Judge denies armed robber's post-conviction relief motion alleging ineffective counsel

By Jon Campisi | Apr 15, 2012

A federal judge in Philadelphia has denied a motion for post-conviction relief that had been filed by a federal prison inmate who was sentenced to more than a year in jail on armed robbery charges.

U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson denied in an April 4 order the motion by William Hudgins, who contended his trial attorney was ineffective and deprived him of his constitutionally guaranteed right to competent counsel.

Hudgins claimed that Norristown, Pa. criminal defense attorney Dennis Caglia, who was appointed in late 2007 to replace a previous attorney for Hudgins, the court docket sheet shows, provided ineffective assistance for a number of reasons.

Hudgins claimed Caglia failed to order a full transcript of the trial; failed to file a motion seeking dismissal of the interference with interstate commerce charge relating to the July 2, 2006, armed robbery that sent Hudgins to prison; failed to investigate the business dealings of victim JM Films to show that it did not sell goods in interstate commerce; failed to seek dismissal of the indictment for prosecutorial misconduct; allowed Hudgins to wear prison shoes during trial; failed to object to certain erroneous jury instructions; failed to argue that Hudgins was actually innocent; failed to move for the suppression of the recovered firearm; and failed to argue on appeal that Hudgins’ right to a speedy trial was violated.

At his trial in 2007, Hudgins was found guilty of conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by robbery, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, aiding and abetting, and using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.

He was found not guilty of three other counts related to the 2006 robbery.

Hudgins was sentenced to 384 months in prison on the three convicted counts, in part because of his “extensive” criminal record, the judge’s ruling states.

Hudgins’ conviction was eventually upheld by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. A petition for certiorari was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court and Hudgins subsequently filed his post-conviction relief motion with the federal court in Philadelphia in late August 2011.

Hudgins also filed a reply brief to the government’s response to his motion, the judge’s ruling states, in which Hudgins complained about his original counsel in the case.

In denying Hudgins’ post-conviction relief motion, Baylson wrote that the defendant’s own factual background in his reply brief shows that there was “abundant evidence at trial to show that Defendant was guilty of the charges on which he was convicted.”

“The allegations of inadequate counsel against Mr. Caglia are either belied by the actual record or are frivolous in nature or do not truly reflect the facts admitted at trial,” the judge wrote.

Among other things, Baylson found that Hudgins’ arguments about the entire trial transcript not being originally transcribed did not result in any prejudice to Hudgins; the defendant’s complaints about the court’s charge to the jury are not correct; and Hudgins’ complaint that his trial attorney should have located the owner of the building where the crime took place was not relevant.

Baylson wrote that the only issue to decide upon was whether the business was engaged in interstate commerce, “and the government introduced sufficient evidence on that point.

“This Court has reviewed the transcript of the two-day trial, and finds that the performance of Defendant’s counsel, Dennis Caglia, Esquire, was professional, competent and as aggressive as possible in all respects,” the ruling states. “The evidence against the Defendant was simply overwhelming.”

That evidence included testimony by Hudgins’ accomplice in the robbery.

The ruling states that the record shows Caglia did, in fact, make argument to the jury that the government failed to prove the interstate commerce aspect of the case, but whether that evidence was sufficient or not is not properly raised on a post-conviction petition.

“However, defense counsel presented the argument forcefully, but the jury found in favor of the government by virtue of its guilty verdict …,” the judge wrote.

“The other allegations of inadequate representation by counsel border on the frivolous,” the ruling states.

Baylson wrote that Hudgins’ arguments that he was innocent is frivolous because the trial record shows that Hudgins “clearly committed the crimes for which he was convicted.”

Baylson further wrote that there is no reason to have an evidentiary hearing in the case and there is no reason for a grant of probable cause for appeal.

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