United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
DECARLOS L. JOHNSON, Movant,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, Jr., District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside or correct sentence by Decarlos L. Johnson, a person in federal custody. On June 24, 2013, pursuant to a plea agreement, Decarlos Johnson pled guilty to four counts of distribution of a substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base. On September 23, 2013, this Court sentenced Johnson to the Bureau of Prisons for a term of 151 months, the mandatory minimum sentence. Johnson's § 2255 motion, which is based on several allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
A. The Indictment.
On February 28, 2013, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Missouri, Southeastern Division, returned an indictment against DeCarlos L. Johnson, charging him with four counts of Distribution of Cocaine Base in violation of Title 21, United States Code, § 841(a)(1). (Case No. 1:13CR00021 SNLJ.) Johnson was arrested and made his initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Lewis M. Blanton on March 20, 2013. The Federal Public Defender's office was appointed to represent Johnson, and Assistant Federal Defender Michael Skrien ("AFPD Skrien") subsequently filed an Entry of Appearance. AFPD Skrien appeared on behalf of Johnson at an arraignment on March 25, 2013, and Johnson entered a plea of not guilty to the charges. Judge Blanton set Johnson's pretrial motions hearing for April 17, 2013.
B. Pretrial Motions.
On April 16, 2013, AFPD Skrien filed a waiver of Johnson's right to file pretrial motions. On April 24, 2013, Johnson appeared before Judge Blanton and waived his right to file pretrial motions. After that waiver, this Court set Johnson's case for a plea hearing on June 24, 2013.
C. The Plea Agreement.
Johnson and the Government reached a plea agreement that was reduced to writing. The plea agreement sets out the parties' bargain and understandings as to the disposition of Johnson's case.
Johnson agreed to plead guilty to all four counts in the indictment. In the agreement, the parties recommended that Johnson qualified as a Career Offender pursuant to U.S.S.G. Sec. 4B1.1. Accordingly, the parties recommended that the Base Offense Level was 32. The plea agreement explicitly set forth that "[t]his joint recommendation is in exchange for the government agreeing to refrain from filing a notice of enhancement pursuant to 21 U.S.C. Sec. 851 for the defendant's prior felony controlled substance conviction, " which, as both parties acknowledged, would have raised the Base Offense Level to 34. The parties further recommended that three levels should be deducted for acceptance of responsibility, resulting in a Total Offense Level of 29.
Johnson waived his right to appeal any sentencing issues if sentenced within the applicable Sentencing Guidelines range. Johnson further agreed to waive his right to file any post-conviction pleading, including a § 2255 petition, except for claims of prosecutorial misconduct or ineffective assistance of counsel. That waiver was set out as follows:
The defendant agrees to waive all rights to contest the conviction or sentence in any post-conviction proceeding, including one pursuant to Title 18, United State Code, Section 3582 and Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255, except for claims of prosecutorial misconduct or ineffective assistance of counsel.
D. Guilty Plea Hearing.
Johnson and his attorney, AFPD Skrien, appeared before this Court on June 24, 2013. Johnson signed the Plea Agreement and pled guilty to all four counts in the indictment. A ...