United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division
H. Stevens, United States Attorney’s Office, Abingdon,
Virginia for United States; Michael Shane Vaught, Pro Se
P. Jones United States District Judge.
defendant, Michael Shane Vaught, proceeding pro se, filed a
Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2255, based on claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel and court error. The government filed a
Motion to Dismiss and Vaught responded. Accordingly, this
matter is ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, I
will grant the United States’ Motion to Dismiss.
jury returned a multi-count Indictment against Vaught and a
co-defendant after Vaught, a federal inmate serving time for
unrelated charges, physically attacked a guard at the prison
with a weapon that he obtained from his codefendant. Vaught
was charged with the following crimes: two counts of assault
of a federal officer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§
2, 111(a)(1) and (b) (“Counts One and Two”);
assault with intent to commit murder, in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 113(a)(1) (“Count Three”); assault
on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon, with intent to
do bodily harm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(3)
(“Count Four”); assault on a federal officer
resulting in serious bodily injury, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 113(a)(6) (“Count Five”); assault and
attempted murder of a federal officer with the intent to
impede, intimidate and interfere with the federal officer
while engaged in the performance of official duties and with
intent to retaliate against the officer on account of the
performance of official duties with a dangerous weapon, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 115(a)(1)(A), (b)(1)(A);
(b)(1)(B)(iv), and (b)(3) (“Count Six”); assault
of a federal officer with intent to impede the performance of
official duties resulting in bodily injury, in violation of
18 U.S.C. §§ 115(a)(1)(A) and (b)(1)(B)(iii)
(“Count Seven”); possession of a prohibited
object intended to be used as a weapon, in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 1791(a)(2) and (d)(1)(B) (“Count
Eight”); and conspiracy to assault with a dangerous
weapon a federal officer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
113(a)(3) (“Count Eleven”).
pleaded guilty pursuant to a written Plea Agreement to Count
Six of the Indictment. Plea Agreement 1, ECF No. 24. The Plea
Agreement stipulated that Vaught faced a maximum statutory
term of imprisonment of 360 months on that count.
Id. In exchange, the government agreed to dismiss
the remaining counts. Id. at 2.
guilty plea hearing, I questioned whether Count Six applied
to Vaught, noting that although the Indictment described
Count Six as a charge of assault and attempted murder of a
federal officer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 115, that
statute actually charges “an offense to which
there’s an assault or attempted murder of a member of
the immediate family of a federal law enforcement
officer.” Plea Hr’g Tr. at 2, ECF No. 59. After
review, the government admitted that it had erred by
including Count Six. Id. at 3. After a recess, the
parties agreed to amend the Plea Agreement. Id. at
4. The Amended Plea Agreement stipulated that Vaught would
plead guilty to Count Three, assault with intent to murder,
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(1), which carries a
maximum statutory term of imprisonment of 240 months. Am.
Plea Agreement 1, ECF No. 30.
proceeded with the guilty plea hearing, and asked defense
counsel whether he had “had an adequate opportunity to
consult” with Vaught “in regard to the change in
the plea agreement to pleading guilty to a different
offense.” Plea Hr’g Tr. at 4, ECF No. 59. Defense
counsel answered in the affirmative. Vaught himself affirmed
that he had had an adequate opportunity to read and discuss
the Indictment and Amended Plea Agreement, particularly the
change in the charge to which he intended to plead guilty.
Id. at 7. Vaught further affirmed that he was
“fully satisfied with [his] lawyer’s
representation.” Id. The prosecutor summarized
the terms of the Amended Plea Agreement, in which Vaught
agreed to plead guilty to Count Three, assault with intent to
commit murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 113(a)(1).
Id. at 8. Both the prosecutor and I advised Vaught
that he faced a maximum statutory penalty of not more than
240 months’ imprisonment. Id. at 8, 10. Vaught
affirmed his understanding that by pleading guilty, he gave
up his right to appeal and to collaterally attack his
sentence except on matters that cannot be waived under the
law or that allege ineffective assistance of counsel.
Id. at 9-10. Vaught stated that he wanted to plead
guilty to Count Three because he was, in fact, guilty of the
crime. Id. at 13. I found that Vaught was fully
competent and capable of entering an informed plea and that
his guilty plea was knowingly and voluntarily made.
(Id. at 15-16.)
probation office prepared a Presentence Investigation Report
(“PSR”) in anticipation of sentencing. The PSR
recommended a total offense level of 36 and a criminal
history category of VI, resulting in an advisory guideline
range of 324 to 405 months’ imprisonment. PSR ¶
54, ECF No. 41. However, the statutory maximum sentence that
Vaught faced was 240 months’ incarceration; because the
statutory maximum was less than the minimum of the applicable
guideline range, the guideline term of imprisonment was
reduced to 240 months. Id. ¶ 53. I sentenced
Vaught to 240 months’ imprisonment to run consecutively
to any previous state or federal sentence. Sentencing
Hr’g Tr. at 16, ECF No. 61. He did not appeal.
§ 2255 motion, Vaught alleges (1) that counsel provided
ineffective assistance by advising him to plead guilty
pursuant to the Amended Plea Agreement; (2) that his
Indictment impermissibly joined counts against his
codefendant; and (3) that I failed to consider mitigating
evidence at sentencing.
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 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). Vaught bears the
burden of proving grounds for a collateral attack by a
preponderance of the evidence. Miller v. United
States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958).
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.
argues that his counsel was ineffective for advising him to
plead guilty to an inapplicable charge in the original Plea
Agreement and then advising him to plead guilty to ...