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Cruz-Jimenez v. United States

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 12, 2018



          B. Lynn Winmill Chief U.S. District Court Judge


         Pending before the Court is Veronica Cruz-Jimenez's (“Cruz-Jimenez”) Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (Civ. Dkt. 1) (Crim. Dkt. 389) and the Government's Motion to Dismiss (Civ. Dkt. 7). Also pending is her Consolidated Motion for and Brief in Support of Extension of Time (Civ. Dkt. 9). The Court will grant the extension of time and deem the subsequently filed Brief in Opposition to Government's Motion to Dismiss (Civ. Dkt. 10) to have been timely filed. Having now reviewed and considered the § 2255 Motion, the Government's Motion to Dismiss, and Cruz-Jimenez's Brief in Opposition, the Court enters the following Order granting the Government's Motion to Dismiss and dismissing the § 2255 Motion.


         Cruz-Jimenez was indicted along with nine co-Defendants all of whom were charged with various conspiracy and drug possession charges. Cruz-Jimenez and two co- Defendants opted to go to trial. She was convicted of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine. Jury Verdict, Crim. Dkt. 201. On August 1, 2011, the Court imposed a sentence of 120 months to be followed by five years of supervised release, and Judgment was duly entered. Sentencing Minutes, Crim. Dkt. 262; Judgment, Crim. Dkt. 263. On August 13, 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed her sentence. USCA Mem., Crim. Dkt. 347. On November 25, 2013, the Court received the pending § 2255 Motion accompanied by a letter of transmittal dated November 8, 2013 (Civ. Dkt. 1-2) indicating that the Motion was placed in the prison mailbox on that date, four days prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1). “A paper filed by an inmate confined in an institution is timely if deposited in the institution's internal mailing system on or before the last day for filing.” Rule 3 of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings. “Timely filing may be shown by a declaration . . . or by a notarized statement, either of which must set forth the date of deposit and state that first-class postage has been prepaid.” Id. Although the letter does not technically comply with Rule 3, the Government has not raised any timeliness issue. Thus the Court will deem the § 2255 Motion timely filed.


         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 must 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.” In order to proceed on a § 2255 motion, the movant must make “specific factual allegations that, if true, state a claim on which relief could be granted.” United States v. Schaflander, 743 F.2d 714, 717 (9th Cir. 1984) (citation omitted) (emphasis added). “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).


         Cruz-Jimenez alleges two grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. First, she alleges that counsel was ineffective for failing to call the “Leader Organizer” of the conspiracy to testify that she was not aware of or involved in the drug conspiracy. Second, she alleges that counsel was ineffective for failing to advise her to accept the Government's plea offer of one year.

         The well-established two-prong test for evaluating ineffective assistance of counsel claims is deficient performance and resulting prejudice. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Mere conclusory allegations are insufficient to state a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Shah v. United States, 878 F.2d 1156, 1161 (9th Cir. 1989).

         In order to establish deficient performance, a defendant must show that counsel's performance “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688. Under the performance prong, there is a strong presumption that counsel's performance falls “within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Id. at 689. This is so because for the defendant, “[i]t is all too tempting . . . to second-guess counsel's assistance after conviction or adverse sentence. . . .” Id. For the court, “it is all too easy to conclude that a particular act or omission of counsel was unreasonable in the harsh light of hindsight.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 702 (2002) (discussing Strickland).

         In order to establish prejudice, a defendant must affirmatively prove by a reasonable degree of probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. The Strickland standard is “highly demanding.” Kimmelman v. Morrision, 477 U.S. 365, 381-82; 386 (noting that the court should “assess counsel's overall performance throughout the case” when evaluating whether his assistance was reasonable).

         Both prongs of the Strickland test must be met “before it can be said that a conviction (or sentence) ‘resulted from a breakdown in the adversary process that render[ed] the result [of the proceeding] unreliable' and thus in violation of the Sixth Amendment.” United States v. Thomas, 417 F.3d 1053, 1056 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687). Whether or not counsel's performance was deficient is irrelevant if there was no prejudice as both of Strickland's prongs must be met to be entitled to relief. In evaluating an ineffective ...

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