United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson Division
ORDER AND OPINION
matter is before the court on pro se Petitioner
Jesus Buruca Martinez's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or
Correct a Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h)
alleging ineffective assistance of counsel (ECF No. 1576.)
The United States of America (“Government”) filed
a response in opposition to Petitioner's Motion arguing
that Petitioner failed to prove his counsel's alleged
deficiencies, and therefore the Government contemporaneously
moved for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 1579, 1580.) Petitioner
has filed his response in opposition to the Government's
Response and Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 1609), and
the matter is now ripe for resolution.
reviewing the parties' respective memoranda and the
record of the underlying proceedings, the court determines
that an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary. For the reasons
set forth herein, the court DENIES
Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct a
Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h) (ECF No. 1576),
and GRANTS the Government's Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 1580).
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
March 11, 2014, a federal grand jury indicted Petitioner,
alleging a conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a
mixture or substance containing a detectible amount of
methamphetamine or 50 grams or more of actual
methamphetamine. (ECF No. 1082.) Petitioner's trial for
the instant offense began on September 8, 2014.
September 10, 2014, Petitioner was found guilty of Conspiracy
to possess with intent to distribute or distribute a mixture
or substance containing a detectible amount of
methamphetamine and/or actual methamphetamine. (ECF No.
1266.) On December 22, 2014, the court sentenced Petitioner
to 120 months imprisonment. (ECF No. 1364.) Petitioner filed
a timely pro se notice of appeal of final judgment
on December 29, 2014 (ECF No. 1367), and was subsequently
appointed counsel. The final judgment was affirmed on July
29, 2016 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
(ECF. No. 1551), and took effect on August 22, 2016. (ECF No.
1554.) On December 27, 2016, Petitioner filed his motion
seeking relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h), largely
arguing ineffective assistance of counsel (See ECF
No. 1576.) On January 26, 2017, the Government filed its
response to Petitioner's § 2255 Motion stating there
is no evidence in the record indicating Petitioner's
attorney provided ineffective assistance, and
Petitioner's claims for relief are baseless, without
merit, and erroneous. (ECF No. 1579.) On January 26, 2017,
Government also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, stating
there is no genuine issue of material fact because Petitioner
was found guilty after a jury trial and the District Court
sentenced him appropriately. (ECF No. 1580.)
April 3, 2017, Petitioner filed a response to the
Government's Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting the
Government failed to prove any connection between himself and
the individuals involved in the underlying conspiracy, and
was devoid of any evidence indicating such. (See ECF
STANDARD OF REVIEW
prisoner in federal custody under sentence of a federal court
may petition the court that imposed the sentence to vacate,
set aside, or correct the sentence. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. The prisoner may be entitled to relief upon
showing: (1) that the sentence was imposed in violation of
the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) that the
court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence; (3)
that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by
law; and (4) that the sentence is otherwise subject to
collateral attack. Id. A petitioner collaterally
attacking his sentence or conviction pursuant to § 2255
bears the burden of proving his grounds for collateral attack
by a preponderance of the evidence. White v. United
States, 352 F.Supp.2d 684, 686 (E.D. Va. 2004) (citing
Miller. United States, 261 F.2d 546 (4th
Cir. 1958)). In ruling on a § 2255 motion, the court may
dismiss the motion without a hearing where “it plainly
appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the
record of prior proceedings, that the moving party is not
entitled to relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b) (noting
that a hearing is not required on a § 2255 motion if the
record of the case conclusively shows that petitioner is
entitled to no relief).
Government has also sought summary judgment on
Petitioner's claims in this case. “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 the judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (2010). At a summary judgment stage, the
court must view the evidence in light most favorable to the
non-moving party and draw all justifiable inferences in its
favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 255 (1986).
main argument in his § 2255 Motion is that he should
have been found not guilty of conspiracy and his sentence
should be vacated because his counsel was ineffective. (ECF
No. 1576.) Petitioner argues his counsel failed to: (1) file
a motion to suppress evidence; (2) agree to a plea deal
offered by prosecution and instead recommended the case be
brought to trial; (3) review discovery with him; and (4)
argue his minimal participation in the conspiracy.
Id. However, Petitioner has not provided the court
with any evidence to support these arguments. In reviewing
the record, the court finds Petitioner's arguments are
inconsistent with the record.
Motion to Suppress Evidence
claims counsel failed to file a motion to suppress evidence.
“To establish a drug conspiracy under 21 U.S.C. §
846, the Government must prove that (1) defendant entered
into agreement with one or more persons to engage in conduct
that violated 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1); (2) defendant had
knowledge of that conspiracy; and (3) defendant knowingly and
voluntarily participated in the conspiracy.” U.S v.
Martinez, 657 Fed.Appx. 157, 158 (4th Cir. 2016)
(quoting U.S. v. Howard, 773 F.3d 519, 525 (4th Cir.
2014.)) “Given the ‘clandestine and covert'
nature of the conspiracies, the [G]overnment can prove the
existence of a conspiracy by circumstantial evidence
alone.” Id. (quoting U.S v. Burgos,
94 F.3d 849, 857 (4th Cir. 1996)). “Once the conspiracy
is proven, the evidence need only establish a slight
connection between [D]efendant and the conspiracy to support
his conviction.” Id. (quoting Burgos,
94 F.3d at 861). In applying these standards and reviewing
the evidence on the record, Petitioner himself recognizes his
participation in the conspiracy in his Motion conceding
“it is clear to [the] observed that Martinez was a
minor participant and was not a conspirator” (ECF No.
1576.) Additionally, evidence the Government presented at
trial including videotape of Petitioner counting proceeds
from drug sales with other co-conspirators, and a subsequent
arrest shortly thereafter in which Petitioner was carrying in
excess of $20, 000 in cash from those drug sales was more
than sufficient to show participation in the conspiracy. (ECF
No. 1580.) Therefore, this satisfies the standard of evidence
needing to only establish a slight connection between
Petitioner and the conspiracy to support his conviction.
“Neither the [G]overnment nor a defendant has any right
to expect that the disposition of a suppression motion should
be made on something other than the facts of a case. The
criminal justice system retains an interest in reliable
suppression hearings. That interest would be undercut if the
suppression of reliable evidence from suppression rulings
were henceforth to be the standard.” U.S. v.
Gray, 491 F.3d 138, 150 (4th Cir. 2007.)
“Suppression hearings, while properly observant of due
process, are not meant to replicate trials.”
Id. at 149.
Agreement to a Plea Deal Offered by Prosecution and