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United States v. Arredondo-Meza

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 28, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
IVAN ARREDONDO-MEZA, Defendant-Movant. No. 4:07-CR-00187-BLW.

MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER

B. LYNN WINMILL, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court are Ivan Arredondo-Meza's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Civ. Dkt. 1) and the Government's Motion to Dismiss (Civ. Dkt. 5). Having reviewed the briefing and the record in this case, as well as the underlying criminal record, the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss in part, dismiss the § 2255 Motion in part, and allow Arredondo-Meza to pursue his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at the pretrial or plea stage of the proceedings.

BACKGROUND

On April 24, 2008, Arredondo-Meza was convicted by a jury of conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and continuing criminal enterprise. Special Verdict Form , Crim. Dkt. 209. On October 10, 2008, this Court sentenced him to 480 months of imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently. Judgment , Crim. Dkt. 276. Arredondo-Meza then appealed his conviction and sentence alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and challenging the drug quantity calculation on which his sentence was based. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied his appeal in a memorandum decision on October 27, 2011. United States v. Arredondo-Meza , 455 Fed.Appx. 763 (9th Cir. 2011); USCA Mem. , Crim. Dkt. 412. The Ninth Circuit declined to consider Arredondo-Meza's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, but did address his claims regarding the calculation of drug amounts and reasonableness of the sentence. Id .

On November 16, 2012, Arredondo-Meza timely filed the pending § 2255 Motion challenging the drug quantity used at sentencing because it was inconsistent with the jury verdict (Grounds One, Two, and Three) and alleging that his counsel provided ineffective assistance at the pretrial, trial, sentencing, and appeal phases of his case (Ground Four). Arredondo-Meza was initially represented by Kelly Kumm for a period of approximately one month prior to retaining R. James Archibald who represented him through pretrial, trial, and sentencing. John Stosich was appointed to represent Arredondo-Meza on appeal.

On February 28, 2013, the Government filed the pending Motion to Dismiss addressing only the drug quantity and ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing claims. On April 8, 2013, Arredondo-Meza filed a Response (Civ. Dkt. 8) in which he elaborated on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at the pretrial or plea stage of the proceedings in light of Lafler v. Cooper , 132 S.Ct. 1376 (2012), and Missouri v. Frye , 132 S.Ct. 1399 (2012).

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) "that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States;" (2) "that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence;" (3) "that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law;" and (4) that the sentence is otherwise "subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). 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).

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); United States v. Leonti , 326 F.3d 1111, 1116 (9th Cir. 2003) (quotation omitted). To withstand summary dismissal, a 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). Conclusory statements, without more, are insufficient to require a hearing. United States v. Johnson , 988 F.2d 941, 945 (9th Cir. 1993).

ANALYSIS

Arredondo-Meza explains his arguments on the drug quantity claims in an attachment to the § 2255 Motion. Civ. Dkt. 1 at 4-16; 1-1 at 1-2. He alleges the ineffective assistance of counsel claim is based on the failure of each of his attorneys to present these arguments. Because Mr. Kumm was not involved at the sentencing stage of the proceeding and Mr. Stosich did raise drug quantity issues on appeal, the Court will consider Arredondo-Meza's allegations as applying only to Mr. Archibald. Further, because the allegations make no reference to any general or specific deficiencies at trial or on appeal, they are subject to dismissal. See Shah v. United States , 878 F.2d 1156, 1161 (9th Cir. 1989) (conclusory allegations are insufficient to state a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.)

1. Drug Quantities for Purposes of Sentencing

Arredondo-Meza's three drug quantity arguments are interrelated. First, he alleges that the Court and the Government determined a drug quantity above that found by the jury in violation of the Apprendi/Blakely/Booker line of cases and that the jury verdict itself was "legally void" because the jury found him guilty of distributing "500 grams or more" of methamphetamine rather than an exact number of grams thus increasing his "statutory maximum" from less than a 15-year sentence to 360-life. Second, he alleges that his sentence is jurisdictionally defective because the Court sentenced him based on drug amount above 500 grams which he appears to believe was the maximum amount properly found by the jury. Finally, he again alleges that the jury must find the exact amount of drugs and that the Court cannot impose sentence ...


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