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United States v. Antwine

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division

November 29, 2016


          Debbie H. Stevens, U.S. Attorney's Office, Abingdon, Virginia, for United States; Trent Donya Antwine, Pro Se Defendant.


          James P. Jones United States District Judge

         The defendant, Trent Donya Antwine, proceeding pro se, filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, based on ineffective assistance of counsel claims. The government filed a Motion to Dismiss, and Antwine responded, making the matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, I will grant the Motion to Dismiss.


         Antwine and two codefendants were named in a multi-count Indictment. Antwine was charged with conspiring to have an inmate of a federal prison possess and obtain a prohibited object, specifically heroin, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1791(a)(2) and 1791(d)(1)(C) (Count Six); and conspiring to knowingly and intentionally distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(C) and 846 (Count Seven). (Indictment 3-4, ECF No. 6.)

         Antwine pleaded guilty, pursuant to a written Plea Agreement, to Count Seven and the government agreed to dismiss Count Six. (Plea Agreement 1-2, ECF No. 58.) The Plea Agreement provided that Antwine may be subject to a career offender enhancement, pursuant to United States Sentencing Guideline (“USSG”) 4B1.1. (Id. at 4.) Antwine agreed to waive his right to collaterally attack his conviction and sentence except for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. (Id. at 8.) Under the terms of the Plea Agreement, the parties agreed to jointly recommend a sentence of 84 months imprisonment. (Id. at 3.)

         At the guilty plea hearing, Antwine stated that he had had an adequate opportunity to read and discuss the Plea Agreement with counsel before signing it. (Change of Plea Hr'g Tr. 6, ECF No. 105.) Antwine further affirmed that he was “fully satisfied with [his] lawyer's representation.” (Id.) The prosecutor summarized the terms of the Plea Agreement. (Id. at 7-11.) The prosecutor noted that Antwine stipulated that he may be subject to the career offender enhancement. (Id. at 9.) Both the prosecutor and I advised Antwine that he faced a maximum statutory penalty of not more than thirty years' imprisonment. (Id. at 7, 13.) I also advised Antwine that his sentence may be different than the estimate provided by his counsel and that I was not bound by the recommended 84-month sentence provided by the parties. (Id. at 14.)

         Antwine affirmed his understanding that by pleading guilty, he gave up his right to appeal and to collaterally attack his sentence except as to matters that cannot be waived under the law or that allege ineffective assistance of counsel. (Id. at 11.) The prosecutor stated that the evidence against Antwine included phone recordings between Antwine, who was serving time in prison, and a civilian coconspirator who agreed to travel to the prison to provide heroin for distribution into the prison. (Id. at 17-18.) Antwine did not dispute the facts against him, and stated that he understood what the government would have to prove for a jury to find him guilty. (Id. at 16, 18.) He stated that he wanted to plead guilty because he was, in fact, guilty. (Id. at 16.) I found Antwine to be fully competent and capable of entering an informed plea and determined that his guilty plea was knowing and voluntary. (Id. at 20.)

         The Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) recommended a total offense level of 15 and a criminal history category of IV, resulting in a guideline imprisonment range of 30 to 37 months. (PSR ¶ 56, ECF No. 111.) The PSR did not classify Antwine as a career offender because some of his prior convictions were subject to a staleness limitation. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-40.)

         At the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor informed the court that it was the government's position that Antwine was not bound by the terms of the Plea Agreement, including the recommendation of an 84-month sentence, because the Plea Agreement had been negotiated under the mistaken belief that he was a career offender. (Sentencing Hr'g Tr. 2, ECF No. 106.) Antwine's counsel stated that Antwine did not want to withdraw his plea because he was no longer bound by the sentencing provision and that she would argue for a sentence within the advisory guideline range of 30 to 36 months. (Id. at 3.) I asked Antwine if he wished to direct his counsel to withdraw his Plea Agreement, but Antwine affirmed that he did not and wanted to proceed with sentencing. (Id. at 5.) The prosecutor argued that even though Antwine was not a career offender, the court should consider him a “de facto career offender” based on his extensive criminal past and sentence him to 84 months' imprisonment. (Id. at 6.) Defense counsel argued for a within-guidelines sentence. (Id. at 8.)

         I sentenced Antwine to 48 months' imprisonment, a variance above the advisory guideline range. In so doing, I considered the nature and circumstances of the crime, as well as the history and characteristics of Antwine, the need for the sentence imposed to both reflect the seriousness of the crime and to protect the public from potential further criminal conduct. (Id. at 11.) I also considered the advisory guideline range, the need to impose a sentence that is sufficient, but not greater than necessary, the defendant's allocution and the arguments by counsel. (Id.) I concluded that a variance above the guideline range was appropriate because Antwine's criminal history spanned thirty years and he pleaded guilty to conspiring to introduce dangerous drugs into a maximum security prison, which is a very serious offense and “strikes at the heart of our corrections system.” (Id. at 12.) Antwine did not appeal.

         In his § 2255 motion, Antwine alleges that counsel provided ineffective assistance by (1) recommending that Antwine plead guilty to Count Seven in the indictment when he was not guilty of that crime; (2) refusing to investigate; (3) failing to provide him with discovery, to review discovery or to talk about the case with him; and (4) advising him that he qualified as a career offender. Antwine also argues that I erred by sentencing him above his guideline range. (§ 2255 Motion 5-8, ECF No. 100.)


         To state a viable claim for relief under § 2255, a defendant 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(a). Antwine bears the burden of ...

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