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Robinson v. United States

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

September 9, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on Steven Robinson's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, [Doc. No. 1]. The United States of America has responded to the motion, pursuant to the Court's Show Cause Order. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Vacate is denied.


         Movant appeared before this Court for a change of plea on December 2, 2015. Movant was placed under oath prior to any questioning by the Court. The Court advised Movant that his failure to answer the Court's questions truthfully “could cause the United States to come back against [him] with a new indictment sometime down the road for perjury.” Movant acknowledged that he understood.

         The Court first inquired of Movant's mental and physical health, after which it concluded that Movant was competent to enter a plea. Although Movant expressed some difficulty accepting his situation, he nevertheless clarified on multiple occasions that he was satisfied with his attorney's advice and assistance. Movant explained that he was not upset or dissatisfied with his attorney's advice, rather he was struggling with “how [he felt] about the situation.” Movant stated that his attorney “did what he was supposed to do, ” and that he “did a real good job.” Movant denied that he had any remaining questions about his case, acknowledging that his attorney had answered them all, and he denied that there were any witnesses that his attorney failed to contact or any defense he wanted pursued that his attorney had failed to pursue. Movant indicated that there was nothing he had wanted his attorney to do that his attorney failed to do. Movant stated that he had no complaints whatsoever about his attorney's representation of him.

         Movant was fully advised of his Constitutional right to a trial and all of the other rights attendant to that trial. He admitted that he had read and understood the indictment against him and denied that he had any remaining questions about it. He was also fully advised as to the statutory range of punishment to which he would be exposed in the event of a plea. Movant denied that any threats or promises had been made to him in exchange for his plea and indicated that he was pleading guilty voluntarily. He acknowledged that he had reviewed the Guilty Plea Agreement with his attorney prior to signing it and stated that he understood that document and its contents.

         Counsel for Respondent summarized the plea agreement between the parties, noting first that it was offered pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C). As a result, were the Court to reject the plea agreement and refuse to sentence defendant to the jointly recommended sentence of 144 months, either party would have the right to withdraw from the agreement. Counsel for Respondent clarified that “the agreement does provide that notwithstanding the Court's ultimate determination as to the correct application of those guidelines or the advisory sentencing guideline range that results therefrom, the jointly recommended sentence of 144 months will abide.” Movant expressed no surprise or disagreement with any of the terms of the plea agreement.

         In reciting the evidence that the government would have proven had the instant case proceeded to trial, counsel specifically noted that after Movant had sold heroin to two co-defendants, those co-defendants sold the same heroin to C.M.C. C.M.C. ingested the heroin and subsequently died. A post-mortem examination later revealed that C.M.C. died as a result of heroin intoxication. C.M.C. would not have died “but for” the ingestion of the heroin that Movant sold to his co-defendants, who passed it on to C.M.C. After a clarification unrelated to the circumstances of C.M.C.s' death, Movant agreed that the facts recited by the government were correct.

         At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court asked Movant how he would plead to the charge leveled against him. Movant responded “guilty.” The Court then announced its conclusions that Movant entered “his plea of guilty knowingly, voluntarily, and of his own free will, with a fully understanding of the nature and consequences of his plea.” The Court also concluded that Robison “knowingly and voluntarily waiv[ed] his right to a trial by jury and all rights incident thereto, ” and that he was “fully cognizant of the range of punishment applicable to the charge.” As a result, the Court accepted Movant's plea of guilty and scheduled the matter for sentencing.

         The United States Probation Office prepared a Pre-Sentence Investigation Report in anticipation of sentencing. The Probation Office concluded that Movant's base offense level was 38 pursuant to Section 2D1.1(a)(2). Movant objected, arguing that his base offense level should be determined solely on the basis of the drug quantity, ignoring the fact that Movant admitted that the heroin he sold was the “but for cause” of C.M.C.'s death. The government responded to the objection. Prior to imposing sentence on March 23, 2016, the Court denied Movant's objection and adopted the Probation Office's calculations as to the proper application of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The Court thereafter accepted the parties' plea agreement, and sentenced Movant to the jointly recommended sentence of 144 months. Movant waived his right to appeal.

         STANDARD FOR RELIEF UNDER 28 U.S.C. §2255

         A federal prisoner seeking relief from a sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 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, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In order to obtain relief under § 2255, the movant must allege a violation constituting “‘a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.'” United States v. Gomez, 326 F.3d 971, 974 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting United States v. Boone, 869 F.2d 1089, 1091 n.4 (8th Cir. 1989)).

         Claims brought under § 2255 may also be limited by procedural default. A movant “cannot raise a nonconstitutional or nonjurisdictional issue in a § 2255 motion if the issue could have been raised on direct appeal but was not.” Anderson v. United States, 25 F.3d 704, 706 (8th Cir. 1994) (citing Belford v. United States, 975 F.2d 310, 313 (7th Cir. 1992)). Furthermore, even constitutional or jurisdictional claims not raised on direct appeal cannot be raised collaterally in a § 2255 motion “unless a petitioner can demonstrate (1) cause for the default and actual ...

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