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Romos-Gonzales v. United States

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 1, 2017

JOSE ROMOS-GONZALES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it Petitioner Jose Romos-Gonzales' Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Civ. Dkt. 1, to which the government has filed a response, Civ. Dkt. 6. Having reviewed the briefing and the record in this action, the Court enters the following Order denying the Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence.

         BACKGROUND

         Following a jury, the Petitioner (“Romos-Gonzales”) was convicted on March 12, 2012, of two counts: one count of possession with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, and one count of distribution of methamphetamine. Crim. Dkt. 15. Attorney Jeffrey Brownson was his appointed counsel. On June 5, 2012, this Court sentenced the Petitioner to 188-235 months' imprisonment. Crim. Dkt. 158. The Petitioner appealed and was again represented by Jeffrey Brownson. Crim. Dkt. 160. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment. Crim. Dkt. 207.

         Following the denial of his petition for a writ of certiorari, Romos-Gonzales timely filed the present § 2255 Motion alleging that his conviction was based on ineffective assistance of counsel by his trial and appellate counsel, Jeffrey Brownson. Specifically, petitioner alleges that counsel was deficient for: (1) usurping petitioner's right to testify in his own defense; (2) abandoning meritorious arguments at the suppression hearing; (3) failing to object to the obstruction enhancement at sentencing; and (4) failing to appeal the district court's application of the obstruction enhancement. Civ. Dkt. 1. The Government contends that Romos-Gonzales has not met his burden of showing that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, or that he was prejudiced by any alleged deficiencies. Civ. Dkt. 6.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         1. Section 2255 Standard

         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.”

         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 face of the motion and any annexed exhibits and the prior proceedings in the case that the movant is not entitled to relief.” If the Court does not summarily dismiss pursuant to Rule 4(b), the Court shall order the Government “to file an answer or other pleading within the period of time fixed by the court or to take such other action as the judge deems appropriate.” Id.

         A court need not hold an evidentiary hearing in a § 2255 case “when the issue of the prisoner's credibility can be conclusively decided on the basis of documentary testimony and evidence in the record.” Frazer v. United States, 18 F.3d 778, 781 (9th Cir. 1994). The Court may dismiss the § 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, incorporated by reference into the Advisory Committee Notes following Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Section 2255. If the Court does not dismiss the proceeding, the Court then proceeds to a determination under Rule 8 of whether an evidentiary hearing is required.

         2. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Standard

         A defendant is entitled to effective assistance of counsel at all “critical stages” of the criminal process, including trial, sentencing, and direct appeal. United States v. Leonti, 326 F.3d 1111, 1116-17 (9th Cir. 2003). To challenge a sentence on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner must show that: (1) counsel's performance was deficient, and (2) the deficiency prejudiced his defense. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Mere conclusory allegations are insufficient to state a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. See Shah v. United States, 878 F.2d 1156, 1161 (9th Cir. 1989).

         To establish deficient performance, a petitioner must show that counsel's actions “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Id. at 688. This may be shown where “counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result” or “counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id., 466 U.S. at 686-87. There is a strong presumption that counsel's performance falls “within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Id. ...


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