United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
BRYAN HARWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Petitioner Joe Roger
Chestnut's pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct
his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See
ECF No. 91. The Court denies the motion for the reasons
7, 2014, Petitioner was charged in a three-count indictment
with (1) being a felon in possession of a firearm, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and
(e) (“Count One”), (2) possession with intent to
distribute a quantity of cocaine and 28 grams or more of
cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B), and (b)(1)(C) (“Count
Two”), and (3) using and carrying a firearm in
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) (“Count Three”).
See ECF No. 2. Petitioner's charges arose from a
traffic stop during which police officers arrested Petitioner
(a passenger) and Brittany Rouse (the driver) and transported
them to jail, where officers discovered multiple bags of
cocaine and crack cocaine in Petitioner's
clothing. See ECF No. 74 at ¶¶
September 8, 2014, Petitioner, represented by attorney
William F. Nettles IV (“plea counsel”), pled
guilty pursuant to a written plea agreement to the
lesser-included offense in Count Two of the indictment.
See ECF Nos. 59, 61, & 62. In the plea
agreement, Petitioner and the Government stipulated to a
sentence of 150 months' imprisonment pursuant to Fed. R.
Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C). See Id. at ¶ 13. On
November 20, 2014, the Court accepted the Rule 11(c)(1)(C)
stipulation and sentenced Petitioner to 150 months'
imprisonment followed by three years' supervised release.
See ECF Nos. 68 & 70. Judgment was entered the
next day, see ECF No. 70, and Petitioner did not
file a direct appeal.
October 18, 2015,  Petitioner filed the instant § 2255
motion and a supporting memorandum. See ECF Nos. 91
& 91-1. Thereafter, plea counsel filed an affidavit
addressing his representation of Petitioner, and the
Government filed a response in opposition and a motion for
summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 99, 101, & 102.
The Court issued a Roseboro order, and Petitioner filed
a response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment.
See ECF Nos. 103 & 111.
in federal custody may attack the validity of their sentences
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For a 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).
“The writ of habeas corpus and its federal counterpart,
28 U.S.C. § 2255, will not be allowed to do service for
an appeal. For this reason, nonconstitutional claims that
could have been raised on appeal, but were not, may not be
asserted in collateral proceedings.” Stone v.
Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 478 n.10 (1976) (internal
quotation marks and citation 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[.]” Id. (internal quotation marks
district court need not hold an evidentiary hearing on a
§ 2255 motion if “the motion and the files and
records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is
entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b);
see United States v. Thomas, 627 F.3d 534, 538 (4th
Cir. 2010). The determination of whether to hold an
evidentiary hearing ordinarily is left to the sound
discretion of the district court. Raines v. United
States, 423 F.2d 526, 530 (4th Cir. 1970).
the district court denies § 2255 relief without an
evidentiary hearing, the nature of the court's ruling is
akin to a ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”
United States v. Poindexter, 492 F.3d 263, 267 (4th
Cir. 2007). “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see
generally Rule 12 of the Rules Governing Section 2255
Cases (“The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure . . ., to
the extent that they are not inconsistent with any statutory
provisions or these rules, may be applied to a proceeding
under these rules.”). “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
evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, with all reasonable inferences drawn in
that party's favor. The court therefore cannot weigh the
evidence or make credibility determinations.”
Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., 789 F.3d 407, 413
(4th Cir. 2015) (internal citation and quotation marks
asserts four grounds for relief in his § 2255 motion,
all of which allege ineffective assistance of
counsel. The Court must review claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel under the two-part test
enunciated in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668
(1984). First, a petitioner must show counsel's
performance was deficient, meaning it “fell below an
objective standard of reasonableness.” Id. at
687-88. Second, the petitioner must show prejudice, meaning
“there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different. A reasonable
probability is a probability sufficient to undermine
confidence in the outcome.” Id. at 694. The
Strickland test applies to challenges to guilty
pleas based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Hill v.
Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 58-59 (1985).
is no reason for a court deciding an ineffective assistance
claim to approach the inquiry in the same order or even to
address both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes
an insufficient showing on one.” Id. at 697.
“In particular, a court need not determine whether
counsel's performance was deficient before examining the
prejudice suffered by the defendant as a result of the
alleged deficiencies.” Id. Thus, “[w]hen
ineffective assistance claims are based on the failure to
raise, develop, or properly present an underlying claim, an
examination of the merits of the underlying claim will
frequently be dispositive of the ineffective assistance
claim.” Orbe v. True, 233 F.Supp.2d 749, 765
(E.D. Va. 2002), aff'd, 82 Fed.Appx. 802 (4th
Cir. 2003). “If the underlying claim is meritless,
counsel's failure to pursue it can be neither
unreasonable nor prejudicial, and no further inquiry is
Ground One, Petitioner alleges plea counsel was ineffective
for failing to investigate (a) “witnesses in the arrest
report” (including the police officers who participated
in the traffic stop) and (b) “the statement from
Brittany Rouse” (Petitioner's
codefendant).See ECF No. 91-1 at pp. 5-12.
However, Petitioner admitted to his conduct as read into the
record during his guilty plea, see ECF No. 74 at
¶ 18, and he has not demonstrated that an investigation
of the witnesses would have yielded a result different from
that which his plea counsel believed at the time of the plea.
In fact, plea counsel had separate evidence-a dash camera
video-of the events that occurred during the traffic stop.
See ECF No. 99 at p. 2. Moreover, plea counsel had
prepared a motion to sever before Petitioner pled guilty, and
this motion clearly indicates plea counsel was familiar with
Rouse's statement and the identity of the officers
mentioned in the arrest report. See ECF No. 99-1
(dated May 12, 2014). Notably, plea counsel could not have
interviewed Rouse-a ...