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Ruck v. United States

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 9, 2019

MATT E. RUCK, Petitioner,



         Pending before the Court in the above entitled matters are Petitioner's Motions to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under § 2255 and other related Motions.[1] The parties have filed their responsive briefing on the Motions or the time for doing so has passed. The matters are, therefore, ripe for the Court's review.


         Petitioner, Matt E. Ruck, was charged with a number of crimes in three separate criminal cases: 3:14-cr-246-EJL (wire fraud and theft of government property), 3:15-cr-62-EJL (unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition), and 3:16-cr-183-EJL (making false statements on a certification to the General Services Administration System for Award Management). Mr. Ruck proceeded to trial on the wire fraud and theft charges and was convicted on all fourteen counts. (CR 80, 3:14-cr-246-EJL.) Thereafter, Mr. Ruck plead guilt to the remaining charges in the other two cases pursuant to a written plea agreement. (CR 58, 3:15-cr-62-EJL and CR 4, 3:16-cr-183-EJL.) On November 1, 2016, the Court sentenced Mr. Ruck to 60 months imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release on each count in each case to run concurrently. In addition, the Court ordered Mr. Ruck to pay $206, 081.35 in restitution.

         The Ninth Circuit affirmed Mr. Ruck's convictions and sentences and, on April 30, 2018, issued its mandate. (CR 105.) Thereafter, in August and September of 2018, Petitioner filed timely Motions to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to § 2255 in each of his three cases. The cases have been consolidated with Case Number 3:18-cv-390-EJL being assigned as the Lead Case. (CV 8.)


         Section 2255 permits a federal prisoner in custody under sentence to move the court that imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence on the grounds that:

the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack ....

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); see also Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 426-27 (1962) (stating the four grounds for § 2255 relief). Relief under § 2255 is afforded “[i]f the court finds that...there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         The standard of review for § 2255 petitions is “stringent” and the court “presumes earlier proceedings were correct.” United States v. Nelson, 177 F.Supp.2d 1181, 1187 (D. Kan. 2001) (citation omitted). To prevail on a § 2255 motion, the “defendant must show a defect in the proceedings which resulted in a ‘complete miscarriage of justice.'” Id. (quoting Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 346 (1974)). “[R]elief is not available merely because of error that may have justified reversal on direct appeal.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165 (1982); United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 184 (1979).

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a hearing must be granted “[u]nless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). In determining whether a hearing is required, “[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.” United States v. Withers, 638 F.3d 1055, 1062 (9th Cir. 2011). Where, however, “it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief, the judge must dismiss the motion, ” see Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings. Mere “conclusory statements in a § 2255 motion are not enough to require a hearing.” See United States v. Johnson, 988 F.2d 941, 945 (9th Cir. 1993).


         1. § 2255 Petition

         Petitioner's § 2255 Motions raise claims of ineffective assistance of counsel alleging his trial counsel failed to object to 1) the Government's breaches of the Plea Agreement; 2) the restitution amount; and 3) the Court's guidelines calculation. (CV 1.) Further, Petitioner claims his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise issues on appeal. (CV 1.)

         The Sixth Amendment guarantees “the right to effective assistance of counsel.” McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 771 n. 14 (1970). The two-prong standard for evaluating a Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel claim is set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). “To be entitled to habeas relief due to the ineffectiveness of defense counsel, petitioner must establish both that counsel's performance was deficient and that the deficiencies prejudiced the defense.” Medina v. Barnes, 71 F.3d 636, 368 (9th Cir. 1995) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687, 689). Mere conclusory allegations do not prove that counsel was ineffective. See Shah v. United States, 878 F.2d 1156, 1161 (9th Cir. 1989). A petitioner claiming ineffective assistance of counsel must allege specific facts which, if proved, would demonstrate that counsel's actions were 1) deficient and 2) prejudicial. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-690, 696; Weaver v. Massachusetts, 137 S.Ct. 1899, 1909-10 (2017). The Court need not determine whether counsel's ...

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