United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
JAMES C. CACHERIS, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Erasmo Alvarado-Ibarra's ("Alvarado-Ibarra" or "Petitioner") Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (the "Motion"). [Dkt. 456.] For the following reasons, the Court will deny Petitioner's Motion.
A. Factual Background
In June 2010, during an undercover operation, law enforcement officers learned that Petitioner's co-defendant Gregorio Delgado-Salinas was the head of a drug distribution ring operating in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. (Aff. in Supp. of Compl. [Dkt. 3] ¶ 7.) Subsequent investigation revealed that Delgado-Salinas used internal body couriers to smuggle cocaine from Mexico, which he would then distribute to customers throughout northern Virginia. On or about November 2010, Petitioner began working with Delgado-Salinas and distributing drugs as a part of his network. (Gov't Resp. [Dkt. 467] at 2.) Beginning in April 2011, Petitioner and two other individuals began distributing drugs received via internal body couriers, as well as stashes driven across the border, in their own criminal enterprise. (Aff. in Supp. of Compl. ¶¶ 29, 30; Gov't Resp. at 2.)
B. Procedural Background
On August 8, 2011, an arrest warrant was filed against Petitioner. [Dkt. 6.] On August 11, 2011, the Court appointed Kimberly Jo Phillips ("Phillips") as CJA counsel for Petitioner. [Dkt. 30.] On October 5, 2011, the Government filed a Superseding Indictment. [Dkt. 58.] On November 2, 2011, Petitioner filed a pro se letter motion in reference to ineffective assistance of counsel. [Dkt. 127.] Phillips filed a response on November 4, 2011. [Dkt. 128.] On November 17, 2011, the Court denied Petitioner's letter motion. [Dkt. 156.]
On November 16, 2011, Petitioner again filed a letter motion for new counsel, asserting that he was receiving ineffective assistance. [Dkt. 155.] On December 9, 2011, the Court denied Petitioner's motion. [Dkt. 182.] On January 4, 2012, Petitioner filed a motion to represent himself pro se. [Dkt. 218.] On January 17, 2012, the Court granted Petitioner's motion to represent himself pro se. [Dkt. 222.] On February 7, 2012, Petitioner moved to withdraw his motion to represent himself, and requested that Phillips represent him. [Dkt. 261.] The Court granted Petitioner's motion, and reinstated Phillips as counsel. [Dkt. 261.]
Following a jury trial on February 8 and 9, 2012, Petitioner was convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841, 846. [Dkt. 272.] The Court sentenced petitioner to 120 months' imprisonment. [Dkts. 379-380.] On October 30, 2013, Petitioner timely filed this action to vacate his sentence. [Dkt. 456.] On November 6, 2013, the Court ordered the Government to file an answer to the petition within twenty-three days. [Dkt. 459.] On November 27, 2013, the Government filed a motion to extend the time to file an answer. [Dkt. 464.] The Court granted this motion the same day and ordered the Government to file an answer by December 27, 2013. [Dkt. 465.] On December 27, 2013, the Government filed its response. [Dkt. 467.]
Petitioner's Motion is now before the Court.
II. Standard of Review
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a prisoner in federal custody may attack his sentence on four grounds: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose the sentence; (3) the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. See Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 426-27 (1962). To prevail on a § 2255 Motion, the petitioner bears the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958).
Petitioner raises three arguments in his § 2255 Petition: (1) "ineffective assistance of counsel for not objecting" to a consolidated trial and consolidated appeal; (2) insufficient evidence; (3) ineffective assistance of counsel. (§ 2255 Petition "Pet." at 5.) The Court will first address Petitioner's claim that his conviction was not ...