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Roscoe v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

January 31, 2017

Jennifer Kathryn Roscoe, Petitioner,
United States of America, Respondent. Civ. No. 4:16-cv-02484-RBH


          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Jennifer Kathryn Roscoe's pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See ECF No. 467.


         Petitioner was involved in a multi-defendant drug conspiracy case involving distribution of methamphetamine. She was charged in a one-count indictment with conspiring to manufacture, possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute fifty grams or more of methamphetamine and 500 grams of more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A). ECF No. 68. On October 28, 2014, Petitioner, represented by counsel, entered a guilty plea to the lesser-included offense of her indictment (conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of five grams or more of methamphetamine and fifty grams of more of a mixture containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine) pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) agreeing to a stipulated sentence of ninety-six months' imprisonment. ECF Nos. 249, 258, & 260. Before sentencing, a presentence investigation report (“PSR”) was prepared and indicated Petitioner's advisory guideline range-with application of the safety valve provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)-was seventy to eight-seven months' imprisonment. ECF No. 303. On July 7, 2015, the Court adopted the PSR without change and sentenced Petitioner to seventy months' imprisonment, followed by a statutory term of supervised release of four years. ECF Nos. 356, 361, 374, 385, & 386. Judgment was entered on July 9, 2015. ECF No. 385. No appeal was filed.

         On July 5, 2016, [1] Petitioner (proceeding pro se) filed the instant motion to vacate, set aside or correct her sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 contending her plea counsel, Robert E. Lee, was constitutionally ineffective. ECF No. 467. On July 18, 2016, [2] Petitioner filed a document entitled “Petitioner's Addendum Attachment To Recently Submitted 28 U.S.C. §2255 Motion to Vacate, Set Aside Or Correct Sentence, ” in which she sought leave of court to amend her § 2255 motion with an additional ground for relief. ECF No. 472. On July 25, 2016, Mr. Lee filed an affidavit addressing his representation of Petitioner. ECF No. 477. On August 4, 2016, the Government filed a response in opposition and a motion for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 479 & 480. Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975), the Court notified Petitioner of her right and obligation to respond to the motion for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 89 & 96. On August 22, 2016, [3] Petitioner filed a reply referring to the new claim presented in her July 18, 2016 document. ECF No. 488 at 2.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., Md., 789 F.3d 407, 413 (4th Cir. 2015); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (“The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The facts and inferences to be drawn from the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Reyazuddin, 789 F.3d at 413, but the Court “cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations.” Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015).

         Moreover, “the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). “A dispute of material fact is ‘genuine' if sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party.” Seastrunk v. United States, 25 F.Supp.3d 812, 814 (D.S.C. 2014). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         At the summary judgment stage, “the moving party must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Once the moving party has met his burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with some evidence beyond the mere allegations contained in the pleadings to show that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Baber v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 977 F.2d 872, 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992) (internal citation omitted). Summary judgment is not warranted unless, “from the totality of the evidence, including pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and affidavits, the [C]ourt believes no genuine issue of material fact exists for trial and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Whiteman v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 729 F.3d 381, 385 (4th Cir. 2013); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         Applicable Law

         Prisoners in federal custody may attack the validity of their sentences pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the court to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence under § 2255, a petitioner must prove one of the following occurred: (1) a sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence; (3) the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). In deciding a § 2255 motion, the court may summarily dismiss the motion “[i]f it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief.” Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings 4(b); see 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b) (a hearing is not required on a § 2255 motion if the record of the case conclusively shows the petitioner is not entitled to relief).

         “Generally, an evidentiary hearing is required under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 unless it is clear from the pleadings, files, and records that a movant is not entitled to relief.” United States v. Robinson, 238 F. App'x 954, 954-55 (4th Cir. 2007) (citing United States v. Witherspoon, 231 F.3d 923, 925-26 (4th Cir. 2000)). An evidentiary hearing “is required when a movant presents a colorable Sixth Amendment claim showing disputed material facts and a credibility determination is necessary to resolve the issue.” United States v. Coon, 205 F. App'x 972, 973 (4th Cir. 2006) (citing Witherspoon, 231 F.3d at 925-27).

         A guilty plea is a solemn, judicial admission of the truth of the charges against an individual; thus, a criminal defendant's right to contest the validity of such a plea is usually foreclosed. See Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 74 (1977). “If an appropriately conducted Rule 11 proceeding is to serve a meaningful function, on which the criminal justice system can rely, it must be recognized to raise a strong presumption that the plea is final and binding.” United States v. Lambey, 974 F.2d 1389, 1394 (4th Cir. 1992). Regarding an ineffective assistance of counsel claim presented after entry of a guilty plea, the defendant's statements made under oath at the plea hearing, affirming satisfaction with counsel's representation, are binding on the defendant, absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. United States v. Lemaster, 403 F.3d 216, 221-22 (4th Cir. 2005). “[T]he truth of sworn statements made during a Rule 11 colloquy is conclusively established, and a district court should, without holding an evidentiary hearing, dismiss any § 2255 motion that necessarily relies on allegations that contradict the sworn statements.” Id. at 222.

         Petitioner alleges plea counsel was constitutionally ineffective in her § 2255 motion. Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel must be reviewed under the two-part test enunciated in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). A habeas petitioner must first show counsel's performance was deficient and fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Id. at 687-88. Second, the petitioner must show prejudice, meaning ‚Äúthere is a reasonable probability that, but for ...

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