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United States v. Hill

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

July 15, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
KSHAWN MALIK HILL, Petitioner.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (DENYING 28 U.S.C. § 2255 MOTION)

          HENRY E. HUDSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Kshawn Malik Hill, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, submitted this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion, " ECF No. 81).[1] Hill contends that he experienced ineffective assistance of counsel[2] in conjunction with his guilty plea. Specifically, Hill demands relief because:

Claim One: "Trial counsel (Gregory R. Sheldon) failed to request a competency hearing despite the extreme difficulty exhibited by Hill in understanding the nature of the charges during review of the Government's plea offer. Had Mr. Sheldon requested a competency hearing, he would have learned that Hill suffered from 'attention deficit hyperactivity disorder' and that the condition (coupled with years of drug abuse) affected his ability to enter a knowing and voluntary plea." (§2255 Mot. 4.)

         Hill has also filed a Motion to Amend 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 15 ("Motion to Amend, " ECF No. 85) to "expound[] upon the facts which support the ineffective assistance of counsel claim." (Id. at 5.) Because the argument Hill provides relates back to Claim One, the Court will grant Hill's Motion to Amend (ECF No. 85). The Government has responded, asserting that Hill's claim lacks merit. (ECF No. 94.) Hill has filed a Reply. (ECF No. 96.) Hill has also filed a Motion to Supplement 28 U.S.C. § [2255] Motion Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 15 ("Motion to Supplement, " ECF No. Ill), which the Court addresses infra in Part III. For the reasons set forth below, Hill's § 2255 Motion (ECF No. 81) will be denied.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On February 22, 2011, a grand jury charged Hill with three counts of robbery affecting commerce (Counts One, Five, and Seven); six counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (Counts Two, Four, Six, Eight, Ten, and Twelve); one count of carjacking (Count Three); and two counts of attempted robbery affecting commerce (Counts Nine and Eleven). (Indictment 1-8, ECF No. 21.) On March 22, 2011, Hill entered into a Plea Agreement in which he agreed to plead guilty to Counts Three, Four, and Six of the Indictment. (Plea Agreement ¶ 1, ECF No. 28.)

         On June 20, 2011, the Court entered judgment against Hill and sentenced him to a total of 520 months of imprisonment. (J. 2, ECF No. 44.) Specifically, the Court sentenced Hill to 100 months on Count Three, 120 months on Count Four, and 300 months on Count Six, all to be served consecutively. (Id.)

         Hill, through counsel, filed a Notice of Appeal on July 1, 2011. (ECF No. 53.) Counsel filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), "certifying that there are no meritorious issues for appeal but questioning whether Hill's guilty plea was knowing and voluntary and whether counsel was ineffective in advising Hill to plead guilty." United States v. Hill, 468 F.App'x 256, 257 (4th Cir. 2012). The Government filed a motion to dismiss Hill's appeal based upon the waiver of appellate rights contained in his Plea Agreement. Id. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granted the Government's motion to dismiss the appeal of any issues covered by Hill's waiver, but denied it as to Hill's claim that counsel's ineffectiveness rendered his plea involuntarily entered. Id. at 257-58. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the judgment "as to the ineffective assistance claim because ineffective assistance d[id] not conclusively appear on the record." Id. at 258. On October 1, 2012, the United States Supreme Court denied Hill's petition for a writ of certiorari. Hill v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 226 (2012).

         II. INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL

         To demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel, a convicted defendant must show first, that counsel's representation was deficient and second, that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). To satisfy the deficient performance prong of Strickland, the convicted defendant must overcome the "'strong presumption' that counsel's strategy and tactics fall 'within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.'" Burch v. Corcoran, 273 F.3d 577, 588 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689). The prejudice component requires a convicted defendant to "show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.

         A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. In analyzing ineffective assistance of counsel claims, it is not necessary to determine whether counsel performed deficiently if the claim is readily dismissed for lack of prejudice. Id. at 697.

         In the context of a guilty plea, the Supreme Court has modified this second prong of Strickland lo require the convicted defendant to "show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial." Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985). Of course, in conducting the foregoing inquiry, the representations of the convicted defendant, his lawyer, and the prosecutor during the plea proceedings, "as well as any findings made by the judge accepting the plea, constitute a formidable barrier in any subsequent collateral proceedings." Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 73-74 (1977). In light of the strong presumption of verily that attaches to a petitioner's declarations during his plea proceedings, "in the absence of extraordinary circumstances, allegations in a § 2255 motion that directly contradict the petitioner's sworn statements made during a properly conducted Rule 11 colloquy are always 'palpably incredible' and 'patently frivolous or false.'" United States v. Lemaster, 403 F.3d 216, 221 (4th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). Thus, the Fourth Circuit has admonished that "in the absence of extraordinary circumstances, the truth of sworn statements made during a Rule 11 colloquy is conclusively established, and a district court should, without holding an evidentiary hearing, dismiss any § 2255 motion that necessarily relies on allegations that contradict the sworn statements." Id. at 221-22. No circumstances exist here that would lead the Court to consider Hill's prior sworn statements as other than truthful.

         Hill's sole claim in his § 2255 Motion is that trial counsel was ineffective for "fail[ing] to request a competency hearing despite the extreme difficulty exhibited by Hill in understanding the nature of the charges during review of the Government's plea offer." (§ 2255 Mot. 4.) According to Hill, "[ha]d Mr. Sheldon requested a competency hearing, he would have learned that Hill suffered from 'attention deficit hyperactivity disorder' and that the condition (coupled with years of drug abuse) affected his ability to enter a knowing and voluntary plea." (Id.)

         In support of his claim, Hill has attached a sworn declaration to his Motion to Amend ("Hill Decl., " ECF No. 85-1). In that document, Hill states that when he was 13 years old, he declined further treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD") because "[he] did not like the way that the medication made [him] feel." (Id. ¶ 4.) He further indicates that he was addicted to Percocet and ...


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