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Garcia-Soto v. United States

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 12, 2016

NELSON GARCIA-SOTO, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill, United States District Court Chief Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Nelson Garcia-Soto's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence. (Dkt. 1). Having reviewed the motion, the government's response (Dkt. 8), Garcia-Soto's Reply (Dkt. 12) and underlying record, the Court will dismiss the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Garcia-Soto pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine pursuant to a written plea agreement. Rule 11 Plea Agreement, Crim. Dkt. 151.[1] On May 24, 2013, this Court imposed a below-guidelines sentence of 148 months and judgment was entered on May 29, 2013. Crim. Dkt. 300. Following sentencing, Garcia-Soto appealed his conviction to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit dismissed his appeal on December 20, 2013. On March 5, 2015, Garcia-Soto filed the pending § 2255 motion.

         STANDARD OF LAW

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides four grounds under which a federal court may grant relief to a federal prisoner who challenges the imposition or length of his or her incarceration: (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).

         Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings provides that a federal district court judge may summarily dismiss a § 2255 motion "[i]f it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief." "Under this standard, a district court may summarily dismiss a § 2255 motion only if the allegations in the motion, when viewed against the record, do not give rise to a claim for relief or are 'palpably incredible or patently frivolous.'" United States v. Withers, 638 F.3d 1055, 1062-63 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted).

         If the Court does not dismiss pursuant to Rule 4(b), the Court shall order the Government "to file an answer, motion, or other response within a fixed time, or to take other action the judge may order."

         The Court may dismiss a § 2255 motion at other stages of the proceeding such as pursuant to a motion by respondent, after consideration of the answer and motion, or after consideration of the pleadings and an expanded record. See Advisory Committee Notes following Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings incorporated by reference into the Advisory Committee Notes following Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings.

         If the Court does not dismiss the proceeding, the Court then determines under Rule 8 whether an evidentiary hearing is required. The Court need not hold an evidentiary hearing if the issues can be conclusively decided on the basis of the evidence in the record. See Frazer v. United States, 18 F.3d 778, 781 (9th Cir. 1994).

         ANALYSIS

         Garcia-Soto raises three issues in this motion. First, he says the government lacked “standing” to prosecute him, or otherwise engaged in misconduct in deciding to charge him. Second, he says polygraph evidence establishes his actual innocence. Third, he claims that his counsel was ineffective.

         1. Alleged Prosecutorial Misconduct

         Garcia-Soto's claim that the government lacked “standing” to charge him fails on two grounds. First, Garcia-Soto waived his ability to challenge the government's decision to prosecute him. Second, the Government has wide discretion in charging defendants.

         A. Waiver

         Garcia-Soto's plea agreement includes a waiver, precluding him from bringing a habeas petition on grounds other than ineffective assistance of counsel. See Crim. Dkt. 151. A waiver is enforceable if it is knowing and voluntary and the language covers the grounds raised on appeal. United States v. Bibler, 495 F.3d 621, 623-24 (9th Cir. 2007) (emphasis added). Knowing and voluntary waivers of appellate rights in criminal cases are regularly enforced. United States v. Anglin, 215 F.3d 1064, 1066 (9th Cir. 2000).

         Garcia Soto does not expressly claim that his waiver was unknowing or involuntary. Rather, he briefly mentions that he entered into the Agreement based on his counsel's incorrect statements regarding his charges and sentencing guideline terms. § 2225 Mem. at 4. Even so, the record indicates that Garcia-Soto entered his plea agreement knowingly and voluntarily.

         Sworn statements made in open court at the time of a plea hearing carry a strong presumption of verity and are entitled to great weight. Chizen v. Hunter,809 F.2d 560, 562 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 73-74 (1977)); see also United States v. Kazcynski,239 F.3d 1108, 1114-15 (9th Cir. 2001) ("substantial weight" must be given to in-court statements). While that presumption is not necessarily an insurmountable barrier to an evidentiary hearing, contentions that in the face of the record are "wholly incredible" are subject to summary ...


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