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Goins v. United States

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

October 31, 2017

Robert Earl Goins, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          ORDER

          R. Bryan Harwell, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's [ECF No. 560] pro se motion to vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Petitioner asserts three grounds and claims that: 1) ground one - trial counsel was ineffective for providing bad advice with respect to the plea agreement and guilty plea; 2) ground two - trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the sufficiency of the factual basis for the guilty plea; and 3) ground three - trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to his career offender designation under the Sentencing Guidelines. Also pending is Petitioner's [ECF No. 627] motion to amend his § 2255 motion to vacate.

         On November 30, 2016, the government filed a response and motion to dismiss arguing that each of Petitioner's claims were without merit. On January 18, 2017, Assistant Federal Public Defender Mike Meetze filed a response in opposition to the government's motion to dismiss and addressed the limited issue of whether or not Petitioner's Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement was based on the sentencing guidelines. Petitioner then filed a pro se response in opposition to the government's motion to dismiss and addressed the ineffective assistance of counsel claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the government's motion to dismiss, dismisses Petitioner's motion to vacate, and dismisses this case with prejudice.

         Procedural History

         On August 28, 2012, Petitioner was indicted for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, 280 grams or more of crack cocaine, and a quantity of marijuana. Petitioner was also named in three substantive counts charging possession with intent to distribute and distribution of a quantity of cocaine base.

         On February 8, 2013, an information to establish prior conviction was filed pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851.

         On July 8, 2013, Petitioner pled guilty, pursuant to a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, to conspiracy to distribute a quantity of cocaine and cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. The plea agreement provided for a stipulated sentence of 132 months imprisonment. The presentence investigation report (“PSR”) prepared by the U.S. Probation Office determined that Petitioner was a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. Petitioner's resulting guideline range was 188 to 235 months in prison.

         A sentencing hearing was held on November 20, 2012, at which the Court accepted the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement and sentenced Petitioner to 132 months in prison. The judgment was entered on November 22, 2013.

         Petitioner filed an untimely notice of appeal on January 23, 2014. On August 18, 2014, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction and held that it lacked jurisdiction to review Petitioner's sentence. The mandate and judgment were entered on September 29, 2014.

         On June 15, 2015, the United States Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for writ of certiorari.

         Petitioner filed the instant motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on June 14, 2016.

         Applicable Law

         Prisoners in federal custody may attack the validity of their sentences pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In order to move the court to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence under § 2255, a petitioner must prove that 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). “The writ of habeas corpus and its federal counterpart, 28 U.S.C. § 2255, ‘will not be allowed to do service for an appeal.' (internal citation omitted). For this reason, nonconstitutional claims that could have been raised on appeal, but were not, may not be asserted in collateral proceedings. (internal citations omitted) Even those nonconstitutional claims that could not have been asserted on direct appeal can be raised on collateral review only if the alleged error constituted ‘a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice'”. Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, n. 10 (1976); see also United States v. Boyd, No. 02-6242, 2002 WL 1932522, at *1 (4th Cir Aug. 22, 2002) (“Non-constitutional claims that could have been raised on direct appeal . . . may not be raised in a collateral proceeding under § 2255.”).

         The Sixth Amendment provides: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” U.S. Constitution. amend VI. The United States Supreme Court has interpreted the Sixth Amendment to require that counsel be effective. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686, (1984) (quoting McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 771, n.14 (1970)). In order to prevail on an ineffective assistance claim, petitioner must satisfy the two-prong test of Strickland that (1) his “counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, ” id. at 688; and (2) that “there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Id. at 694. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to ...


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