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United States v. Chafin

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

February 12, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
SHAUNA NICOLE CHAFIN, Defendant.

          Zachary T. Lee, Assistant United States Attorney, Abingdon, Virginia, for United States; Shauna Nicole Chafin, Defendant Pro Se.

          OPINION

          JAMES P. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The defendant, proceeding pro se, has filed a motion seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The United States has filed a motion to dismiss, to which the movant has responded. For the reasons stated, I will grant the motion to dismiss and dismiss the § 2255 motion.

         After pleading guilty without the benefit of a plea agreement, the defendant was sentenced by this court on June 21, 2017, to a term of 97 months imprisonment on Count I of the Indictment, which charged the defendant with conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841, and conspiring to knowingly and intentionally use a communication facility in committing the offense, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b).

         In her § 2255 motion, the defendant contends that her counsel was ineffective in failing to request a minor or minimal role reduction pursuant to U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual (“USSG”).

         To state a viable claim for relief under § 2255, a defendant must prove: (1) that her 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). The movant 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).

         Criminal defendants have a Sixth Amendment right to effective legal assistance. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). Ineffective assistance claims, however, are not lightly granted - “[t]he benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the [proceeding] cannot be relied on as having produced a just result.” Id. at 686. To that end, a defendant must satisfy a two-prong analysis showing both that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that the defendant was prejudiced by counsel's alleged deficient performance. Id. at 687. To satisfy the prejudice prong of Strickland, a defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional error, the outcome of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 694.

         The sentencing guideline upon which Chafin relies states:

         Based on the defendant's role in the offense, decrease the offense level as follows:

(a) If the defendant was a minimal participant in any criminal activity, decrease by 4 levels.
(b) If the defendant was a minor participant in any criminal activity, decrease by 2 levels.

         In cases falling between (a) and (b), decrease by 3 levels.

         USSG § 3B1.2

         Chafin has not shown that her counsel's failure to request such a reduction was an unprofessional error or that it prejudiced her. Had her counsel made such a request, I would have ...


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