Ledford v. Thomas

Decision Date29 November 2000
Docket NumberNo. CIV. A. H-00-0438.,CIV. A. H-00-0438.
PartiesMatthew Todd LEDFORD, Petitioner, v. Tommy THOMAS, et al., Respondents.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas

Stanley G Schneider, Schneider and McKinney, Houston, TX, for Matthew Todd Ledford, petitioners.

Edwin Sullivan, Office of the Attorney General, James M Terry, Jr, Office of Atty General, Austin, TX, for Tommy Thomas, Sheriff, Harris Cty, Gary L Johnson, Director, TDCJ-ID, respondents.


ROSENTHAL, District Judge.

On February 10, 2000, Matthew Todd Ledford moved under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a writ of habeas corpus, contending that his prosecution, conviction, and sentence in the Texas state court for possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver violates the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Ledford bases his double jeopardy claim on the fact that before he was indicted, the State of Texas assessed, and Ledford partially paid, a tax for the illegal possession of the cocaine imposed under the Texas Controlled Substances Tax Act. (Docket Entry No. 1).

Following a hearing, this court denied Ledford's motion for stay pending this ruling on the merits of his habeas petition. (Docket Entry No. 15). Respondent has moved to dismiss based on a failure to exhaust and moved for summary judgment on the merits. Based on the pleadings, the motion and response, the record, and the applicable law, this court now DENIES respondent's motion to dismiss; GRANTS respondent's motion for summary judgment; and DENIES Ledford's section 2254 motion. The reasons are set out below.

I. Background

On June 23, 1993, Ledford was arrested for the felony offense of possession of at least 2,000 grams of cocaine. On June 24, 1993, the Houston Police Department filed a marihuana and controlled substance report with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The report requested a tax assessment against Ledford in the amount of $400,000. On June 29, 1993, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts assessed $420,000 in taxes and penalties against Ledford under the Texas Controlled Substances Tax Act, Tex. Tax Code §§ 159.001—159.206, which imposes a tax on the illegal possession, purchase, acquisition, importation, manufacture, or production of a controlled substance. On July 8, 1993, the Comptroller filed a Texas State Tax Lien in Harris County. Ledford paid $100 of the $420,000 assessment to the Comptroller before July 15, 1993.

On July 15, 1993, the State of Texas indicted Ledford for possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver. Ledford moved to quash the indictment, arguing that under the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court in Montana Department of Revenue v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, 114 S.Ct. 1937, 128 L.Ed.2d 767 (1994), the State of Texas could not prosecute him criminally after assessing the controlled substances tax. The state trial court denied Ledford's motion to quash and, after a bench trial, convicted Ledford of the charged offense. The trial court sentenced Ledford to fifteen years imprisonment and imposed a $10,000 fine.

On March 13, 1997, the Houston Court of Appeals, Fourteenth District, relying on Stennett v. State, 941 S.W.2d 914 (Tex. Crim.App.1996), reversed Ledford's conviction and dismissed the indictment. Ledford v. State, 1997 WL 109948 (Tex. App. — Houston [14th Dist.] March 13, 1997), vacated, Ledford v. State, 970 S.W.2d 17 (Tex.Crim.App.1998) (reh'g denied), cert. denied, Ledford v. Texas, 525 U.S. 1043, 119 S.Ct. 595, 142 L.Ed.2d 537 (1998). In Stennett, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had relied on Kurth Ranch to hold that the Texas Controlled Substances Tax Act was "punishment" for the purpose of the Double Jeopardy Clause, precluding the State of Texas from criminally prosecuting a defendant who had earlier paid even a small portion of such a tax assessment. Stennett, 941 S.W.2d at 916-17.

After the Texas court decided Stennett v. State, which provided the basis for the dismissal of Ledford's indictment, the Supreme Court decided Hudson v. United States, 522 U.S. 93, 118 S.Ct. 488, 139 L.Ed.2d 450 (1997), which disavowed the jeopardy analysis used in United States v. Halper, 490 U.S. 435, 109 S.Ct. 1892, 104 L.Ed.2d 487 (1989), and in Kurth Ranch. In Hudson, the Court returned to the analytical framework set out in United States v. Ward, 448 U.S. 242, 100 S.Ct. 2636, 65 L.Ed.2d 742 (1980), and Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 83 S.Ct. 554, 9 L.Ed.2d 644 (1963). Under the Ward and Kennedy analysis, a court examines whether the legislature that enacted a sanctioning statute intended it to be civil or criminal; if the intended result is civil, the court examines whether there is "clear proof" that the sanction is nonetheless so punitive as to be criminal. Hudson, 118 S.Ct. at 493.

In January 1998, after the decision in Hudson, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided Ex parte Ward, 964 S.W.2d 617 (Tex.Crim.App.1998) (en banc) (Ward III), reversing Stennett v. State in part. In Ward III, the court held that although a tax imposed under the Texas Controlled Substances Tax Act is punitive, an individual is not "punished" within the meaning of the Double Jeopardy Clause "absent full payment of the tax or a pay arrangement with the Comptroller for the remaining amount due." Ward III, 964 S.W.2d at 632. This holding rejected the holding in Stennett that an assessment or partial payment of a controlled substances tax precluded subsequent criminal prosecution. The Ward III court held that under the Texas Controlled Substances Tax Act, punishment does not occur for the purpose of jeopardy until a final judgment of tax liability or a divestiture of ownership rights in the taxpayer's property, which requires either full payment of the tax or a pay arrangement with the Comptroller's office for the amount due.

Based on the intervening Ward III decision, the Texas Court of Appeals affirmed Ledford's conviction on reconsideration. Ledford v. State, 1999 WL 717387 (Tex. App. — Houston [14th Dist.] Sept.16, 1999). On February 10, 2000, Ledford filed this federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting that the criminal sentence he is serving under Texas law violates the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibition against successive punishments. (Docket Entry No. 1). Ledford moved for a stay of execution of his state court sentence pending the determination of his federal habeas petition. (Docket Entry No. 3). This court denied Ledford's motion, finding that Ledford had failed to show sufficient likelihood of succeeding on the merits. (Docket Entry No. 15). On August 1, 2000, respondent filed a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust state court remedies and an alternative motion for summary judgment with a brief in support. (Docket Entry No. 22). Ledford has filed a brief in support of his petition for habeas corpus relief. (Docket Entry No. 18).

II. The Applicable Legal Standards
A. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act

Ledford filed this habeas petition on February 10, 2000; the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") governs. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 2063, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997); Nobles v. Johnson, 127 F.3d 409, 415 (5th Cir.1997), cert. denied, 523 U.S. 1139, 118 S.Ct. 1845, 140 L.Ed.2d 1094 (1998). The AEDPA provides that a federal habeas petition shall not be granted with respect to any claim adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudication:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or

(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2). The AEDPA further provides:

(e)(1) In a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct. The applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

In Terry Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000), the Supreme Court reviewed the AEDPA's "new constraint on the power of a federal habeas court to grant a state prisoner's application for a writ of habeas corpus with respect to claims adjudicated on the merits in state court." 120 S.Ct. at 1523.1 Under the AEDPA, federal court review of state court decisions differs depending on whether the issue is one of law, fact, or a mixed question of law and fact. See id. at 1519; 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). In considering questions of law or mixed questions of law and fact, a court focuses on whether the state court's decision "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).2 A state court decision is contrary to Supreme Court precedent if: "(1) the state court's conclusion is `opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law' or (2) the `state court confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent' and arrives at an opposite result." Penry v. Johnson, 215 F.3d 504, 507 (5th Cir.2000) ("Penry II") (quoting Terry Williams, 120 S.Ct. at 1519). "[A] run-of-the-mill state-court decision applying the correct legal rule ... to the facts of a prisoner's case would not fit comfortably within § 2254(d)(1)'s `contrary to' clause"; to warrant relief under § 2254(d)(1), the decision must have been "diametrically different from, opposite in character or...

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  • Ledford v. Thomas
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • December 11, 2001
    ...on the controlled substance and petitioner had made a partial payment of that tax, the district court denied relief. Ledford v. Thomas, 144 F. Supp. 2d 709 (S.D. Tex. 2000). We AFFIRM. Because we can add little to the district court's excellent opinion, we write I. HABEAS PETITION On June 2......

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