United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
JAMES C. CACHERIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
In October 2014, the Court found Petitioner Heydar Sadeghi violated the conditions of his probation by committing five new law violations and sentenced him to twelve months imprisonment followed by two years of supervised release. This matter now comes before the Court on Sadeghi’s Motion to Vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 due to ineffective assistance of counsel at his probation hearing. [Dkt. 95.] For the following reasons, the Court will deny the motion.
On October 2, 2014, the Court conducted a hearing to determine whether Petitioner Heydar Sadeghi (“Sadeghi”) violated the conditions of his probation. Sadeghi was alleged to have committed five new law violations while serving his five-year probation sentence for mail fraud, including (1) two counts of abduction by force or intimidation; (2) public record forgery; (3) unlawful sale of a motor vehicle; and (4) altering or forging a certificate, title, or registration document. Testimony and exhibits produced at the hearing depicted the following sequence of events.
Sadeghi sold a van to Adela Martinez de Perez (“Martinez”), who saw the car advertised in a gas station parking lot. When Martinez attempted to register the van at the DMV, a law enforcement officer told her the registration documents indicated the van was either fraudulently sold or stolen. Soon thereafter, Sadeghi went to Martinez’s house and attempted to buy the van back from her. When Martinez refused to sell the van, Sadeghi attempted to take the van’s registration documents from her. Martinez refused to give up the documents, but agreed to make copies for Sadeghi.
Martinez did not have a copier, so she and her boyfriend got into Sadeghi’s car so he could drive them all to Office Depot. While the group was away making copies, Martinez’s son called the police to report Sadeghi’s suspicious behavior. An officer arrived at Martinez’s house to investigate and was parked outside when Sadeghi was returning from Office Depot with Martinez and her boyfriend. When Sadeghi saw the police car, he quickly “took off” with Martinez and her boyfriend still in the car. While close to Martinez’s house, Sadeghi slowed his car and ordered the two others to get out. Martinez refused to exit the car and instead insisted that Sadeghi take her back to her house. Rather than take Martinez home, Sadeghi drove away at a high rate of speed, nearly causing at least two accidents as he went. Sadeghi slowed the car several more times and ordered Martinez and her boyfriend to get out, but Martinez continued to insist that Sadeghi return her to the house. Martinez’s son, who was on the phone with his mother during these events, overheard these interactions and his mother’s increasingly frantic tone. During one call, Martinez handed her phone to Sadeghi so Fairfax County Police Officer Hutchison (“Officer Hutchison”) could order Sadeghi to stop his flight and return to Martinez’s house. Sadeghi simply replied “no” and continued to drive two miles to the gas station where Martinez had previously seen her van advertised.
Unbeknownst to Sadeghi, Martinez’s son and Officer Hutchison were tracking Sadeghi’s car through an application in Martinez’s phone. When Officer Hutchison and the son arrived at the gas station, Officer Hutchison found Sadeghi in the bathroom. Sadeghi explained that he had drove to the gas station because he needed to use the restroom, but also said he needed medical attention because of testicular pain. Sadeghi was transported to a hospital and arrested after being discharged.
The Court heard several witnesses testify as to these events at the October 2, 2014 probation hearing. The Government presented three witnesses and several exhibits. First, a Special Agent with Virginia DMV Law Enforcement testified about the fraudulent nature of the vehicle documents, which he reviewed on the day Martinez attempted to register the van. Second, Officer Hutchison testified about his observations and interviews on the day of the arrest and about Sadeghi refusing an order to return the group to Martinez’s house. Lastly, Martinez’s son testified that his mother sounded frantic during their phone conversations and that he heard his mother tell Sadeghi several times to take her back to her house.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Kevin Brehm (“Brehm”) represented Sadeghi at the hearing and called several witnesses on behalf of the defense, including Martinez, Sadeghi, and a man who sold the van to Sadeghi. Martinez’s testimony was particularly relevant to the issue of whether Sadeghi committed abduction by force or intimidation when he drove away from Martinez’s house and to the gas station. In short, Martinez testified that Sadeghi slowed his car three-to-five times and told Martinez and her boyfriend to get out, but Sadeghi never completely stopped the car. (Tr. [Dkt. 89] at 55, 56, 59, 62, 63, 64, 65.) Martinez also testified that she refused to get out of the car because she wanted to be returned to her home, but that she never asked to be let out of the car. (Tr. at 59, 62, 63, 64, 65.)
After considering the evidence, testimony, and counsels’ arguments, the Court ruled from the bench that Sadeghi violated his probation by committing the five new law violations alleged, including two counts of abduction by force or intimidation. The Court sentenced Petitioner to twelve months imprisonment, followed by a two year term of supervised release with special conditions. (See Judgment [Dkt. 79].) The Fourth Circuit affirmed the Court’s ruling, finding sufficient evidence that Sadeghi abducted Martinez and her boyfriend through force or intimidation. See United States v. Sadeghi, 616 F. App’x 607, 610 (4th Cir. 2015).
On August 17, 2015, Sadeghi filed the present motion to vacate his sentence, claiming he received constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel at his probation hearing. (See Petition [Dkt. 95].) The entirety of Sadeghi’s statement of supporting facts reads as follows:
Counsel failed to properly investigate this case in order to prepare a proper defense. Counsel did not interview witnesses or the victim to gain a statement to prove innocence. Counsel failed to show that the victim refused to get out of the vehicle and was not restrained.
(Petition at 5.) The Government filed a written opposition. (See Gov’t Mem. in Opp’n [Dkt. 100].) As described below, this matter is ripe for ...