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United States v. Clanton

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

October 31, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TROY ALEXANDER CLANTON, JR.,

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT E. PAYNE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Troy Alexander Clanton, Jr., a federal inmate proceeding pro se, submitted this 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion. For the reasons set forth below, the § 2255 Motion will be denied.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The grand jury charged Clanton with bank robbery (Count One) and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime violence, to wit, the bank robbery charged in Count One (Count Two). (ECF No. 9, at 1-2.) On May 18, 2015, Clanton pled guilty to Counts One and Two. (ECF No. 16, at 1.)

         By Order entered on July 23, 2015, the Court granted Valencia Roberts's motion to withdraw as counsel. (ECF No. 22.) The Court appointed Kenneth C. Chrisman to represent Clanton. (ECF No. 23.) On September 8, 2015, after extensive interviews and research, Mr. Chrisman concluded that he would not be able to file a motion to withdraw Clanton's guilty plea and the matter would need to be set for sentencing. (ECF No. 28.) On December 11, 2015, the Court sentenced Clanton to sixty-three months on Count One to be followed by a consecutive sentence of eighty-four months on Count Two. (ECF No. 40, at 2.)

         On December 27, 2016, Clanton filed the present § 2255 Motion.[1] (ECF No. 54.) The Court deems Clanton to raise the following claims for relief:[2]

Claim One: Clanton failed to receive the effective assistance of counsel because counsel failed to file an appeal. (§ 2255 Mot. 4.)
Claim Two: Clanton failed to receive the effective assistance of counsel because counsel failed to research and advise Clanton of the decision of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) prior to encouraging Clanton to enter a guilty plea. (Id.)
Claim Three: Counsel did not raise arguments related to Johnson at Clanton's sentencing. (Id.)
Claim Four: Clanton's guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary because Clanton was not advised of Johnson. (Id.)

         By Memorandum Order entered on May 23, 2017, the Court directed Clanton, within fourteen (14) days of the date of entry thereof, to file with the Court copies of any records that supported his assertion that he directed counsel to file an appeal and a statement reciting any communications he had with counsel about an appeal. (ECF No. 61, at 1-2.) More than fourteen (14) days elapsed and Clanton did not respond to that Memorandum Order. Accordingly, by Memorandum Order entered on July 26, 2017, the Court dismissed Claim One, wherein Clanton asserted counsel had failed to file an appeal. (ECF No. 62, at 2.) Thereafter, the Government responded to the remainder of Clanton's claims.

         II. ALLEGED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE

         To demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel, a convicted defendant must show first, that counsel's representation was deficient and second, that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). To satisfy the deficient performance prong of Strickland, the convicted defendant must overcome the "'strong presumption' that counsel's strategy and tactics fall 'within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.'" Burch v. Corcoran, 273 F.3d 577, 588 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689). The prejudice component requires a defendant to "show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Strickland, 4 66 U.S. at 694. In analyzing ineffective assistance of counsel claims, it is not necessary to determine whether counsel performed deficiently if the claim is readily dismissed for lack of prejudice. Id. at 697.

         In Claims Two through Four, Clanton contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel and his guilty plea should be set aside because his was not advised that, in light of the decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), his crime of bank robbery did not qualify as a valid crime of violence predicate for his § 924(c) conviction. As explained below, because Johnson fails to apply to Clanton's convictions or ...


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