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Goffigan v. United States

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

March 23, 2018

QUINN GOFFIGAN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Raymond A. Jackson 'United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Quinn Goffigan's ("Petitioner") pro se Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct his Sentence, pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255 ("2255 Motion"). ECF Nos. 51-52. Respondent filed a response to Petitioner's Motion, ECF No. 58, and Petitioner filed a reply to Respondent's response. ECF No. 61. Having thoroughly reviewed the motions, filings, and records in this case, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary to address Petitioner's Motion. For the reasons set forth below. Petitioner's § 2255 Motion is DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On April 6, 2016, a Grand Jury, in the Eastern District of Virginia, returned a three count Superseding Indictment against Petitioner. ECF No. 16. Count One charged Petitioner with Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Id. Counts Two and Three charged Petitioner with Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(c). Id. Defendant was also cited with Asset Forfeiture, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(d), 21 U.S.C. § 853, and 28 U.S.C. §2461. Id

         Petitioner pled guilty to Count Two of the Superseding Indictment on April 26, 2016. ECF No. 20. On September 6, 2016, Petitioner was sentenced to 240 months on Count Two. ECF No. 33. Petitioner was also sentenced to supervised release for six years. Id. Petitioner filed this instant Motion on September 18, 2017. ECF No. 51. The Court ordered the United States Attorney to respond to Petitioner's § 2255 Petition. ECF No. 54. Respondent filed a Response to Petitioner's Motion on November 16, 2017. ECF No. 58. Petitioner filed a Reply to Respondent's Response on March 12, 2018. ECF No. 61.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW AND BURDEN OF PROOF

         A. Section 2255 Generally

         A petitioner may move the court to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, in four instances: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the District Court lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence; (3) the length of the sentence is in excess of the maximum authorized by law; and (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (1948). "Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for transgressions of constitutional rights and for a narrow range of injuries that could not have been raised on direct appeal and would, if condoned, result in a complete miscarriage of justice." Jones v. United States, No. 4:09CV76, 2010 WL 451320, at *4 (E.D. Va. Feb. 8, 2010) (quoting United States v. Vaughn, 955 F.2d 367, 368 (5th Cir. 1992)).

         When a petitioner in federal custody wishes to collaterally attack his sentence or conviction, the appropriate motion is a § 2255 motion. United States v. Winestock, 340 F.3d 200, 203 (4th Cir. 2003). Section 2255 of Title 28 of the United States Code governs post-conviction relief for federal prisoners. It provides in pertinent part:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         In a proceeding to vacate a judgment of conviction, the petitioner bears the burden of proving his or her claim by a preponderance of the evidence. Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958). Additionally, pro se filers are entitled to more liberal construction of their pleadings. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), cert, denied, 439 U.S. 970 (1978) (providing that a pro se petitioner is entitled to have his petition construed liberally and is held to less stringent standards than an attorney drafting such a complaint). Furthermore, if the motion is brought before the judge that presided over the conviction, the judge may rely upon recollections of previous events. Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 74 n. 4 (1977); Carvell v. United States, 173 F.2d 348, 348-49 (4th Cir. 1949) (stating it is highly desirable that § 2255 motions "be passed on by the judge who is familiar with the facts and circumstances surrounding the trial, and is consequently not likely to be misled by false allegations as to what occurred.").

         B. Section 2255 Hearing Requirement

         When deciding a § 2255 motion, the Court must promptly grant a hearing "unless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). Motions under § 2255 "will not be allowed to do service for an appeal." Sunal v. Large, 332 U.S. 174, 178 (1947). For this reason, issues already fully litigated on direct appeal may not be raised again under the guise of a collateral attack. Boeckenhaupt v. United States, 537 F.2d 1182, 1183 (4th Cir. 1976). Ineffective assistance of counsel claims, however, should generally be raised in a collateral motion instead of on direct appeal. United States v. Richardson, 195 F.3d 192, 198 (4th Cir. 1999).

         C. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         As a general matter, a petitioner must satisfy two factors to establish ineffective assistance of counsel: "(1)tnat [counsel]'s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) that [petitioner] was prejudiced by the deficiency because it created a reasonable probability that but for counsel's errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." United States v. Hoyle, 33 F.3d 415, 418 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing Smith v. Smith, 931 F.2d 242, 244 (4th Cir. 1991)). "A reasonable probability is one that is sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id.

         Whether before, during, or after trial, when the Sixth' Amendment applies, the formulation of the standard is the same: reasonable competence in representing the accused. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688-89 (1984). In applying and defining this standard, substantial deference must be accorded to counsel's judgment. Id. at 689. To succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, petitioner must show (1) that counsel's representation was deficient and (2) that petitioner was prejudiced by counsel's performance. Id. at 693. If petitioner makes an insufficient showing on one prong, there is no reason for a court deciding an ineffective assistance claim to address both components of the inquiry. Id. at 697. The Court is not required to begin with an analysis of the first prong of Strickland because "a court need not approach the inquiry in the same order, " and "need not determine whether counsel's performance was deficient before examining the prejudice suffered by the defendant as a result of the alleged deficiencies." Id.

         To demonstrate deficient representation, petitioner must show "that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Id. at 688. Petitioner must overcome a strong presumption that counsel's performance falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance under the circumstances. Id. at 689.

         Also, petitioner bears the burden of proving prejudice. Fields v. Attorney General of the State of Maryland, 956 F.2d 1290, 1297 (4th Cir. 1992). To demonstrate prejudice, petitioner must prove that "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional ...


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