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Maati v. State

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

January 6, 2014



RICHARD G. KOPF, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Petitioner Amikhet En Maati's ("Petitioner" or "A.M.") Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. (Filing No. 1.) For the reasons set forth below, a grant of a writ of habeas corpus is not warranted on any of the issues raised in the petition.


A. State Court Proceedings

This matter arises out of a sex offender commitment order issued by the Mental Health Board of Sarpy County, Nebraska, on February 12, 2010. (Filing No. 10-1 at CM/ECF pp. 1-2.) The Nebraska Court of Appeals's opinion in In re A.M., No. A-10-670, 2011 WL 2723788 (Neb. Ct. App. July 12, 2011), sets forth much of the relevant factual and procedural background:

A.M. was convicted of second degree sexual assault and sexual assault of a child on July 1, 1999, and was sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison. The convictions were a result of A.M. sexually assaulting his stepdaughter when she was between 5 and 7 years old. A.M. was previously convicted of attempted sexual assault of a child in October 1996. That offense also involved his stepdaughter.
Prior to A.M.'s scheduled release from prison on the most recent convictions, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (DCS) ordered an evaluation pursuant to Neb.Rev.Stat. § 83-174.02 (Reissue 2008) in order to determine whether A.M. was a dangerous sex offender. Section 83-174.02 defines a dangerous sex offender as a person who suffers from a mental illness or from a personality disorder which makes the person likely to engage in repeat acts of sexual violence, who has been convicted of multiple sex offenses, and who is substantially unable to control his or her behavior.
The evaluation of A.M. was performed by Stephanie Bruhn, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist employed by DCS. Dr. Bruhn prepared a written report of her evaluation dated October 10, 2008. In her report, Dr. Bruhn concluded that A.M. is a dangerous sex offender. Specifically, she found:
[A.M.] meets criteria for an Axis I diagnosis of Pedopihilia, Sexually Attracted to Females, Nonexclusive and has been convicted of 2 current sexual offenses and 1 prior sexual offense. He appears substantially unable to control his criminal behavior as evidenced by the fact that he was convicted of sexually assaulting the same victim despite having legal sanctions.
As a result of Dr. Bruhn's conclusion that A.M. is a dangerous sex offender, the Sarpy County Attorney filed a petition pursuant to [the Sex Offender Commitment Act (SOCA), Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 71-1201 to 71-1226] on October 29, 2008. A copy of this petition is not included in our record.
On February 10, 2010, the Board conducted a hearing on the petition. At the hearing, Dr. Bruhn testified concerning her evaluation of A.M. She testified that A.M. is a dangerous sex offender within the meaning of SOCA. Dr. Bruhn diagnosed A.M. as suffering from pedophilia, sexually attracted to females, nonexclusive, an "Axis I" mental illness. Dr. Bruhn elaborated further on her diagnosis of A.M. as follows:
[H]e engaged in sexual behaviors with a prepubescent, five- to seven-year-old female over the course of at least two years. [A.M.] identified... that he had sexual thoughts about the victim during the assaults.... He also had-has received legal sanctions with regard to his sexual behaviors and also relationship and interpersonal difficulties as a result of his behaviors.
Dr. Bruhn also diagnosed A.M. as suffering from a personality disorder with psychopathic and antisocial traits, an "Axis II" diagnosis. Dr. Bruhn elaborated on this diagnosis as follows: "[A.M.] exhibits some poor behavior controls, some lack of remorse for others, some impulsivity. Those types of things fit with the psychopathic and antisocial traits."
Dr. Bruhn testified that A.M.'s mental illnesses make him more likely to sexually reoffend and make it more difficult to control his criminal behavior. She testified that individuals with pedophilia are at risk to reoffend if they do not have any therapeutic interventions and that A.M.'s personality disorder exacerbates "the difficulties surrounding the Axis I pedophilia diagnosis in regard to the fact that it is going to increase impulsivity." Dr. Bruhn indicated that it was her professional opinion that A.M. poses a danger to others and is at a high risk to reoffend sexually.
Dr. Bruhn testified that inpatient treatment would more effectively address A.M.'s therapeutic needs and his risk to reoffend sexually than would outpatient treatment. She testified that she is not aware of any outpatient treatment programs in Nebraska which would address A.M.'s specific needs. However, she did indicate that she is not familiar with every single outpatient program. Dr. Bruhn indicated that in order to effectively treat A.M., an outpatient program would have to be extremely structured and provide extensive, personal supervision. Dr. Bruhn testified that inpatient treatment would take away access to liberties and freedoms that A.M. would be provided in the community. The limits inpatient treatment would provide would assist A.M. in completing his treatment plan. Dr. Bruhn indicated that A.M. failed to complete numerous treatment plans even while within the confines of prison.
Following the hearing, the Board entered an order in which it found clear and convincing evidence that the allegations in the petition were true. The Board specifically found that A.M. suffers from pedophilia, sexually attracted to females, nonexclusive, an "Axis I" mental illness and from a personality disorder not otherwise specified with psychopathic and antisocial traits, an "Axis II" diagnosis. The Board also found that A.M. is dangerous to others and that without treatment, he poses an ongoing risk to sexually reoffend. The Board found that inpatient treatment was the least restrictive treatment alternative which would meet A.M.'s needs and protect the community. The Board ordered A.M. committed to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for inpatient sex offender treatment pursuant to an individualized treatment plan.
A.M. appealed the Board's order to the district court, which affirmed the Board's decision. The court found clear and convincing evidence to support the Board's finding that A.M. is a dangerous sex offender within the meaning of SOCA and that inpatient involuntary treatment is the least restrictive treatment alternative.

In re A.M., 2011 WL 2723788 at *2-3.

Petitioner appealed the district court's order to the Nebraska Court of Appeals, which also denied relief. See id. at *4. Thereafter, Petitioner unsuccessfully petitioned the Nebraska Supreme Court for further review of the matter. (Filing No. 10-4 at CM/ECF p. 3.) Petitioner did not seek collateral review of the mental health board's order of commitment.

B. Habeas Corpus Petition

Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition in this matter on September 6, 2012. (Filing No. 1.) He raised numerous due process and ineffective assistance of counsel arguments in his petition.

Respondent filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on December 13, 2012, in which he argued that all of Petitioner's claims were procedurally defaulted. (Filing No. 11 at CM/ECF pp. 2-3.) Thereafter, the court denied Respondent's motion because it could not determine from the record whether Petitioner's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were unexhausted, exhausted by procedural default, or otherwise properly before the court. (Filing No. 15 at CM/ECF p. 3.)

In response to the court's order, Respondent filed an answer, brief, and the relevant state court records. (Filing Nos. 17, 18, 21, 22, and 23.) Thereafter, Petitioner filed a brief in support of his habeas corpus petition. (Filing No. 27.) In light of these submissions, the court deems this matter fully submitted.


A. Standard Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)

When a state court has adjudicated a habeas petitioner's claim on the merits, there is a very limited and extremely deferential standard of review both as to the law and the facts. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Section 2254(d)(1) states that a federal court may grant a writ of habeas corpus if the state court's decision "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). As explained by the Supreme Court in Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000), a state court acts contrary to clearly established federal law if it applies a legal rule that contradicts the Supreme Court's prior holdings or if it reaches a different result from one of that Court's cases despite confronting indistinguishable facts. 529 U.S. at 405-406. Further, "it is not enough for [the court] to conclude ...

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