December 18, 2009, A, G.'s cosmetology class had a party in the classroom to celebrate the end of the fall semester. Id. at 309. During the party, petitioner stopped by the cosmetology class and invited A.G. and A.G.'s female friend to her home to drink alcohol that evening. Id. at 312. A.G. accepted the invitation and asked if she could bring a friend; petitioner responded affirmatively. Id. at 314. The Linnons picked up the teenage girls later that evening, and they all went to purchase alcohol. Id. at 315. While Craig Linnon was inside the store purchasing the alcohol petitioner and the two girls remained in the car. Id. at 318. Petitioner asked A.G. if she would "ever suck [her] husband's dick," to which A.G. did not respond. Id.

         When the Linnons and the two girls returned to the Linnon home, the Linnons supplied A.G. and her friend with alcohol in exchange for marijuana. Id. at 322. At some point, Craig told A.G. that petitioner had sexual fantasies about A.G. and that he had made a video of petitioner performing oral sex on T.D. Id. at 326-27. A.G. and her friend became uncomfortable by the sexual nature of Craig's comments and they decided to leave. Id. at 327. Craig drove them to the friend's home. Id.

         On December 19, 2009, the Linnons again invited A.G. to their home. Id. at 255-56, 258. A.G. returned in the company of Jared Todd, her ex-boyfriend whom was one of Craig's students, and Todd's friend Tyler Scott.[7] Id. at 251, 254-57; Trial Tr. Vol. II, March 30, 2011 at 98. Both Todd and Scott were 18 years old. Trial Tr. Vol. I, March 29, 2011 at 281; Trial Tr. Vol. II, March 30, 2011 at 95. The Linnons supplied the teenagers with alcohol in exchange for marijuana from A.G., and the Linnons, Scott, and A.G. smoked marijuana. Trial Tr. Vol. I, March 29, 2011 at 264. At some point Craig, Todd, and Scott left the house to purchase more beer. Id. at 262-63; Trial Tr. Vol. II, March 30, 2011 at 110. While they were gone, petitioner asked A.G. if A.G. would mind if she performed oral sex on Todd, A.G.'s ex-boyfriend. Id. at 23-24.

         After Todd, Scott, and Craig returned to the house, everyone played a drinking game and the conversation became sexual in nature. Trial Tr. Vol. I, March 29, 2011 at 264; Trial Tr. Vol. II, March 30, 2011 at 115-16. Petitioner discussed her recent breast enlargement surgery and showed her breasts to Todd, Scott, and A.G. Trial Tr. Vol. I, March 29, 2011 at 276, 332. at some point, one of the Linnons suggested playing a "sexual fantasy"-themed version of Charades in the living room, for which everyone made up a card and the actions would be "live" rather than mimed. Id. at 266, 333. On his card, Todd wrote "nurse performs oral sex." Id. at 266. When petitioner pulled the card on which Todd had written "nurse performs oral sex," she pulled down his pants and began to fellate him and Scott rather than merely miming. Id. at 269-70; Trial Tr. Vol. II, March 30, 2011 at 118-19. At some point the Linnons became undressed and petitioner approached A.G. and asked A.G. to "fuck [her]." Id. at 336-37. Craig entreated A.G. to have sex with petitioner, but A.G. declined. Id. at 336.

         Eventually Todd and Scott left the living room and went to the bathroom, where they both decided to leave because they "were weirded out." Id. at 273; Trial Tr. Vol. II, March 30, 2011 at 122, 131. When A.G. realized Todd and Scott had left the living room, she became "freaked out," found her clothes, and got dressed. Trial Tr. Vol. I, March 29, 2011 at 338. All three teenagers then said goodbye to the Linnons, retrieved the remaining beer from the refrigerator, and left. Id. at 274-75. Petitioner and Craig Linnon continued to have sex on the living room floor in front of the teenagers as the three departed. Id. at 272-73; Trial Tr. Vol. II, March 30, 2011 at 124. After they left, the teenagers made a pact not to tell anyone. Trial Tr. Vol. I, March 29, 2011 at 277-78.

         When the police first approached A.G. about what had occurred at the Linnons' house she did not tell them everything that happened because, she later confided, she did not want to talk to a man about it. Id. at 343. A.G. further stated that she did not originally disclose some of the details of the events involving the Linnons because she recalled certain information piecemeal and it was "extremely hard to talk about." Trial Tr. Vol. II, March 30, 2011 at 23-25. Similarly, Todd denied that anything had happened when the police first approached him because he did not want anyone finding out about the encounter, which he felt would make him look bad. Trial Tr. Vol. I, March 29, 2011 at 278.

         B. Petitioner's Trial, Direct Appeal, and Post-Conviction Proceedings

         On March 29, 2011, the first day of petitioner's jury trial, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Shari Skipper stated, outside the presence of the jury, "I'll state for the record that the Commonwealth made no deals of any kind, of any nature, offered anything in return for any body's testimony, whether it be in the form of an agreement on any criminal charges, monetary, nothing."[8] Id. at 167. During the trial, one of the prosecution's witnesses, Tyler Scott, was asked on cross examination whether the prosecutor had advised him that she was "waiting to see how [Scott] testified before they made any deals for [him]." Trial Tr. Vol. II, March 30, 2011 at 134-35. Scott answered this question "no." Id. When defense counsel probed further and asked whether the prosecutors had promised Scott they would not prosecute him for receiving oral sex from A.G., a minor, Scott stated that he believed they offered him immunity with respect to any such conduct.[9] Id. One week after testifying in petitioner's trial, Scott entered a plea of guilty for unrelated charges and, during his plea hearing, the prosecution stated that one of Scott's charges was being amended "based upon [Scott's] cooperation in another case." Dkt. No. 22; Id. Ex. 20.

         During the sentencing phase of petitioner's trial, P.D., the mother of T.D., testified pursuant to the Virginia victim impact statute. Specifically, P.D. stated:

I'm before all of you as the mother of one of the minor victims. I say to the jury, thank you for validating our children; thank you for your public service to our community. I'm so sorry you guys had to endure and be exposed to this trial and all these horrible details. I'm so thankful that you're here and paying so much attention during this very unsettling trial. I do ask that you forgive me for reading, but I'm quite emotional right now and don't want to forget anything.
My name is [P.D.]; I'm the mother of [T.D.], and I'm not going to hold my head down in shame after all of the things that have been disclosed over the last two days. I'm here standing up for what is right. That is exactly what I asked my son 17 months ago - 15 months ago when we found out about this, that he had to speak truth. The truth was the only thing that was going to set him free from this; he had to speak truth. We didn't come with any rumors, lies or innuendoes like they tried to bring forth.
These victims have suffered and suffered greatly. They're the real heroes in this whole case against the Linnons. They had to speak truth when truth was very, very difficult. They've had to divulge extremely personal information in a court of law amongst strangers. My whole family, as well as all of these other families, need to be set free from this prison that they have held us captive in for the last year and a half.
I'm so proud of my son, [T.D.]. I'm proud of those other teenagers too, but especially [A.G.]. They spoke truth even when it was extremely embarrassing. They spoke truth even though they had been betrayed, they had been embarrassed, humiliated and abused by their so-called friends. I am trying very hard these days to convey to my son how much he is loved, how much he is adored, and that this was in no way his fault.
This was not the fault of these children. The fault is very clear to me and it lies with the child abusers right here, Craig and Angela Linnon - exactly what you said - the predators that they are. It's very clear to me that you groomed these children for abuse and you waited and waited. You took the opportunity that you felt was secure and you pounced on them and you devoured them.
In this trial there's plenty of guilt, plenty of shame, plenty of lack of integrity, but today in this moment I have the opportunity as you do, Jury, to be a part of righting this wrong. I'm so thankful for you-all. I've had the opportunity to speak on behalf of my son and my family, and we do not want Craig and Angela Linnon to ever have an opportunity to be around children in any capacity. We have a hope and a prayer that our judicial system will work against the two of you and put you behind bars for a very long time. We want the real threats to this society put away, and we are asking for the maximum penalty under law.
If any of you think for one moment something like this couldn't happen to you or your family - there are other predators out there. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine sitting here today, not in my wildest dreams. We are living, breathing, normal proof that it can happen to just regular families living day in and day out doing all the normal stuff that families do.
The two of you make me sick. The two of you have made a mockery out of family, a mockery. How dare you do what you did to my 16-year-old son. You are a mother. How dare you. I want to look in your eyes. You-all are evil. How dare you-all do what you did.
[A.G.] very eloquently said, "But she's a mom." She didn't expect her friend that's a mom to be asking if she could give a blow job to her ex-boyfriend. [T.D.] didn't expect to get a cell phone call from his friend that he wanted to offer his wife up for my son to get a blow job. This is not even in my wildest dreams. We have had to have some of the most awkward conversations with my elderly parents, with all of my family members, especially with my youngest daughter. This has been a nightmare.

Trial Tr. Vol. II, March 30, 2011 at 400-03. Following P.D.'s victim impact statement, Craig Linnon's counsel objected, stating "there's nothing in there that has to do with her son; it all dealt with her. I can make a motion for mistrial." Id. at 404. The jury was excused, and counsel for Craig further stated:

Judge, as much as I hate to do it, she said nothing about her son. It was more about the affects it had on her and her vilification of my client. That's the Commonwealth's job, not her job. I think that's beyond the bounds of what's allowed in this part of the proceeding. I think it inflames the jury, and quite frankly, I think I'm compelled to make a motion for mistrial at this point.

Id. Petitioner's counsel joined, stating "Your Honor, I will have to make that same objection for my client Angela Linnon." Id. at 404-05.

The trial court took a brief recess and denied the motion, finding that:
[Virginia Code § 19.2-295.3] provides "Upon finding that the defendant is guilty of a felony, the court shall permit the victim, as defined in [Va. Code §] 19.2-11.01, to testify in the presence of the accused regarding the impact of the offense upon the victim. In the case of trial by jury, the court shall permit the victim to testify at the sentencing hearing conducted pursuant to [Va. Code §] 19.2-295.1."
Then we go to 19.2-11.0 IB, "For purposes of this chapter, 'victim' means a person who has suffered physical, psychological or economic harm as a direct result of the commission of a felony." It concludes, "The parent or legal guardian of such a person who is a minor. The victim's testimony shall be limited to the factors set forth in clauses 1 through 6 of subsection A of [Va. Code §] 19.2-299.1"
Subsection A of 19.2-299.1 states that those factors include, "the identity of the victim, an itemization of any economic loss suffered by the victim as a result of the offense, identify the nature and extent of any physical or psychological injury suffered by the victim as a result of the offense, identify any change in the victim's personal welfare, lifestyle or familial relationships as a result of the offense, identify any request for psychological or medical services initiated by the victim or the victim's family and provide such other information as the court may require."
Washington versus Commonwealth, 48 Va.App. 486, states that it is within the sound discretion of the trial court to permit the testimony during the Commonwealth's case in chief and at the sentencing phase of the defendant's trial. It further opines that the victim has a qualified statutory protective right to be heard at sentencing.
I find as follows: I find that the witness is a proper person to testify pursuant to the Victim Impact Law... I find that the testimony of the witness did detail changes in the familial relationships of the family and of the victim as a result of the offense. I find that the remaining statements made by the witness were not too inflammatory or prejudicial as to ...

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