Redmond v. Worthinton

Decision Date17 July 2012
Docket NumberCase No. 07–15152.
Citation878 F.Supp.2d 822
PartiesJames REDMOND, Petitioner, v. James WORTHINTON and Kenneth J. Aud, Respondents.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Mark J. Kriger, N.C. Deday Larene, Larene & Kriger, Detroit, MI, for Petitioner.

John S. Pallas, Michigan Department of Attorney General, Lansing, MI, for Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

DAVID M. LAWSON, District Judge.

Petitioner James Redmond, the former superintendent of the Oakland Intermediate School District (OISD), was convicted of the common law crime of misconduct in office as a result of selfdealing and other acts of misconduct. He also was convicted of violating Michigan Compiled Laws § 15.322, which prohibits contracts between public servants and the public entity of which the public servant is an officer or employee. The principal bases of the charges were agreements the petitioner made or arranged between OISD and the MINDS Institute, a nonprofit organization, when the petitioner chaired the MINDS Institute board of directors and simultaneously acted as OISD superintendent. He was sentenced to concurrent custody terms of six months and ninety days for these two convictions, but he has been on bond during his direct appeals and this ensuing habeas proceeding.

Redmond's petition, filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenges the sufficiency of evidence to support the convictions; attacks the trial court's use of a general verdict form because the jury could have convicted the petitioner on an invalid legal theory; asserts that his right to due process was violated when the court allowed the prosecutor to use as evidence of misconduct severance agreements not approved by the OISD because the examining magistrate did not bind the petitioner over for trial on that theory of misconduct; disputes the admission into evidence of a school board resolution, contending that it violated his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation; takes issue with a jury instruction that defined the mental state required for misconduct in office; and contends that the prosecutor committed misconduct in closing argument. The respondent has filed an answer to the petition, contending that the petitioner's claims either lack merit or are procedurally defaulted. The Court finds that the petitioner's convictions and sentences are constitutionally sound. Therefore, the Court will deny the petition.

I.

The parties do not contest the fact description made by the Michigan Court of Appeals on direct review, and in any event it is entitled to a presumption of correctness under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir.2009). That court of appeals summarized the facts as follows:

Defendant's convictions arose out of his conduct related to his position as superintendent of the Oakland County Intermediate School District (OISD), a position which defendant held from 1995 until he was terminated by the OISD board of education (OISD board) effective January 31, 2003. The evidence at trial established that defendant failed to disclose to the OISD board that he was chairman of the board of directors of the MINDS Institute, a non-profit organization, that he entered into contracts with the MINDS Institute on behalf of the OISD while he was simultaneously acting as superintendent of the OISD and serving on the board of the MINDS Institute, which resulted in the OISD paying the MINDS Institute more than $500,000 for its services, that he failed to truthfully respond to a letter from the Michigan Department of Education inquiring whether defendant or any of his relatives profited financially from the contractual arrangement between the OISD and the MINDS Institute in that he failed to disclose that his son worked for MINDS, LLC, the for-profit companion company of the MINDS Institute, that he authorized severance packages for two OISD employees without the OISD board's approval, that he authorized the payment of $397,220 to the MINDS Institute without a contract modification, and that he directed John Fitzgerald, Director of Financial Services of the OISD, and Mark Rajter, Assistant Superintendent for Resource Management of the OISD, to recalculate his vacation payout in a manner inconsistent with the standard practices of the OISD, which resulted in defendant receiving an additional vacation payout in the amount of $6,972.50.

...

Evidence established that defendant began his employment as superintendent of the OISD in 1995 and that he became chairman of the board of the MINDS Institute in May 2000. On September 25, 2000, defendant, on behalf of the OISD, signed and entered into two three-year contracts with the MINDS Institute. These contracts were the Subscriber Agreement and the Content Agreement. At the time defendant entered into the Subscriber Agreement and the Content Agreement, he was simultaneously employed as the superintendent of the OISD and serving as chairman of the board of the MINDS Institute. The developer of MINDS, Marvin Sauer, met defendant in 1999. Sauer was seeking an educational partner that understood the educational marketplace and believed that the Oakland schools would be a good partner because the schools were well-known and well-respected. Because defendant was superintendent of the OISD, Sauer asked defendant to participate in the MINDS project so that defendant could offer his vision and guidance and assist with the direction of the MINDS project. According to Sauer, defendant was helpful in validating that the technology would make sense in an educational environment. In light of Marvin Sauer's testimony regarding defendant's involvement in the MINDS Institute as the concept was developing and before it was officially incorporated in April 2000, the evidence, the circumstantial evidence, and the reasonable inferences therefrom, establish that defendant solicited, either directly or indirectly, the Subscriber Agreement and the Content Agreement between the OISD and the MINDS Institute in violation of MCL 15.322(2)(b) while he was simultaneously employed as the superintendent of the OISD and acting as the chairman of the board of the MINDS Institute and that by signing those two contracts on behalf of the OISD, defendant represented the OISD in entering into the contracts in violation of MCL 15.322(3)(b). In addition, although other representatives of the OISD and not defendant signed the Contracted Services Contract between the OISD and the MINDS Institute, in which the MINDS Institute agreed to digitize 160 hours of video for the OISD in exchange for payment of $120,000, reasonable inferences from the evidence regarding defendant's early involvement with the MINDS Institute and his meetings and discussions with OISD administrators regarding MINDS suggest that defendant was part of the discussions and negotiations that led to the formal adoption of the Contracted Services Contract. Thus, there was also sufficient evidence that defendant was involved in soliciting and negotiating the Contracted Services Contract between the OISD and the MINDS Institute in violation of MCL 15.332(2)(b) and (3)(a).

People v. Redmond, No. 261458, 2006 WL 3298360, at *1–2 (Mich.Ct.App. Nov. 14, 2006) (footnotes omitted). The Oakland County, Michigan circuit court jury convicted the petitioner of misconduct in office, a common law offense preserved by Michigan Compiled Laws § 750.505, and of violating Michigan Compiled Law § 15.322, which prohibits contracts between public servants and the public entity of which the public servant is an officer or employee. The trial court sentenced him to six months imprisonment and three years probation for the misconduct in office charge, and 90 days imprisonment for violating section 15.322.

The petitioner then filed a direct appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, in which he raised the following issues: (1) insufficient evidence to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court erred in permitting the prosecutor to present evidence at trial of improper severance agreements and vacation payout as theories under which defendant engaged in misconduct in office because the district court did not bind defendant over for trial on those two theories, and therefore the trial court lacked jurisdiction with respect to those theories; (3) the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that the issue of Dr. Regis Jacobs's severance package was no longer before it; (4) the trial court violated the petitioner's right under the Confrontation Clause when it admitted into evidence the OISD's resolution terminating the defendant's employment and because the information contained in the resolution constituted hearsay and was prejudicial; (5) the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the element of corrupt intent necessary to convict defendant of the charge of misconduct in office; (6) the prosecutor made rebuttal closing arguments that were not supported by the evidence, and those arguments deprived him of a fair trial; and (7) erroneous and unconstitutional scoring of his sentencing guidelines. The court of appeals affirmed the conviction in an unpublished opinion, People v. Redmond, No. 261458, 2006 WL 3298360 (Mich.Ct.App. Nov. 14, 2006), and later denied the petitioner's motion for reconsideration, People v. Redmond, No. 261458 (Mich.Ct.App. Jan. 8, 2007). The petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court raising the same issues, and that application was denied, as was the petitioner's motion for reconsideration. People v. Redmond, 480 Mich. 883, 960, 738 N.W.2d 225, 360 (2007).

In his timely-filed habeas petition in this Court, the petitioner raises the following claims for relief:

I. Petitioner's due process rights were violated by the submission of the charges against him to the jury when no rational factfinder could have found the elements of those charges to have been proven beyond a...

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