Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Crawford

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

June 28, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MARICEO ANTHONY CRAWFORD, Petitioner.

          2255 MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORMAN K. MOON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Mariceo Anthony Crawford, a federal inmate, filed this motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, challenging his 156-month sentence based on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim following a guilty plea. The court appointed the Federal Public Defender's Office to represent Crawford related to any claims that he might have in light of United States v. Johnson, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). The Public Defender's Office declined to file a supplemental motion. The government filed a motion to dismiss and Crawford responded. Accordingly, this matter is ripe for consideration. I conclude that Crawford's ineffective assistance of counsel claim fails to meet the exacting standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 669 (1984). Therefore, I will grant the government's motion to dismiss.

         I.

         On May 28, 2014, a grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Crawford charging him with: knowingly and intentionally distributing 28 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) ("Count One"); knowingly and intentionally distributing a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine hydrochloride, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) ("Counts Two and Three"); and knowingly and intentionally distributing a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(D) ("Counts Four, Five and Six"). On April 30, 2014, the government filed an information pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, giving Crawford notice that he was subject to enhanced penalties based on a 2003 state felony conviction for manufacture, sale or distribution of a schedule I or II controlled substance. (§ 851 Notice, ECF No. 41.)

         Crawford pleaded guilty to Count One, pursuant to a written plea agreement. The government agreed to dismiss the remaining counts of the indictment. The plea was entered pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), and called for an agreed sentence of 156 months' incarceration. At the guilty plea hearing, Crawford affirmed that he had had ample time to consult with counsel before signing the plea agreement. (Plea Hr'g Tr. 3, ECF No. 43.) Crawford further affirmed that he was "fully satisfied with the counsel, representation and advice given" to him by his lawyer. (Id. at 4.) The prosecutor summarized the terms of the plea agreement. (Id. at 5-9.) The prosecutor noted that a conviction for distributing 28 grams or more of cocaine base generally resulted in a punishment range of five to forty years' incarceration. However, because the government had filed a career offender enhancement, the statutory penalty increased to ten years to life. (Id. 6.) Crawford affirmed that he understood the range of punishment provided by law. (Id. at 7.) Further, Crawford affirmed his understanding that by pleading guilty, he gave up his right to appeal and to collaterally attack his sentence except for matters that cannot be waived by law or that allege ineffective assistance of counsel. (Id. at 13.)

         The prosecutor summarized the evidence against Crawford: on July 24, 2012, police videotaped a confidential informant purchasing two ounces of crack cocaine from Crawford for $1, 800. (Id. at 15.) The police had previously made five additional undercover purchases of drugs from Crawford. (Id.) I found that Crawford was fully competent and capable of entering an informed plea and that his guilty plea was knowingly and voluntarily made. (Id. at 16.)

         The probation office prepared a Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR") in anticipation of sentencing. The PSR recommended a total offense level of 34 because Crawford qualified as a career offender under USSG § 4B1.1. (PSR ¶ 20, ECF No. 51.) Without the career offender designation, Crawford's base offense level would have been 23, taking into consideration a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility. (Id. ¶ 19.) The PSR reflected two prior felony convictions to support the career offender enhancement: (1) an October 8, 2003 state court conviction for two counts of distribution of cocaine, resulting in a twenty-two year sentence with nineteen years suspended; and (2) a December 5, 2003 state court conviction for distribution of cocaine, resulting in a twenty year sentence with eighteen years suspended. (Id. at ¶¶ 26, 27.) Crawford's criminal history category was VI because of his career offender status, resulting in a guideline imprisonment range of 262 to 327 months' incarceration and he faced a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of ten years' to life imprisonment. (Id. at ¶¶ 54, 55.) Without the career offender status, his advisory guidelines range would have been 70 to 87 months' incarceration.

         At the sentencing hearing, Crawford stated that he had had an opportunity to review the PSR and he did not have any issues to dispute. (Sent. Hr'g Tr. 3, ECF No. 72.) Counsel did not object to Crawford's career offender designation because he concluded that Crawford's two prior convictions for a controlled substance offense technically satisfied the statute's requirements. However, counsel noted that Crawford had only two prior convictions and those convictions were related, which made the issue of whether Crawford should be classified as a career offender a close one: Crawford was arrested on March 6, 2003 for drug distribution, and at that time was found to have additional drugs in his possession, which resulted in an additional charge in a separate indictment. (Id. at 5.) I sentenced Crawford to the agreed-upon sentence of 156 months' incarceration. (Id. at 12.) He did not appeal. In his § 2255 motion, Crawford alleges that counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing: (1) to object to the use of a prior drug conviction to enhance his sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 851 and (2) to challenge the computation of his criminal history points and his status as a career offender.

         II.

         To state a viable claim for relief under § 2255, a petitioner must prove: (1) that his sentence was "imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States;" (2) that "the court was without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence;" or (3) that "the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Crawford bears the burden of proving grounds for a collateral attack by a preponderance of the evidence. Jacobs v. United States, 350 F.2d 571, 574 (4th Cir. 1965).

         III.

         The proper vehicle for a defendant to raise an ineffective assistance of counsel claim is by filing a § 2255 motion. United States v. Baptiste, 596 F.3d 214, 216 n.1 (4th Cir. 2010). However, ineffective assistance claims are not lightly granted; "[t]he benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the [proceeding] cannot be relied on as having produced a just result." Id. at 686. Accordingly, in order to establish a viable claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must satisfy a two-prong analysis showing both that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and establishing prejudice due to counsel's alleged deficient performance. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. When considering the reasonableness prong of Strickland, courts apply a "strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Id. at 689; Gray v. Branker, 529 F.3d 220, 228-29 (4th Cir. 2008). Counsel's performance is judged "on the facts of the particular case, " and assessed "from counsel's perspective at the time." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 690.

         To satisfy the prejudice prong of Stickland, a defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional error, the outcome of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 694. A defendant who has pleaded guilty must demonstrate that, but for counsel's alleged error, there is a reasonable probability that he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial. Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985). "A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694.

         A. Failure to Object to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.