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Hegel v. Ford

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

March 26, 2018

TAMMY FORD, Warden, [1] Respondent.


          Leon Jordan United States District Judge

         In June of 2009, a jury in the Criminal Court for Sullivan County, Tennessee, convicted James Frederick Hegel (“Petitioner”) of one count of child rape and one count of incest [Doc. 1 p.2]. In November of 2009, Petitioner was sentenced to nineteen years for the child rape conviction and a consecutive three years for the incest conviction, for a net sentence of twenty-two years' imprisonment [Id.]. Petitioner filed this pro se application for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in the Western District of Tennessee, challenging the legality of his confinement and raising two main grounds for relief [Id. at 4-21].

         After the case was transferred to this Court [Docs. 7-8], Warden Tammy Ford filed a response to the application, asserting that relief is not warranted with respect to Petitioner's claims [Doc. 16]. In support of her position, Respondent submitted a notice of filing with attached copies of the state court record [Doc. 17, Addenda Nos. 1-29]. Petitioner has not filed a reply to Respondent's answer, and this case is ready for disposition. For reasons that appear below, this petition will be DENIED.


         On July 27, 2011, Petitioner's judgment was affirmed by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”). State v. Hegel, No. E2010-00747-CCA-R3CD, 2011 WL 3198188 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 27, 2011). Petitioner did not seek further review in the Tennessee Supreme Court. Instead, Petitioner challenged his conviction under the Tennessee Post-Conviction Procedure Act, by means of filing on July 26, 2012, a petition for post-conviction relief. Hegel v. State, No. E2013-01630-CCA-R3-PC, 2014 WL 2106703, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 19, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. 2014). Petitioner was unsuccessful in obtaining collateral relief, and there followed this instant timely § 2254 habeas corpus application.


         The following factual recitation is excerpted from the TCCA's post-conviction opinion, Hegel, 2012 WL 26002, at *1-2.

The then twelve-year-old victim testified that he was born on March 5, 1997, and that he knew the difference between the truth and a lie. In November and December 2002, the victim lived in an apartment in Tennessee with his mother and [the Petitioner]. The victim said the abuse started when [the Petitioner] told him that the victim's mother would not have sex with [the Petitioner] and that [the Petitioner] wanted to have sex with the victim. The victim said that [the Petitioner] “put his wiener up my butt and stuff, and made me rub his wiener and squeeze it and stuff, ” that [the Petitioner] “tried to make white suff [sic] come out of his wiener ... and stick it in my mouth, ” and that [the Petitioner] touched the victim's penis. The victim said that [the Petitioner] also “stuck his finger up my butt” and that [the Petitioner's] finger and penis were “really big and it really hurt.” When asked what time of year the incidents occurred, the victim said, “Christmas I was four, around there. Yeah, four.” The State asked the victim if the abuse also happened when he was five years old, and the victim said, “It was-in Christmas it was when I was four, when I was five.” The victim acknowledged that the abuse happened near Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2002.
… The victim testified that the abuse occurred in the bathroom after his mother went to bed. The [Petitioner] promised the victim money in exchange for the sexual acts and told the victim not to tell the victim's mother. The State asked the victim how often the abuse occurred, and the victim said, “It started with four at a day and then keep going, keep doing four, four, four, four at a day.... It was four things a day. It was my daily routine.” He said the abuse continued until his mother left [the Petitioner]. The victim acknowledged that he had been in three mental hospitals, that he lied to the doctors and nurses at the hospitals, and that he lied to them in order to get his way and get what he wanted. The victim said that he began having nightmares when the abuse started, that he was still having nightmares, and that “I can't control it.”
The victim testified that the abuse started when he was in the first grade and that it “[m]ade me a miserable life.” He said Camelot was the last mental hospital he was in, that he learned to tell the truth while he was in Camelot, and that he lied previously because “I was too afraid to tell the truth when I was little. Really I feel like I still am.” He said that someone caught him engaged in a sexual act with another boy and that his mother found out about the act. He stated, “And that's when my mom figured out who taught [me].” He denied that he accused [the Petitioner] of sexually abusing him in order to get out of trouble over the incident with the boy, and he acknowledged that his mother and the prosecutor helped him prepare to testify.
Detective Adkins testified that she met with [the Petitioner] in Wilmington, North Carolina, on October 19, 2007, and that [the Petitioner] was not in custody. She said she explained the victim's allegations to [the Petitioner] and that he gave a statement. She read [the Petitioner's] written statement to the jury. The statement provides, in relevant part, as follows:
I have only put my penis in [the victim's] ... butt one time. It was when we lived at Cabana Apts in Kingsport. I think it was in 2002, when [the victim] was 5 or 6 years old, probably in [k]indergarten.... The time I put my penis in [the victim's] butt was probably winter time because I soak in the bathtub in winter & I shower in the summer & warm weather. It had to be between the middle of 2001 & [Aug.] 8, 2003 because [that's] when we lived there. [The victim's mother] & I had gotten into an argument & I had been drinking. I drank often in Tennessee. I got in the bathtub to soak & [the victim] got in there with me. I have [e]rectile dysfunction & I've had it since I was 25 yrs old. I'm 38 now. I haven't been able to ejaculate in many years.... The warm water & him moving around made my penis start to get hard. It was so unusual for that to happen, it just felt good. I didn't plan on it, but with [the victim] sitting on my lap & my penis getting hard, I put it in his butt. [The victim] started moving around [on] my penis but I didn't put it all the way in. I only put it in part of the way & it didn't last any more than a minute-probably only 30 seconds. I realized it wasn't right so I stopped....
There was one time I put my finger in [the victim's] butt.... [The victim] had been there at the campground & was filthy. I took him home and scrubbed him but I wasn't in the tub. It was [summer] right before we moved to N.C [.] (Summer, 2003). [The victim's] butt was raw so I stuck my finger in his butt to [c]lean him. My finger barely went in to the first digit if that far. It hurt him because his butt was raw. When I put my penis in [the victim's butt], it did not bleed. He said, “Oh” like it hurt, but he didn't cry or anything. When my finger went in his butt, it was only like the nail part to clean him. I love [the victim] like a dad & I am not sexually attracted to him.

Hegel, 2014 WL 2106703, at *1-2.

         On this evidence, the Sullivan County Criminal Court jury convicted Petitioner of child rape and incest.


         Petitioner's § 2254 application lists eleven claims for relief. The first ten claims present various attorney shortcomings that, according to Petitioner, constitute ineffective assistance of counsel [Doc. 1 at 2-16], and the last claim asserts a trial court sentencing error [Id. at 17-20]. The Warden argues, in her answer, that Petitioner has procedurally defaulted all but three ineffective assistance claims [Doc. 16 at 23-24]. As to these three claims, Respondent argues that Petitioner is not entitled to relief under the review standards set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which impose a “highly deferential standard for evaluating [the] state-court rulings” rejecting those claims on the merits, [Id. at 22, 24-29]. Petitioner's last claim for relief, so argues Respondent, is not properly before the Court because it is based on state law, rather than on federal constitutional law [Id. at 29-30].

         The Court agrees with Respondent concerning Petitioner's entitlement to habeas corpus relief and, for the reasons that follow, will DENY the petition and DISMISS this case.

         The Court first addresses the ineffective assistance claims that Respondent maintains have been procedurally defaulted.

         A. Ineffective Assistance

         1. Procedural Defaulted Claims (Claims ...

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