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United States v. Vaughn

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

November 7, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
TARIQ A. VAUGHN, Petitioner.

MEMORANDUM OPINION (Denying 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion)

HENRY E. HUDSON, District Judge.

Tariq Vaughn, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("§ 2255 Motion, " ECF No. 67) to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. The United States has responded. (ECF No. 75) The matter is now ripe for disposition.

In his § 2255 Motion, Vaughn demands relief upon the following grounds:

Claim One The statutory basis for Vaughn's conviction, 21 U.S.C. § 841, is an unconstitutional exercise of Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce. (§ 2255 Mot. 4.)
Claim Two There is no federal "nexus, " and 21 U.S.C. § 841 criminalizes drug distribution, not use. (Id. at 5)
Claim Three Vaughn did not knowingly and voluntarily enter his guilty plea because, at the time he entered his guilty plea, he was not taking medication for his "impulse control problem." (Id. at 6 (internal quotation marks omitted).)
Claim Four Vaughn's counsel (both his initial counsel, Mary Maguire, and laterappointed counsel, Charles Lewis) provided ineffective assistance because:
(a) Maguire failed to alert the Court to Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009), which was then pending in the Supreme Court. (Id. at 7.)
(b) Maguire induced Vaughn's guilty plea by erroneously advising him that drug use qualifies as distribution. ( Id. )
(c) Maguire failed to investigate Vaughn's mental health and treatment history, and therefore he entered into an invalid plea because his impulse control problem was not adequately medicated. ( Id. )
(d) Lewis failed to investigate Maguire's deficient performance, and therefore failed to raise issues Four (b) and Four (c) at the plea withdrawal hearing. ( Id. )
(e) Lewis failed to object to the Government's "breach" of the plea agreement when it failed to agree to a reduction for acceptance of responsibility. ( Id. )
(f) Lewis failed to object to the Court's decision to not apply a reduction for acceptance of responsibility. ( Id. )
(g) Lewis failed to raise a due process objection to the Court's requirement that Vaughn wear restraint apparatus during his sentencing. (Id. at 7a.)
(h) Lewis failed to seek disqualification of the Judge based on the existence of "at least an appearance of bias." (Id. (emphasis omitted).)
(i) Lewis failed to object to the Court's consideration of Vaughn's violent and disruptive behavior while incarcerated in state prison when determining his sentence. ( Id. )
(j) Lewis failed to object to a sentence that "exceeds the maximum authorized by law." ( Id. )

For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that Williams's claims are defaulted and lack merit.

I. Procedural History

On November 5, 2008, a grand jury indicted Vaughn for one count of possession of more than five grams of cocaine base with intent to distribute. (Indictment at 1.) At Vaughn's arraignment, he pled not guilty, and the Court scheduled a jury trial for Monday, January 26, 2009. On January 23, 2009, Vaughn waived indictment and agreed to plead guilty to a criminal information filed the same day. (Plea Agreement ¶ 1.) The criminal information removed the quantity of drugs (see Crim. Inf. 1, ECF No. 20), permitting Vaughn to plead guilty to a lesser charge of possession with intent to distribute, with no amount of cocaine base specified. (Compare Indictment 1, with Plea Agreement 1; Jan. 23, 2009 Tr. 9-10.) The Court conducted a plea colloquy pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and accepted the plea. (Jan. 23, 2009 Tr. 22.)

On March 9, 2009, Vaughn's counsel, Mary Maguire, filed a motion to withdraw (ECF No. 28, at 1) and a motion to appoint new counsel (ECF No. 29, at 1). The Court granted these motions on March 20, 2009 (ECF No. 30, at 1), and appointed Charles Lewis as Vaughn's new counsel (ECF No. 31, at 1). On April 7, 2009, Vaughn filed a motion to represent himself pro se. (ECF No. 34, at 1.) On May 1, 2009, Vaughn filed motions for a mental health evaluation (ECF No. 37, at 1) and to withdraw his guilty plea (ECF No. 36, at 1). On May 8, 2009, the Court heard argument on Vaughn's motions, and denied the motions to withdraw his guilty plea and for a mental health evaluation. (May 8, 2009 Tr. 22, 25.) In response to the motion to proceed pro se, the Court, with consent of both Vaughn and his counsel, approved a "hybrid" representation where Vaughn could speak for himself in court, but maintained the aid and assistance of his appointed counsel. (May 8, 2009 Tr. 25-26.)

Prior to sentencing, a probation officer prepared a Presentence Report ("PSR"). Under United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual ("USSG") § 2D1.1(c)(8) (2008), Vaughn's offense level was 24, because his offense involved at least five grams but less than 20 grams of cocaine base. Based upon Vaughn's criminal history, the Probation Officer determined that Vaughn was career offender under USSG § 4B 1.1, elevating his offense level to 32. (PSR ¶ 44, Worksheet D, at 1.) As Vaughn moved to withdraw his guilty plea, he was not eligible for any reduction for acceptance of responsibility. (Id. ¶ 16.) With a criminal history category of VI, his guideline range was 210 to 262 ...


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