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McCaston v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

June 15, 2015

CHRISTOPHER McCASTON, Movant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JEAN C. HAMILTON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Movant Christopher McCaston's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody. (ECF No. 1). The Motion has been fully briefed and is ready for disposition.

On October 19, 2011, McCaston pled guilty to Counts One and Three of a five-count indictment. (Guilty Plea, Case. No. 11-cr-208, ECF No. 32, at 1). Count One charged possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Id. at 3. Count Three charged possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). Id. McCaston was sentenced to a 46-month term of imprisonment on Count One and a 60-month term on Count Three. (Government Response, ECF No. 7, at 3; Petition at 1). Those sentences were run consecutively to each other for a total term of 106 months. Id.

McCaston now challenges his conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

§ 2255 STANDARD

Under § 2255, a federal prisoner may seek relief on the ground 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). A reviewing court must hold an evidentiary hearing to consider claims in a § 2255 motion "[u]nless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.'" Shaw v. United States, 24 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 1994) (alteration in original) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b)).

DISCUSSION

McCaston raises four grounds for relief in his Motion: (1) that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to move for dismissal of McCaston's case on the theory that the Government's only evidence was hearsay; (2) that his guilty plea lacked a factual basis; (3) that he improperly was denied credit against his sentence for time spent in federal custody; and (4) that his sentence was not run concurrently with a state sentence he received based on the same incident. (Motion at 4, 5, 7, 8).

A. Ground One

Ground One is an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. (Petition at 4). According to both McCaston and the stipulation of facts in the Plea Agreement, St. Louis Metropolitan Police pulled over a red Nissan on February 20, 2010. (McCaston Reply, ECF No. 13, at 2; Plea Agreement at 4). McCaston was sitting in the passenger seat, and the owner of the car, Ms. Jasmine Kruczynski, was sitting in the driver's seat. (McCaston Reply at 2). Upon searching the car, the officers discovered a.38 caliber revolver in the glove compartment. Id. The officers then discovered cocaine base hidden in Ms. Kruczynski's pants when they searched her at the police station. Id. Ms. Kruczynski stated that the drugs and gun belonged to McCaston. Id. at 2-3.

McCaston contends here that Ms. Kruczynski's statement made up the whole of the Government's case against him and that the statement was hearsay. (Petition at 4). He maintains that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to have the case dismissed on that basis. Id. The Government responds that there was no procedural mechanism for McCaston's attorney to have the case dismissed for lack of evidence, and, even if there were, the underlying argument is baseless because Ms. Kruczynski's first-hand account of the events is not hearsay. (Government Response at 4-6). McCaston's attorney, according to the Government, therefore could not have been ineffective in failing to challenge the indictment for lack of evidence. Id.

In order to prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a claimant must show that his attorney's performance was "deficient" and "that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). To demonstrate counsel's deficiency, the claimant must prove that, "in light of all the circumstances, the identified acts or omissions were outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance." Id. at 690. To demonstrate prejudice, the claimant must show "a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at 694.

The Government's argument is correct under this standard. McCaston was indicted by a federal grand jury, and it is well established that a grand jury indictment cannot be challenged based on the sufficiency of the evidence presented. United States v. Nelson, 165 F.3d 1180, 1182 (8th Cir. 1999) ("It has long been settled that an indictment is not open to challenge on the ground that there was inadequate or insufficient evidence before the grand jury."). McCaston's attorney therefore could not have ...


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