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Medina-Martinez v. United States

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

April 6, 2017

Juan Medina-Martinez, Movant,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Hon. Margaret B. Seymour, Senior United States District Court Judge

         Movant Juan Medina-Martinez ("Movant") is a federal inmate currently housed at FCI-Oakdale in Oakdale, Louisiana. On October 20, 2014, Movant, proceeding pro se, filed a motion under 28 U.S.C § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence. ECF No. 360. On December 1, 2014, Respondent United States of America ("Respondent") moved for summary judgment. ECF No. 368.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 23, 2010, the Houston, Texas, Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") office contacted the Columbia, South Carolina, DEA office, informing agents that a burgundy Chevrolet Trailblazer transporting cocaine would be traveling to a house in the Columbia area. ECF No. 223 at ¶ 17. Columbia DEA agents, in corroboration with a task force from the Lexington County, South Carolina, Sheriffs Office, set up surveillance at the house to which the vehicle was traveling in Swansea, South Carolina. Id. at ¶ 18. After a short stay at the Swansea residence, the Trailblazer traveled to another residence at 311 Bub Shumpert Road, Pelion, South Carolina (the "Shumpert Road residence"). Id. A red Chevrolet Z-71 departed the Shumpert Road residence after Movant and several co-defendants remained there for a short period of time. Id. at ¶ 19. Agents conducted a DMV records search on the Z-71, and discovered that the Z-71 was registered to co-Defendant Manuel Soto-Gonzales ("Defendant Soto-Gonzales"). Id. Officers executed a traffic stop of the Z-71 because the vehicle had a headlight missing. Id. In the course of the traffic stop, the arresting officer discovered over three kilograms of cocaine. ECF No. 320 at 13. Movant was not in the Z-71 but Defendant Soto-Gonzales implicated Movant in the drug trafficking conspiracy. See Id. at 13-14.

         On December 24, 2010, DEA agents and Lexington County task force officers executed a search warrant on the Shumpert Road residence. ECF No 223-17, ¶ 21. The agents and officers discovered firearms and indicia of drug trafficking, including fifteen kilogram wrappers that traffickers use to package cocaine. ECF No. 320 at 13. On that basis, agents concluded that fifteen kilograms of cocaine had therefore been distributed or disseminated from the residence. Id. at 14. In interviews conducted on April 12, 2011, and January 11, 2012, Defendant Soto-Gonzales explained that Movant left the Shumpert Road residence on December 23, 2010, to deliver cocaine to an unknown customer, which is why he was not present at the traffic stop. ECF No. 242 at ¶ 25. Defendant Soto-Gonzales stated that he had been trafficking cocaine from Texas to South Carolina for a lengthy time and Movant served as a runner and frequent seller of cocaine for him. ECF No. 242 at ¶ 25. According to Defendant Soto-Gonzales, Movant "did everything" for him, including weighing, packaging, and transporting cocaine. Id. at ¶ 26. Defendant Soto-Gonzales estimated Movant made seven trips to South Carolina and moved approximately six kilograms of cocaine on each trip. Id. at ¶ 25.

         Defendant Soto-Gonzales also stated that the Shumpert Road residence was a stash house and drugs and drug sale proceeds were previously stored in another house Defendant Soto-Gonzales owned in Richland County, South Carolina. Id. at ¶ 27. Movant's name appeared on the Shumpert Road residence lease because Defendant Soto-Gonzales asked Movant to rent the Shumpert Road residence in Movant's name. Id. at ¶ 26. Defendant Soto-Gonzales indicated that Movant lived in the Shumpert Road residence. Id. Defendant Soto-Gonzales stated that the two seized firearms were in the home for protection from robbery as the prior stash house was burglarized and the burglars took approximately $46, 000. Id. at ¶ 27. Defendant Soto-Gonzales stated Movant purchased one of the firearms from a cocaine customer. ECF No. 320 at 15. Lastly, Defendant Soto-Gonzales stated that he had seen Movant asleep in the Shumpert residence holding the guns and on another occasion observed shell casings outside of the residence. Id.

         On March 16, 2011, a grand jury returned a superseding indictment against Movant and his co-defendants. ECF No. 97. The government charged Movant with five counts: Count One: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), 846; Count Two: possessing with the intent to distribute five-hundred grams or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 18 U.S.C. § 2; Count Three: being an alien illegally and unlawfully in the United States, and a co-participant in jointly undertaken criminal activity, knowingly possessing firearms having been shipped and transported in interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 922(g)(5)(A), 924(a)(2), 924(e); Count Four: possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 924(c); Count Five: using and maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully storing, distributing, and using a controlled substance, to wit: cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 856 (a)(1), 856(a)(2), and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Id. Movant entered a plea of not guilty on September 23, 2011. ECF No. 174. On February 2, 2012, Movant pleaded guilty to Counts One and Four pursuant to a written plea agreement. ECF No. 282. A Spanish language interpreter was present at the pleading. Id. at 3. Movant indicated that he understood what was happening, and answered all questions that the court presented to him. ECF No. 320 at 2.[1] Movant did not disagree with the facts of the case.[2] Id. at 17.

         The court held a sentencing hearing on July 30, 2012. ECF No. 289. The court sentenced Movant to a term of 204 months, consisting of 144 months as to Count One and 60 months as to Count Four, to run consecutively. Id. The court also imposed a supervised release period of five years as to each Count One and Count Four, to run concurrently, with standard and special conditions, including surrender to a duly-authorized immigration official for deportation consideration, and, if deported, no re-entry into the United States without permission of the Attorney General or the Secretary of Homeland Security. Id. The court entered a judgment against Movant on July 31, 2012, and Counts Two, Three, and Five were dismissed upon the government's motion. Id.

         On November 19, 2012, Movant filed an untimely Notice of Appeal. ECF No. 255. Respondent moved to dismiss as untimely and barred by the appeal waiver in the plea agreement. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal on October 21, 2013, as untimely. ECF No. 346. Movant timely filed his § 2255 motion on October 20, 2014. ECF No. 360.

Movant asserts the following grounds for relief:
GROUND ONE: Movant contents that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because (1) His counsel negotiated a plea agreement despite the lack of evidence for the charges he faced; (2) Guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary because counsel did not properly investigate the basis for the conspiracy and firearm charge and counsel did not properly advise him regarding the guilty plea and the elements of the offenses; (3) counsel failed to argue that under the 'corroboration requirement' movant's two convictions cannot stand. GROUND TWO: Movant received ineffective assistance of counsel for not challenging the hearsay of Manual Soto-Gonzales [Movant's co-defendant] and for allowing the government to use the codefendant's hearsay as proof of convicting Medina.
GROUND THREE: Sixth Amendment violation due to ineffective assistance of counsel, when defense counsel failed to object to prosecutorial misconduct.

ECF No. 360.

         On December 1, 2014, the government filed a motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 368. The court issued an order, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), on December 1, 2014, advising Movant of the summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately. ECF No. 369. Movant failed to respond to the motion for summary judgment.

         On September 1, 2016, Movant's sentence was reduced pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and retroactive United States Sentencing Guideline Amendment 782, effective November 1, 2014. ECF No. 392. Movant's sentence was reduced from a term of 204 months, consisting of 144 months as to Count One and 60 months as to Count Four, to run consecutively, to a term of 195 ...


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