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Corrales v. United States

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 31, 2018

EDUARDO BARRAGAN CORRALES, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before this Court is Eduardo Barragan Corrales's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence (Civ. Dkt. 1) and the Government's Motion to Dismiss (Civ. Dkt. 18). Having reviewed and considered the § 2255 Motion, the Government's Motion to Dismiss, and Corrales's Brief in Opposition, the Court enters the following Order granting the Government's Motion to Dismiss and dismissing the § 2255 petition.

         BACKGROUND

         Corrales was indicted along with two co-Defendants for conspiracy to distribute and the actual distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine and various other charges. Crim. Dkt. 27. After being appointed counsel, Corrales met with various attorneys accompanied by an Spanish translator to discuss his case. On March 10, 2015, Corrales pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute fifty grams or more of actual methamphetamine, waiving his right to trial. Crim. Dkt. 48.

         On June 23, 2015, the Court conducted a sentencing hearing where Corrales made an oral motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Sentencing Minutes, Crim. Dkt. 74. In support of the request, Corrales's Counsel stated that he had misapplied the sentencing guidelines, and his client was “now of the opinion that there was no reason to enter a plea agreement.” Sentencing Transcript, pp. 4-11, Crim. Dkt. 96. The Court overruled the motion, and sentenced Corrales to a term of 360-months in prison. Sentencing Minutes, Crim. Dkt. 74. Corrales appealed his conviction and sentence, which the Ninth Circuit dismissed on August 19, 2016. Crim. Dkt. 102.

         Six months later, Corrales filed this timely § 2255 Motion for ineffective assistance of counsel. Corrales's motion alleges a number of grounds to vacate his conviction, including, ineffective counsel during the plea negotiation process, defective advice, failure to inform of relevant sentencing guidelines, failure to investigate, and failure to challenge prior convictions during sentencing. Civ. Dkt. 1.

         LEGAL 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 of length of his incarceration: (1) “that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution of law 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 allegation that, if true, state a claim on which relief could be granted.” United States v. Withers, 638 F.3d 1055, 1062 (9th Cir. 2011) (brackets and internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added). Under this standard, this court may dismiss a § 2255 motion based on a facial review of the record “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.'” Id. at 1062-63 (quoting United States v. Schaflander, 743 F.2d 714, 717 (9th Cir. 1984).

         ANALYSIS

         1. Motions to Appoint Counsel and For Discovery

         As an initial matter, the Court must address Petitioner's request that the Court appoint him counsel and allow discovery. A habeas petitioner is not entitled to discovery as a matter of ordinary course. Bracy v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 904 (1997). Rule 6(a) of Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings does allow a judge, for good cause, to “authorize a party to conduct discovery under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure or Civil Procedure, or in accordance with the practices and principles of law.” Rule 6(a) of Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings. The Rule also provides that “[i]f necessary for effective discovery, the judge must appoint an attorney for a moving party who qualifies to have counsel appointed under 18 U.S.C. § 3006A.” Id. Further, Rule 8 provides that the court “must review the answer, any transcripts and records of prior proceedings, and any materials submitted under Rule 7 to determine whether an evidentiary hearing is warranted.

         Here, Corrales's requests do not qualify for appointment of counsel, a hearing, or an order to compel the government. The entire case file has been provided to Corrales (Dkt. 19), and none of Corrales's claims require information outside that file. Accordingly, the Court will deny the motions.

         2. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         The bulk of Corrales's § 2255 petition is based on the performance of his counsel, Steven Richert, before and during Defendant's change of plea hearing. To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, Corrales must show (1) that his “counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, ” and (2) that there is a “reasonable probability” that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Mere conclusory allegations are insufficient to state a claim of ineffective counsel. Shah v. United States, 878 F.2d 1156, 1161 (9th Cir. 1989).

         When evaluating a defendant's representation, there is a strong presumption that counsel's performance falls “within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688. The reason being that, 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 (1986).

         Both ineffective assistance of counsel and prejudice must be found before a district court will find 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). If either element of the two-part Strickland test is not met, then a defendant has not met his or her burden. When making this assessment, “there is no reason for a court deciding an ineffective assistance claim to approach the inquiry in the same order or even to address both components of the inquiry …” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697.

         As recently reiterated by the Supreme Court, a defendant's right to effective assistance of counsel has long been held to apply to the plea process. Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 134, 140 (2012). The same Strickland standard applies to guilty pleas based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Hill, 474 U.S. at 58.

         In support of his petition, Corrales asserts nine grounds to establish that he was deprived of his right to effective counsel during the plea negotiation process. As the majority of these grounds are ...


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