United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
PETER M. D'AMBRUOSO, Petitioner,
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. SMITH CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court is the State of Rhode Island's Motion to
Dismiss Peter M. D'Ambruoso's Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus by a person in state custody under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. For the reasons that follow, the Motion to
Dismiss, ECF No. 8, is GRANTED and the Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus (“Federal Pet.”), ECF No. 1, is
DENIED and DISMISSED.
April 29, 2010, Petitioner D'Ambruoso pled nolo
contendere to one count of breaking and entering in
violation of R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-8-5. J. of Conviction
and Commitment, ECF No. 8-3; Mem. in Supp. of State's
Mot. to Dismiss Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus
(“State's Mem.”) 1, ECF No. 8-1. Petitioner
received an eight-year sentence, with two years to serve,
retroactive to October 7, 2008, six years suspended, and six
years of probation. Id. On August 11, 2010,
Petitioner was released from the Adult Correctional Institute
(“ACI”) for completing his incarceration term,
receiving additional credit for good behavior. State's
25, 2017, the Rhode Island Superior Court found Petitioner in
violation of his probation, executing two and one-half years
of the six-year suspended sentence. Id. at 2.
Petitioner did not directly appeal the probation violation.
Id. Rather, Petitioner filed a motion to vacate his
sentence and judgment with the Rhode Island Superior Court,
which was denied. See Mot. to Vacate Sentence and J.
(“Mot. to Vacate”), ECF No. 8-6; Criminal Case
Action, ECF No. 8-7. Petitioner then filed a petition for
writ of habeas corpus with the Rhode Island Supreme Court,
pro se, which also was denied. Pet. for Writ of
Habeas Corpus Ad Subjiciendum (“State Habeas Corpus
Pet.”), ECF No. 8-8; Sept. 24, 2018 R.I. Supreme Court
Order, ECF No. 8-9. Finally, Petitioner filed a habeas
petition with this Court. See Federal Pet.
federal petition is based on two grounds: due process and
breach of contract. Id. Petitioner argues that the
May 2017 Superior Court Judgment was an “illegal
violation of a probation sentence” and a “breach
of contract, ” because his probation period should have
“expired” on October 7, 2016, eight years after
his initial incarceration at the ACI on October 7,
2008. Id. at 2, 6-7.
State moves to dismiss Petitioner's due process claim
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for failure to exhaust state
remedies, arguing that Petitioner never gave the Rhode Island
state courts a fair opportunity to review his due process
issue. State's. Mem. 6. The State reasons that neither
Petitioner's Motion to Vacate nor Petitioner's State
Habeas Corpus Petition mention due process. Id. The
State further moves to dismiss Petitioner's breach of
contract claim on the basis that it is solely a question of
state law, inappropriate for habeas review. Id. at
7-8. Petitioner did not file an objection to the Motion to
U.S.C. § 2254 provides that “a district court
shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus on
behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgement of a
State court only on the ground that he is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).
“[F]ederal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors
of state law.” Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S.
62, 67 (1991)(citation omitted). Preliminarily, this Court
notes that it will only consider Petitioner's due process
claim since Petitioner's breach of contract claim
concerns a matter of state law inappropriate for federal
habeas review. See id.
of habeas corpus “shall not be granted unless it
appears that. . .the applicant has exhausted the remedies
available in the courts of the State.” 28 U.S.C. §
2254(b)(1). The Exhaustion Doctrine prevents federal courts
from overturning state convictions on constitutional grounds
without first giving the state courts a “full and fair
opportunity” to correct such a violation.
O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845
(1999). “In other words, ‘state prisoners must
give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any
constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the
State's established appellate review process.'”
Rivera v. Wall, 333 F.Supp.3d 47, 54 (D.R.I. 2018)
(quoting O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 845).
“[A] petitioner's failure to present his federal
constitutional claim to the state courts is ordinarily fatal
to the prosecution of a federal habeas case.”
Coningford v. Rhode Island, 640 F.3d 478, 482 (1st
First Circuit provides “fairly generous” rules
about proper presentation of a federal issue. Goodrich v.
Hall, 448 F.3d 45, 47-48 (1st Cir. 2006). A petitioner
need not use “precisely the same terms” in both
state and federal court in order to fairly present a claim.
Barresi v. Maloney, 296 F.3d 48, 51 (1st Cir. 2002).
A petitioner may, for example: “(1) cit[e] a specific
provision of the Constitution; (2) present the substance of
a federal constitutional claim in such manner that it likely
alerted the state court to the claim's federal nature;
(3) rel[y] on federal constitutional precedents; [or] (4)
claim a particular right specifically guaranteed by the
Constitution.” Goodrich, 448 F.3d at 48
(quoting Barresi, 296 F.3d at 52). However,
“mere incantation[s] of constitutional buzzwords,
unaccompanied by any federal constitutional analysis, [do]
not suffice to carry the burden of demonstrating fair
presentment of a federal claim.” Adelson v.
DiPaola, 131 F.3d 259, 263 (1st Cir. 1997).
the Rhode Island Superior and Rhode Island Supreme Courts,
petitioner failed to cite the due process clause of the
Constitution, mention the words “due process, ”
or direct the courts to the Fourteenth Amendment. State
Habeas Corpus Pet. 1-3; Mot. to Vacate. Petitioner brought
his Motion to Vacate in the Rhode Island Superior Court under
Rules 35 and 36 of the Rhode Island Superior Court Rules of
Criminal Procedure, citing exclusively to state law.
See Mot. to Vacate. Although Petitioner maintained
that his original sentence “ha[d] expired, ” his
supporting memorandum provided no analysis or further
explanation that would lead a court to conclude that a
federal due process argument was made. Id.; Mem. of
Law in Supp. of the Def.'s Mot. to Correct an Illegal
Sentence Pursuant to Rule 35 of the R.I. Super. Ct. Rules of
Crim. P. 1-4, ECF No. 8-4. Petitioner consistently focused on
state sentencing laws and contract principles. See
id. Similar language was used throughout the State
Habeas Corpus Petition, making his claim insufficient to
alert the Rhode Island Supreme Court of his due process
issue. See State Habeas Pet.
the Petitioner has failed to ...