United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division
OPINION AND ORDER
MARK S. DAVIS, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on petitioner Angelo Galloway's ("Petitioner") Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Petitioner's § 2255 motion alleges violations of his constitutional rights associated with his counsel's performance, the government's actions, and the sentence imposed by the Court. In addition to such motion, Petitioner has filed countless letters and motions seeking various relief, many of which seek an order granting Petitioner "immediate release." After reviewing the briefs and case file, the Court finds that an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary because the record conclusively demonstrates that Petitioner is not entitled to relief. See R. Governing § 2255 Proceedings in U.S. Dist. Cts. 8(a). For the reasons discussed below, Petitioner's 2255 motion is DISMISSED and DENIED.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A. Criminal Charges and Appointment of Counsel
Petitioner was first charged in this case by "criminal information" and, as communicated to the Court, had initially decided to waive indictment and enter a plea of guilty. On June 7, 2010, Petitioner appeared before the Court, with appointed counsel, for a guilty plea hearing. However, at such hearing, Petitioner decided not to enter a plea of guilty - a decision he had every right to make. Two days later, at the request of the parties, the Court conducted a second guilty plea hearing. At such hearing, Petitioner again opted not to enter a plea of guilty, and instead requested that new counsel be appointed to represent him in his criminal case. Although the facts supporting such request suggested that Petitioner's true motivation was to obtain a "second opinion" from a different lawyer, the Court gave Petitioner the benefit of the doubt, and out of an abundance of caution, granted Petitioner's request for the appointment of new counsel. New counsel was therefore appointed.
In light of Petitioner's decision to reverse course at both of the previously scheduled guilty plea hearings, the government pursued an indictment against Petitioner. On June 10, 2010, the grand jury returned a multi-count indictment charging Petitioner with more than twenty drug trafficking counts and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. ECF No. 18.
B. Guilty Plea, Sentencing and Appeal
On July 22, 2010, Petitioner appeared before the Court, with his newly appointed attorney, and at the conclusion of a detailed Rule 11 plea hearing, entered a plea of guilty to one count of the indictment. Based on the detailed colloquy and Petitioner's admission of guilt, the Court found Petitioner guilty of Count One: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five (5) kilograms or more of cocaine and fifty (50) grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A). The punishment for such offense was a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of ten (10) years, and a maximum term of life imprisonment. In entering a plea of guilty to Count One, Petitioner avoided the possibility of a conviction on the firearm count, which carried with it a mandatory minimum term of five (5) years imprisonment, and a maximum of life, to be served consecutively to any sentence imposed on the drug trafficking count(s).
Approximately two weeks after Petitioner entered his plea of guilty to Count One of the indictment, Petitioner filed a letter-motion, without the assistance of his attorney, and indicated therein that his plea of guilty was not made voluntarily, and that his current counsel had provided ineffective assistance. ECF No. 30. The Court construed such filing, and two associated letters, ECF Nos. 36, 37, as a motion to withdraw the plea of guilty and a motion for the appointment of new counsel.
On August 24, 2010, the Court conducted a hearing on the pending motions, and after appropriate inquiry, denied Petitioner's motion seeking the appointment of new counsel. At the same hearing, Petitioner orally withdrew his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, and the case was continued for sentencing. However, prior to sentencing, Petitioner again filed several pro se motions and letters in which he renewed his request that he be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea. Accordingly, on March 15, 2011, the Court conducted another detailed hearing addressing the numerous pending filings that had been submitted by Petitioner. At the conclusion of such hearing, the Court denied all of Petitioner's pending pro se motions.
After the March hearing, but prior to sentencing, Petitioner filed yet another motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea. ECF No. 69. On April 12, 2011, such repetitive motion was denied by the Court through a docket order. ECF No. 71.
On May 23, 2011, Petitioner appeared before the Court, with counsel, for sentencing. However, as a result of new evidence presented by the government at the sentencing hearing, the Court granted defense counsel's unopposed oral motion for a continuance of the sentencing hearing.
On June 14, 2011, the sentencing hearing was resumed. At the outset of such hearing, Petitioner's advisory Guideline range was calculated to be 262-327 months imprisonment. After ruling on defense counsel's remaining objections to the Guideline calculation, the Court reduced the advisory Guideline range to 235-293 months. Notably, notwithstanding Petitioner's numerous motions and letters challenging his guilt and his guilty plea, conduct that plainly could have been considered "inconsistent" with acceptance of responsibility, Petitioner's Guideline calculation included a 2-level credit for acceptance of responsibility. U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(a). At the conclusion of the hearing, Petitioner was sentenced to 240 months imprisonment, a sentence that fell near the low-end of the downwardly adjusted advisory Guideline range, but that the Court determined was sufficient - though not greater than necessary - to accomplish the purposes of the statutory sentencing factors.
On June 15, 2011, Petitioner timely filed his notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Such appeal argued that this Court erred by denying Petitioner's motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which had been predicated on defense counsel's purported conflict of interest. On April 17, 2012, the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion that addressed the merits of Petitioner's appeal and affirmed this Court's ruling denying Petitioner's motion to withdraw his plea based on his counsel's purported conflict of interest. United States v. Galloway, 471 F.Appx. 139 (4th Cir. 2012).
C. 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion
On August 17, 2011, just two months after Petitioner was sentenced by this Court, and while his direct appeal was still in its infancy, Petitioner filed his habeas motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 104. Such filing was submitted almost a year early because Petitioner's conviction and sentence was not final until: (1) the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled on Petitioner's direct appeal; and (2) Petitioner's time expired for filing a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. This Court however, opted not to dismiss such motion as a premature filing because Petitioner opposed its dismissal. ECF No. 106, 107.
After Petitioner's conviction and sentence became final in the summer of 2012, Petitioner submitted a filing to this Court requesting that his previously filed § 2255 motion "be acted upon." ECF No. 171. Because Petitioner did not seek to add any additional claims after his conviction became final, but instead expressly requested that his previously filed and clearly delineated § 2255 motion be ruled upon, the Court construed the previously filed motion (ECF No. 104) to be Petitioner's operative § 2255 motion. As a result, on November 1, 2012, this Court ordered the government to file a responsive brief to Petitioner's § 2255 motion. ECF No. 177. The government timely filed its response, ECF No. 180, and Petitioner thereafter filed a reply brief, ECF No. 181. Accordingly, Petitioner's § 2255 motion is fully briefed and ripe for review.
D. Additional Motions and Letters
Subsequent to the July 2010 hearing at which Petitioner entered his plea of guilty to Count One of the indictment, the Court received more than forty motions or "letter motions" from Petitioner, including repeated motions seeking to withdraw Petitioner's guilty plea, seeking bond, seeking to dismiss all criminal charges, and/or seeking immediate release. Prior to ruling on the instant § 2255 motion, this Court has ruled on the majority of Petitioner's outstanding motions. In addition to such motions, the Court has received approximately forty letters from Petitioner, despite the fact that the Court has informed Petitioner that he should not communicate with the Court via letter. The Court notes that its ruling herein is not in any way influenced by Petitioner's practice of repeatedly filing motions and letters that frequently requested the exact same relief as prior motions that had already been denied. However, the factual and procedural history of this matter is just that, an objective history of what transpired in this case, and it is necessary to at least briefly reference all relevant filings in order to provide a complete background of this case.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A federal prisoner, in custody, may collaterally attack his sentence or conviction by moving the district court "to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). To obtain such relief, a petitioner bears the burden of proving that his sentence or conviction was "imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, " that the district court "was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, " that the sentence exceeds "the maximum authorized by law, " or that the sentence or conviction is "otherwise subject to collateral attack." Id . A petitioner must prove the asserted grounds for relief by a preponderance of the evidence. Miller v. United States , 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958). Because a § 2255 motion "is ordinarily presented to the judge who presided at the original conviction and sentencing... the judge's recollection of the events at issue may enable him summarily to dismiss a § 2255 motion." Blackledge v. Allison , 431 U.S. 63, 74 n.4 (1977).
A § 2255 motion is, in essence, a statutory federal habeas corpus action that collaterally attacks a sentence or conviction through the filing of a new proceeding, as contrasted with a direct appeal. See In re Jones , 226 F.3d 328, 332-33 (4th Cir. 2000) ("[Section] 2255 was intended to afford federal prisoners a remedy identical in scope to federal habeas corpus.'" (quoting Davis v. United States , 417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974))). The existence of the right to pursue a collateral attack does not displace a direct appeal as the "usual and customary method of correcting trial errors." United States v. Allgood , 48 F.Supp.2d 554, 558 (E.D. Va. 1999). On the contrary, with limited exceptions, a petitioner advancing new claims asserted for the first time in a § 2255 motion "must clear a ...