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Garcia-Gonzalez v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

August 25, 2016

JOSE A. GARCIA-GONZALEZ, Movant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Crim. No. 6:13-03064-DGK

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE

         This habeas case arises out of Movant Jose A. Garcia-Gonzalez's guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine and being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.

         Now before the Court is Movant's pro se “Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence By a Person in Federal Custody” (Doc. 1). Finding Movant's claims are meritless and an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary, the Court denies the motion and declines to issue a certificate of appealability.

         Background and Procedural History

         On July 23, 2013, a grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging Movant with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectible amount of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(A), and being an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States possessing firearms and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(5) and 924(a)(2).

         On December 16, 2013, Movant pled guilty to both counts, without a plea agreement, before a magistrate judge.[1] Present with Movant at the change-of-plea hearing were his attorney, David Healy, and an interpreter.

         At the outset of the hearing, the magistrate addressed various complaints Movant had expressed about his attorney. Movant informed the magistrate that these issues had been resolved, and that he wanted to keep Mr. Healy as his attorney. The magistrate proceeded to explain to Movant all the rights he was waiving by pleading guilty, including the “right to testify or not testify, as you choose.” Plea Tr. at 5. The magistrate told Movant, “if you choose not to testify, it would not be held against you because that is your right.” Id. Movant acknowledged that he understood he was waiving these rights. The Government also recited a summary of the facts it believed it could prove at trial, and Movant agreed that he did the stated acts and was guilty of the crimes charged. Finally, before accepting Movant's guilty plea, the magistrate confirmed with Movant that he was satisfied with defense counsel and the advice provided.

         The presentence investigation report subsequently found an advisory Guidelines range of 108 to 135 months. The sentencing hearing was held on April 17, 2014. After agreeing that the guidelines range was 108 to 135 months, the Court sentenced Movant to 108 months on each of Counts One and Two, [2] to run concurrently, followed by concurrent terms of two years' supervised release.[3]

         Defense counsel did not file an appeal. However, there is no evidence-indeed, not even an allegation-that Movant instructed his attorney to file a notice of appeal. On the contrary, the Government has submitted an affidavit from Defense counsel that after the sentencing hearing he provided a letter to Movant advising him of his right to appeal. The letter cautioned that the result from seeking an appeal could be “extremely harsh” compared to the sentence imposed. Movant never told counsel that he had any interest in appealing.

         Movant signed his § 2255 motion on April 13, 2015, which the Government concedes is timely filed.

         Standard of Review

         In a proceeding brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, the district court may “vacate, set aside or correct [a] sentence” that “was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

         Discussion

         Movant raises six claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. To succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a movant must show that “(1) trial counsel's performance was so deficient as to fall below an objective standard of the customary skill and diligence displayed by a reasonably competent attorney, and (2) trial counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the defense.” Armstrong v. Kemna, 534 F.3d 857, 863 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-94 (1984)). Failure to satisfy either prong is fatal, and the court need not ...


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