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Martinez v. United States

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

June 18, 2018

Jesus Buruca Martinez, Petitioner,
United States of America, Respondent.


         This 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.

         After 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).


         On 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.

         On 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.)

         On 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 No. 1609.)


         A 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).

         The 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).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Petitioner's 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.

         A. Motion to Suppress Evidence

         Petitioner 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.

         B. Agreement to a Plea Deal Offered by Prosecution and ...

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