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United States v. Debord

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division

July 17, 2015


Jennifer R. Bockhorst, Assistant United States Attorney Abingdon, Virginia, for the United States.

John Paul Debord, Pro Se Defendant.


JAMES P. JONES, District Judge.

The defendant, John Paul Debord, proceeding pro se, filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Debord claims that counsel provided ineffective assistance and that his indictment was improperly vague. This matter is before me upon the United States' Motion to Dismiss. The time allotted for Debord's response has expired, making the matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, I grant the United States' motion and dismiss the Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence.


On September 25, 2012, Debord was charged with two counts of a nine-count Indictment as follows: (1) Count One: conspiracy to manufacture 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(B); and (2) Count Five: possession of pseudoephedrine, a listed chemical, with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(c)(1)-(2).

On December 27, 2012, a Plea Agreement was filed with the court pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which was fully endorsed by Debord, his counsel, and the Special Assistant United States Attorney. The Plea Agreement stipulated to a three-point enhancement pursuant to United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual ("USSG") § 2D1.1(b)(13)(C)(ii). This enhancement applies when an offense involves the manufacture of methamphetamine and creates a substantial risk of harm to human life or the environment. The Plea Agreement also included a three-point reduction to the offense level for a mitigating role in the offense, resulting in a base offense level of 28. (Plea Agree. 3, ECF No. 67.) Debord agreed to waive his right to appeal and collaterally attack the judgment, with the exception that he preserved his right to file a collateral attack based on ineffective assistance of counsel. (Id. 8.)

On January 3, 2013, Debord pleaded guilty to Count One of the Indictment. At the guilty plea hearing, Debord affirmed he had an adequate opportunity to read and discuss the Plea Agreement with counsel, and that no one had forced him or made any promises to cause him to plead guilty. (Plea Hr'g Tr. 11-15, ECF No. 134.) Debord further affirmed he was "fully satisfied with [his] lawyer's representation." (Id. 12.) The United States summarized the provision of the Plea Agreement that set forth the guideline stipulations to the drug weight, the enhancement "added for endangerment, " and the reduction for a mitigating role in the offense. (Id. 13.) Debord affirmed that he understood "those terms [were] included in [his] plea agreement." (Id. 13-14.) I asked, "Do you understand that under the plea agreement you waive or give up your right to collaterally attack your sentence, which means in the future you could not try to have your sentence or conviction set aside." (Id. 14). Debord responded, "Yes." (Id.) Finally, Debord affirmed that he was pleading guilty "because [he was], in fact, guilty." (Id. 23.) I found that Debord was "fully competent and capable of entering" an informed plea and that his plea of guilty was knowing and voluntary. (Id. 27.)

At the sentencing hearing, I overruled Debord's objections to the guideline range calculations in the Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR").[1] (Sentencing Mins. 1, ECF No. 121.) The PSR proposed a total offense level of 25 and a criminal history category of III.[2] The advisory guideline range for imprisonment was 70 to 87 months, with a minimum term of imprisonment for Count One of 60 months. During the sentencing hearing, I granted Debord's Motion for Departure and/or Variant Sentence asking for a sentence of 60-months imprisonment, and I sentenced Debord to 60-months imprisonment.

In this § 2255 motion, Debord alleges that the Indictment was unconstitutionally vague because it failed to specify the type of methamphetamine he "alleg[ed]ly conspired to manufacture, i.e., L-meth[amphetamine], or D-methamphetamine." (Mot. to Vacate 24, ECF No. 127.) Debord also alleges that counsel provided ineffective assistance related to Debord's stipulation in the Plea Agreement to a three-point enhancement for creating a serious risk of harm to human life or the environment under USSG § 2D1.1(b)(13)(C)(ii). I find that Debord's Motion to Vacate fails and will be dismissed.


It is settled circuit law that a "criminal defendant may waive his right to attack his conviction and sentence collaterally, so long as the waiver is knowing and voluntary." United States v. Lemaster, 403 F.3d 216, 220 (4th Cir. 2005). Whether a waiver is knowing and voluntary requires evaluation of the "adequacy of the plea colloquy, " with "reference to the totality of the circumstances." United States v. Copeland, 707 F.3d 522, 528 (4th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Generally, if a district court questions a defendant regarding the waiver of appellate rights during the Rule 11 colloquy and the record indicates that the defendant understood the full significance of the waiver, the waiver is valid." Id. (quoting United States v. Thornsbury, 670 F.3d 532, 537 (4th Cir. 2012)).

The record establishes that Debord entered a knowing and voluntary guilty plea, and he affirmed his understanding that he was waiving his right to collaterally attack the judgment and sentence. (Plea Hr'g Tr. 14, ECF No. 134.) Debord's claim that his Indictment was unconstitutionally vague falls within the scope of the collateral ...

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