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United States v. Magallanes-Flores

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

July 16, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
RAUL MAGALLANES-FLORES, Petitioner.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Jackson L. Kiser Senior United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Raul Magallanes-Flores ("Petitioner") Motion to Vacate Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [ECF No. 110], as well as the government's Motion to Dismiss Petitioner's § 2255 motion [ECF No. 115]. Having fully considered the record, the arguments of the parties, and the applicable law, I will grant the government's motion and dismiss Petitioner's motion to vacate.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On October 18, 2012, Petitioner was indicted in a one-count Indictment with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841 (b)(1)(A) & 846. [ECF No. 3.] Under the applicable law, the maximum penalty for the charged offense was life imprisonment. As part of normal plea negotiations with the government, Petitioner was presented a plea offer in which he would agree to plead guilty to Count 1 of the Indictment, subject to certain agreements regarding the applicable Guidelines calculations. Petitioner rejected this agreement, he claims, because of the possibility of life imprisonment attendant to a finding of guilt on Count 1.

         In January of 2016, Petitioner accepted the government's second plea offer and entered a plea of guilty to conspiring to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 & 841(b)(1)(C), a lesser-included offense of Count 1 of the Indictment. [See ECF No. 72.] The maximum statutory penalty for this charge was imprisonment for 20 years and/or a fine of $1, 000, 00, which would be followed by at least three years of supervised release. Id.

         At his guilty plea hearing, I reviewed Petitioner's plea agreement with him and Petitioner attested to the following statement: "My plea of guilty is made knowingly and voluntarily and without threat of any kind or without promises other than those disclosed here in open court." [ECF No. 94.] On July 14, 2016, Petitioner was sentenced to 235 months, which was the low-end of his applicable Guidelines range. Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence, but his appeal was dismissed. United States v. Magallanes-Flores, 687 Fed.Appx. 233 (4th Cir. 2017) (per curiam) (unpublished), aff'd sub nom. Magallanes-Flores v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 275 (2017).

         On October 2, 2018, Petitioner filed a motion to vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [ECF No. 110]. Petitioner asked the Court to vacate his plea and permit him to accept the government's initial plea offer, which he previously rejected. Petitioner claims that his rejection of the first offer was because his attorney failed to explain the applicability of the Guidelines and the likelihood of receiving the maximum term of imprisonment related to the government's first offer (life imprisonment), which resulted in him rejecting what he contends was a better agreement with the government.

         In November of 2018, Petitioner presented the court with a copy of the government's first offer in support of his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. [ECF No. 113.] After reviewing the briefs and submissions of the parties, this matter is ripe for disposition.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Courts and the public can presume that a defendant stands fairly and finally convicted after conviction and exhaustion, or waiver, of any right to appeal. See United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 164 (1982). Nevertheless, federal convicts in custody may attack the validity of their federal sentences via 28 U.S.C. § 2255. "Section 2255 cures jurisdictional errors, constitutional violations, proceedings that resulted in a complete miscarriage of justice, or events that were inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure." United States v. Martinez-Romero, No. 4:10-cr-20, 2012 WL 4470454, at *5 (W.D. Va. July 12, 2012) (citing United States v. Timmreck, 441 U.S. 780, 784 (1979) (Report & Recommendation), adopted by 2012 WL 4459553 (W.D. Va. July 30, 2012). In a § 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence, Petitioner bears the burden of proving that: (1) the district court imposed a sentence in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court lacked jurisdiction to impose a sentence; (3) the sentence exceeded the maximum authorized by law; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) (2018).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In Petitioner's § 2255 motion to vacate, Petitioner contends he rejected the government's initial offer because his attorney failed to explain how the Guidelines would impact his sentence.

         One's right to counsel includes the right to effective counsel. McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 771 (1970). In considering claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, it is important to note that "effective representation is not synonymous with errorless representation." Springer v. Collins, 586 F.2d 329, 332 (4th Cir. 1978).

         To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, Petitioner must satisfy the two-pronged test established by the Supreme Court of the United States in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Petitioner first must show that "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Id. at 688. The measurement of counsel's reasonableness is based on professional norms. Id. To satisfy prong one, ...


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