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Rodriguez-Sanchez v. United States

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 29, 2018



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


         Pending before the Court is Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Civ. Dkt. 1) and (Crim. Dkt. 143). The Government filed a Response to the Motion (Civ. Dkt. 7) and (Crim. Dkt. 149). The Petitioner did not file any Reply. Having reviewed the briefing, the Court will deny Petitioner's Motion without a hearing.


         On February 26, 2013, Petitioner Josue Rodriguez-Sanchez was indicted on five counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and two counts of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Pursuant to a written plea agreement, petitioner pleaded guilty to Count One of the Indictment, Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A) and § 846, on August 14, 2013. See Plea Agreement, Crim. Dkt. 53; Minute Entry, Crim. Dkt. 72. Counts two through seven were dismissed by the Government, pursuant to the plea agreement. See Judgment, Crim. Dkt. 122. The petitioner was sentenced on December 03, 2013, and committed to the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons for a term of 120 months. See id. The petitioner did not appeal his sentence or conviction. The instant motion was filed on December 9, 2014, and is the petitioner's first motion under § 2255. See Petition, Civ. Dkt. 1 and Crim. Dkt. 143.

         Petitioner asserts four grounds in support of his motion. First, he argues that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Id. at 5. Second, he argues that his guilty plea was unlawfully induced. Id. Third, he argues that his arrest was unlawful. Id. Finally, petitioner argues he is actually innocent of the charges on which he was convicted. Id.


         1. 28 U.S.C. § 2255

         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.” “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).

         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). In determining whether a § 2255 motion requires a hearing, “[t]he standard essentially is whether the movant has made specific factual allegations that, if true, state a claim on which relief could be granted.” Withers, 638 F.3d at 1062.

         2. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         The well-established two-prong test for evaluating ineffective assistance of counsel claims is deficient performance and resulting prejudice. 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).

         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. 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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