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Perkins v. Walker

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

September 15, 2017

CAMERON M. PERKINS, Petitioner,
v.
DANA RATCLIFF WALKER, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Elizabeth K. Dillon, United States District Judge.

         Cameron M. Perkins, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the validity of his confinement on a judgment by the Buckingham County Circuit Court. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss, and Perkins failed to respond, making the matter ripe for disposition. After review of the record, the court grants the motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 2, 2015, Perkins pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to three charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and two charges of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The trial court sentenced Perkins to twenty-five years' imprisonment, with all but five years suspended.

         At the April 2nd hearing, counsel initially moved to withdraw. However, the Commonwealth showed video footage of Perkins exchanging drugs for money with a confidential informant, and Perkins decided it was "in [his] best interests" to enter into an Alford[1]plea.[2] (Tr. 25, Dkt. No. 11, Attach. 4.) Counsel then withdrew his motion to withdraw.

         During his plea colloquy, Perkins told the court that he: understood the charges, was pleading guilty freely and voluntarily by way of an Alford plea, had discussed the elements of the charges with counsel, had enough time to discuss his options with counsel, and was satisfied with counsel and did not want him to withdraw.

         Further, in the written plea agreement, Perkins acknowledged that he fully understood the charges against him, entered the guilty plea freely and voluntarily, waived his right to a jury trial, had ample time to discuss any possible defenses with counsel, waived any right to appeal, and was satisfied with counsel's performance. Pursuant to the plea bargain, the Commonwealth agreed to nolle prosse seven additional charges and also agreed to a disposition of an active sentence of only five years.

         During the plea hearing, the Commonwealth outlined the evidence against Perkins, describing videotapes that showed Perkins possessing cocaine and marijuana and exchanging the drugs for money with confidential informants. The trial court accepted the plea and followed the agreed upon disposition in the plea bargain, sentencing Perkins to twenty-five years' imprisonment, with twenty years suspended. Regarding Perkins's Alford plea, the court found that "the evidence of guilt [was] overwhelming and substantially negate[d] [Perkins's] claim of innocence." Tr. 30.

         Perkins did not pursue a direct appeal[3] but did file a timely writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia, alleging three claims:

1. Trial counsel misled, coerced, and forced petitioner into pleading guilty;
2. Petitioner was denied his right to counsel of choice; and
3. Trial counsel abandoned petitioner without proper protocol.

         The state habeas court denied the petition. Claim 1 was barred under Anderson v. Warden, 281 S.E.2d 885, 888 (Va. 1981), because Perkins did not offer a valid reason why he should not be bound by his plea colloquy. Claim 2 was barred under Slayton v. Parrigan, 205 S.E.2d 680, 682 (Va. 1974), because Perkins could have raised the issue at trial and on direct appeal but failed to do so. Lastly, the court rejected Claim 3 because Perkins failed to establish either prong of ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984).

         Perkins then timely filed the current petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging the same three grounds as his state habeas petition:

1. Ineffective assistance of counsel during the negotiating process because defense counsel misled, coerced, and forced ...

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