United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
C. CACHERIS JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Petitioner Justin Deonta
Strom's (“Petitioner” or “Strom”)
Motion under Rule 60(b) to Vacate or Set Aside Criminal
Judgment and Motion for an Evidentiary Hearing. [Dkt. 223.]
This Court will also consider Petitioner's recent Rule 50
and Rule 36 Motions. For the reasons set forth below, the
Court will deny Petitioner's motions.
April of 2012, a federal grand jury returned a ten-count
indictment charging Petitioner with sex trafficking of a
minor and several related offenses. (Indictment [Dkt. 47] at
1-2.) These charges stemmed from Petitioner's involvement
in a prostitution ring that recruited minor women to engage
in commercial sex acts. (Id. at 2.) On June 26,
2012, pursuant to a written plea agreement, Petitioner pled
guilty to one count of sex trafficking of a child. (Plea
Agreement [Dkt. 67] at 1.) On September 14, 2012, the Court
conducted a sentencing hearing, and sentenced Petitioner to
480 months imprisonment. (Sentencing Mins. [Dkt. 77] at 1.)
Petitioner did not appeal.
24, 2014, after full briefing and an evidentiary hearing, the
Court granted in part Petitioner's first Motion to Vacate
under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Mem. Op. [Dkt. 150]; Order
[Dkt. 151].) The Court found that Petitioner had instructed
his trial attorney to file a direct appeal, but the trial
attorney failed to take any action, which constituted per
se ineffective assistance of counsel. (Id.) The
Court did not consider any of Petitioner's remaining
claims, as he had failed to raise them on direct appeal.
(Id.) On July 29, 2014, the Court re-sentenced
Petitioner to 480 months imprisonment. (Judgment [Dkt. 152].)
One day later, on July 30, 2014, Petitioner, by counsel,
noticed his direct appeal. (Notice of Appeal [Dkt.
154].) In his direct appeal to the Fourth
Circuit, Petitioner challenged the validity of his guilty
March 5, 2015, the Fourth Circuit affirmed Petitioner's
conviction and sentence, finding that Petitioner failed to
“establish that his plea was unknowing or involuntary,
” that the Court properly advised him of the nature of
the charges and the associated penalties, and that the Court
properly informed Petitioner of the procedures that would be
employed to determine his sentence. (Unpublished Op. [Dkt.
188]; Judgment [Dkt. 189]; Mandate [Dkt. 192].) The Fourth
Circuit declined to address Petitioner's ineffective
assistance of counsel claims, as those issues are more
properly raised in a Section 2255 motion. (Id.)
then filed a pro se motion to re-file an arrest of
judgment motion. [Dkt. 193.] The Court dismissed this motion
without prejudice, and directed Petitioner to file a motion
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Dkt. 194.] On May 14,
2015, Petitioner filed a pro se motion pursuant to
Section 2255 [Dkt. 195], and subsequently requested that the
Court appoint counsel. [Dkt. 203.] Petitioner also filed a
motion for an evidentiary hearing on June 22, 2015. [Dkt.
205.] The Court appointed counsel [Dkts. 206, 210], and
through counsel, Petitioner filed an amended motion under
Section 2255 on July 31, 2015. [Dkt. 211.]
claims included ineffective assistance of counsel as well as
other, unrelated claims. (Pet'r's Mem. [Dkt. 212.] at
10.) Because Petitioner did not raise the claims that were
unrelated to ineffective assistance of counsel on direct
appeal, the Court held that those claims were procedurally
barred. [Dkt. 216.] In addition, the Court denied
Petitioner's request for an evidentiary hearing, [Dkt.
216.], and held that there is no evidence that he received
ineffective assistance of counsel before entering a guilty
plea. [Id.] The Court also denied a certificate of
appealability. [Id.] Petitioner, through counsel,
filed a notice of appeal to the Fourth Circuit on September
9, 2015. [Dkt. 219.] The appeal was later dismissed. [Dkt.
waiting to hear from the Fourth Circuit, Petitioner filed
pro se a Rule 60(b) Motion and requested another
evidentiary hearing on October 15, 2015. [Dkt. 223.]
Petitioner then filed pro se a Motion for Judgment
as a Matter of Law on September 16, 2016. [Dkt. 231.]
Finally, he filed pro se a Motion for Rule 36
Clerical Error on September 27, 2016. [Dkt. 232.] These
motions are now ripe for disposition.
Motion for Evidentiary Hearing
initial matter, the Court will deny Petitioner's request
for an evidentiary hearing. “Evidentiary hearings on
§ 2255 petitions are the exception, not the norm, and
there is a heavy burden on the petitioner to demonstrate that
an evidentiary hearing is warranted.”
Moreno-Morales v. United States, 334 F.3d 140, 145
(1st Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). In short, the Court need
not hold an evidentiary hearing when the record before the
Court is adequate to dispose of the habeas petition.
Mueller v. Angelone, 181 F.3d 557, 586-87 (4th Cir.
1999); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). In the
context of a habeas petition that challenges the validity of
an underlying guilty plea, the Court must first
“determine whether the petitioner's allegations,
when viewed against the record of the Rule 11 plea hearing,
were so palpably incredible, so patently frivolous or false
as to warrant summary dismissal.” United States v.
Lemaster, 403 F.3d 216, 220-21 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting
United States v. White, 366 F.3d 291, 296 (4th Cir.
2004)). “Only if a petitioner's allegations can be
so characterized can they be summarily dismissed.”
White, 366 U.S. at 296-97.
appears to be renewing his request for an evidentiary hearing
pursuant to the § 2255 motion he filed in July 2015.
However, the Court has already ruled on that request and
denied an evidentiary hearing. Moreover, the Court finds that
Petitioner has not included any additional evidence to
demonstrate that an evidentiary hearing is warranted.
Accordingly, the Court will deny Petitioner's request.