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O'Meara v. Feneis

August 19, 2010

TIMOTHY J. O'MEARA, APPELLANT,
v.
WARDEN ROBERT FENEIS, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Smith, Circuit Judge.

Submitted: May 13, 2010

Before WOLLMAN, SMITH, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.

Timothy J. O'Meara appeals the denial of a writ of habeas corpus. O'Meara was convicted of two counts of second-degree criminal sexual assault in Minnesota state court in April 2000. O'Meara failed to timely file a direct appeal. O'Meara did, however, obtain post-conviction relief from the Minnesota Supreme Court, which remanded O'Meara's case for resentencing based upon Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). Before O'Meara's resentencing, the Supreme Court of the United States decided in Blakely v. Washington that an upward departure from the maximum statutory sentence is unconstitutional under a guideline sentencing system unless a jury finds the underlying facts or the defendant admits such facts. 542 U.S. 296 (2004). After O'Meara's resentencing, he appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, arguing that Blakely applied to his case. The Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded that Blakely did not apply retroactively and affirmed O'Meara's new sentence. The Minnesota Supreme Court subsequently denied review.

O'Meara filed the instant case for federal habeas relief contending that his new sentence violates Blakely. The district court*fn1 denied O'Meara's petition after concluding that the Minnesota Court of Appeals did not act contrary to, or unreasonably apply, clearly established federal law when it concluded that O'Meara's conviction became final in 2000 when his direct-appeal period expired and that, as a result, Blakely did not apply retroactively to his case. We granted a certificate of appealability to address whether the Minnesota Court of Appeals's decision that Blakely did not apply to the determination of O'Meara's sentence was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. We now affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. Background

In 1999, O'Meara was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, in violation of Minnesota Statute § 609.343, subdivision 1(a)(2). He waived his right to a jury trial and stipulated that he used a video camera to record two naked boys, ages 9 and 10, masturbating. The state trial court convicted O'Meara of both counts.

Prior to sentencing, the prosecution requested that the state trial court sentence O'Meara as a patterned sex offender under Minnesota Statute § 609.108, subdivision 2.*fn2 At the sentencing hearing, a licensed psychologist testified that, in his opinion, O'Meara was a "patterned sex offender" within the meaning of § 609.108. The state trial court concluded that O'Meara was a patterned sex offender and sentenced him to two consecutive 40-year prison terms pursuant to § 609.108, subdivisions 1 and 2. If the state trial court had sentenced O'Meara under § 609.343, subdivision 2-criminal sexual misconduct-rather than the patterned sex offender statute, the maximum sentence for each count would have been 25 years' imprisonment.

O'Meara failed to timely appeal his judgment of conviction.*fn3 But before the time period in which he could have directly appealed expired, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Apprendi.*fn4 In April 2002, O'Meara petitioned for state post-conviction relief, arguing, inter alia, that his sentence violated Apprendi. The state trial court denied O'Meara's petition for post-conviction relief, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed. O'Meara v. State, No. C0-02-1982, 2003 WL 21743557 (Minn. Ct. App. July 29, 2003) (unpublished) ("O'Meara I").

On May 13, 2004, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Minnesota Court of Appeals erred in concluding that O'Meara was not entitled to the benefit of Apprendi. O'Meara v. State, 679 N.W.2d 334, 341 (Minn. 2004) ("O'Meara II"). According to the court, if a case is pending on direct review when a new rule of federal constitutional criminal procedure is announced, the defendant is entitled to benefit from that new rule. But if the defendant's conviction is already final at the time the new rule is announced, then the criminal defendant ordinarily may not avail himself of the new rule.

Id. at 339--40 (footnotes omitted) (citing Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U.S. 314 (1987); Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989)). The court then addressed when O'Meara's conviction became "final," stating:

O'Meara's appeal period expired on August 6, 2000. Having failed to perfect a direct appeal, his conviction became final on that date. Apprendi was decided on June 26, 2000. Because the Apprendi decision was handed down before O'Meara's conviction became final, O'Meara is entitled to benefit from the Apprendi rule, as we applied it in Grossman. The state has conceded that if O'Meara is entitled to benefit from the Apprendi rule, his sentence was imposed in violation of Apprendi, and must therefore be reduced.

Id. at 340 (emphasis added). In light of its holding, the court [r]eversed and remanded for imposition of the statutory maximum sentences of two consecutive 25-year terms under Minn. Stat. ยงยง 609.108, subd. 1, and 609.343, subd. 2, plus the conditional release ...


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