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Clark v. United States

United States District Court, District of Maine

August 15, 2014

MATTHEW G. CLARK, Movant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent

Defendant (1) MATTHEW G CLARK TERMINATED: 04/29/2011 represented by MATTHEW G CLARK PRO SE THEODORE GRISWOLD FLETCHER LAW OFFICE OF THEODORE G. FLETCHER ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED Designation: CJA Appointment

Plaintiff USA represented by MARGARET D. MCGAUGHEY U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE DISTRICT OF MAINE LEAD ATTORNEY ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED CRAIG M. WOLFF U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED RICHARD W. MURPHY U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED

RECOMMENDED DECISION ON 28 U.S.C. § 2255 MOTION

John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

Petitioner Matthew G. Clark filed, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence following his conviction of possession of child pornography. (ECF No. 111.) Petitioner was convicted, following a bench trial, of two counts of possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5) and (b)(2). The Court sentenced Petitioner to 210 months of imprisonment, which sentence was at the low end of the applicable sentencing guidelines range. On appeal, the First Circuit upheld the conviction and sentence. United States v. Clark, 685 F.3d 72 (1st Cir. 2012). In Petitioner’s section 2255 motion, he asserts eleven numbered grounds. Petitioner’s motion is focused in part on two successive searches of a house that he shared with his mother, Fern Clark, who was eventually convicted in state court of fifteen counts of cruelty to animals. Id. at 74 n.2. The government has requested a summary dismissal. The recommendation is that relief be denied and Petitioner’s motion be dismissed without a hearing.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Petitioner was indicted in April 2010 for possession of child pornography that was alleged to have occurred on January 19, 2008. (ECF No. 1.) In Count I of the indictment, the government alleged possession of videotape, and in Count II, the government alleged possession of a computer. According to the government, both devices contained images of child pornography that had been transported in interstate commerce and that had been produced using materials that had been transported in interstate commerce. Law enforcement obtained the items during two searches at Petitioner’s home.

In July 2010, Petitioner moved to suppress the evidence that had been found in the first and second searches. (ECF No. 23.) Both searches occurred at Petitioner’s home in Somerville, Maine, on the same day in January 2008. Clark, 685 F.3d at 74 & n.1. The first was executed pursuant to a warrant to search the home of Petitioner and his mother (Fern Clark) for evidence of the crime of animal cruelty and of a civil violation for the operation of an unlicensed breeding kennel. Id. at 74. The warrant was based on a state veterinarian’s affidavit that was later reviewed on appeal by the First Circuit, which upheld the District Court’s determination that the affidavit established probable cause to justify the issuance of the warrant. Clark, 685 F.3d at 75-79. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, in Fern Clark’s appeal of her state conviction, also concluded that the veterinarian’s affidavit established probable cause. State of Maine v. Clark, Mem-10-68 (Me. May 18, 2010). (ECF No. 30-7.)

In conducting the first search, members of the search team found a notepad near a computer work station in Petitioner’s room. The notepad contained a handwritten list of web sites suggestive of child pornography. Clark, 685 F.3d at 74. They also found photographs of nude underage males. Id. They halted the search and sought an additional warrant authorizing a search for child pornography. Id. After obtaining the warrant, law enforcement seized the evidence that formed the basis for the indictment of Petitioner. Id.

Petitioner filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in the search, arguing that: (1) his living quarters were separate from his mother’s, and probable cause was lacking because there was no evidence of animal cruelty or neglect in his living quarters and no evidence that he had either sold animals or participated in his mother’s breeding kennel; (2) the photographs and lists of web sites were not in plain view during the search for paperwork related to unlicensed kennel operations; (3) the second warrant was derived from the illegal first warrant; and (4) probable cause was lacking to search for evidence of animal cruelty or an unlicensed breeding kennel. (ECF No. 23.)

The magistrate judge held an evidentiary hearing and recommended denial of the motion to suppress. (ECF Nos. 46, 52.) United States v. Clark, 2010 WL 4365562, 2010 U.S. Dist. Lexis 115048 (D. Me. Oct. 27, 2010) (recommended decision). The Court affirmed the recommended decision. (ECF No. 60.) The Court found that “the defendant’s bedroom was not, as a matter of law, a separate dwelling within the Clark residence and that searchers acquired no information, before or during the execution” of the first warrant that would have put them on notice that it was a separate dwelling. (Recommended Decision at 24-25.) 2010 WL 4365562, at *15, 2010 U.S. Dist. Lexis 115048, at *43. The Court also found that the web site list and photographs of child pornography that the search team found among other papers were in plain view, given that the warrant permitted a search of paperwork for evidence of kennel operations. (Recommended Decision at 27-28.) 2010 WL 4365562, at *17, 2010 U.S. Dist. Lexis 115048, at *48-49.

After the Court denied the motion to suppress, Petitioner waived his right to a jury trial during a hearing before the Court. (ECF No. 63, 64, 102.) The Court granted Petitioner’s motion in limine to exclude evidence of his four prior criminal convictions as part of the government’s case-in-chief (Motion, ECF No. 68; Order, ECF No. 72), and the Court denied a motion in limine to exclude evidence of the list of web sites. (Motion, ECF No. 69; Order, ECF No. 73.) After a four-day bench trial in January 2011 (ECF Nos. 97-100), the Court found Petitioner guilty on both counts of the indictment. (ECF No. 86.) At Petitioner’s request, the Court issued findings of fact pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23. (ECF No. 87.) United States v. Clark, 762 F.Supp.2d 203 (D. Me. 2011) (findings of fact). The Court then sentenced Petitioner to a term of imprisonment of 210 months on Count I and 210 months on Count II, to be served concurrently, followed by a life term of supervised release on each of the counts, to be served concurrently. (ECF No. 93.)

Petitioner filed a notice of appeal from his conviction and sentence. (ECF No. 94.) The First Circuit affirmed both the judgment and the sentence, and issued its mandate on August 7, 2012. (ECF Nos. 106-08.) Petitioner did not file a petition for a writ of certiorari. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Petitioner subsequently filed this motion to vacate his sentence, in which motion Petitioner alleged numerous grounds, including ineffective assistance of counsel. The government does not dispute that Petitioner’s section 2255 motion was filed timely.

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review


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