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United States of America v. Brenda Barron

December 5, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRENDA BARRON,
DEFENDANT/PETITIONER.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: U. S. District Judge Honorable Edward J. Lodge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Before the Court is a Petition (Dkt. 1) to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, by Defendant/Petitioner Brenda Barron. The motion is fully briefed and at issue. The government opposes and has moved to dismiss Barron's Petition. (Gov't Resp. & Mot., Dkt. 5). Also pending is Defendant's request for transcripts of proceedings. (Mot., Dkt. 67 in criminal case). Being familiar with the record and having considered the briefing, the Court will deny Barron's Petition under § 2255, grant the government's Motion to Dismiss, and grant in part and deny in part Barron's Motion for transcripts, as follows.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Barron was indicted, with two other defendants, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. (Indictment, Dkt. 1 in criminal case).*fn1 The government subsequently filed an Amended Information to establish a prior conviction, increasing Barron's sentencing exposure to a statutory mandatory minimum of not less than 20 years in custody, and at least 10 years of supervised release. (Am. Information, Dkt. 45). Shortly thereafter, Barron pleaded guilty to the Amended Information. (Plea Agreement, Dkt. 49).

Prior to Barron's sentencing, the United States filed a Motion for Downward Departure (Dkt. 63) of three levels from the applicable guideline range, establishing an advisory guideline sentencing range of 151 to 188 months in prison. The United States requested a sentence of 168 months. On May 10, 2010, the Court sentenced Barron to 151 months in custody followed by ten years of supervised release, a $100 special assessment, and 100 hours of community service. (Judgment, Dkt. 66). Shortly after sentencing, Barron requested copies of transcripts and minutes from Court hearings. (Mot., Dkt. 67 in criminal case). Barron did not appeal to the Ninth Circuit.

On November 19, 2010, Barron filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, now before the Court. (Mot., Dkt. 1 in civil case). In her motion, Barron asserts ineffective assistance of counsel due to her counsel's failure to investigate, inquire, or object to the following issues: (1) delay between arrest and arraignment; (2) coercion; (3) defect in Information, regarding prior felony conviction; (4) the Court's failure to conduct a hearing regarding her prior conviction; (5) that the methamphetamine was never tested; (6) that the Indictment was defective; (7) that the Assistant United States Attorney "distorted and altered" the Indictment; and (8) that the Plea Agreement was unconstitutional.

LEGAL STANDARD

A prisoner asserting the right to be released "may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence" under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Section 2255 provides four grounds that justify relief for a federal prisoner who challenges the fact or length of his detention: (1) whether "the sentence was imposed in violation of the constitution or laws of the United States;" (2) whether the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence; (3) whether the sentence was "in excess of the maximum authorized by law;" or (4) whether the sentence is "otherwise subject to collateral attack." See Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962). Despite this seemingly broad language, "the range of claims which may be raised in a § 2255 motion is narrow." United States v. Wilcox, 640 F.2d 970, 972 (9th Cir. 1981).

The Court recognizes that a response from the government and a prompt hearing are required "[u]nless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief . . .." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). Further, a hearing must be granted unless the movant's allegations, "when viewed against the record, either fail to state a claim for relief or are 'so palpably incredible or patently frivolous as to warrant summary dismissal." United States v. Schaflander, 743 F.2d 714, 717 (9th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1058 (1985) (citations omitted); Marrow v. United States, 772 F.2d 525, 526 (9th Cir. 1985). A district court may summarily dismiss a § 2255 motion "[i]f it plainly appears from the face of the motion and any annexed exhibits and the prior proceedings in the case that the movant is not entitled to relief . . .." Rule 4(b), Rules Governing § 2255 Proceedings in the United States District Court. Thus, in order to withstand summary dismissal of his motion for relief under § 2255, the defendant "must make specific factual allegations which, if true, would entitle him to relief on his claim." United States v. Keller, 902 F.2d 1391, 1395 (9th Cir. 1990).

Section 2255 is not a substitute for appeal. Addonizio, 442 U.S. at 184. "Errors of law which might require reversal of a conviction or sentence on appeal do not necessarily provide a basis for relief under § 2255." United States v. Wilcox, 640 F.2d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 1981). Where a defendant fails to raise claims on direct review, those claims are procedurally defaulted unless he can demonstrate cause for and prejudice from the procedural default, or actual innocence. United States v. Ratigan, 351 F.3d 957, 962 (2003)(citing Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998)). However, when a particular issue "has been decided adversely on appeal from a conviction, it cannot be litigated again on a 2255 motion." Odom v. United States, 455 F.2d 159, 160 (9th Cir. 1972)(citations omitted).

ANALYSIS

Where a petitioner's allegations, "viewed against the record, fail to state a claim for relief," United States v. McMullen, 98 F.3d 1155 (9th Cir. 1996)(citations omitted), or where summary dismissal is warranted, the Court may deny an evidentiary hearing. Marrow v. United States, 772 F.2d 525, 526 (9th Cir. 1985)(citation omitted).In a § 2255 motion, conclusory statements, without more, are insufficient to require a hearing. United States v. Johnson, 988 F.2d 941, 945 (9th Cir. 1993). As more fully expressed below, the Court finds that Barron has failed to raise allegations sufficient to warrant a hearing on issues before it. The Court will therefore consider Barron's motion based upon the record and pleadings before it.

1. Waiver of Right to Petition Under § 2255

The government moves to dismiss Barron's petition, arguing that, under the terms of Barron's plea agreement, her petition is waived. In the plea agreement, Barron retained the right to file one petition under ยง 2255, but only if she believes she "received ineffective assistance of counsel based solely on information not known to [Barron] at the time the [Court] imposed the sentence and which, in the exercise of reasonable ...


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