United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MURGUIA United States District Judge.
case is before the court on defendant Charles Henderson
Jr.'s Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set
Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody
(Doc. 99). Defendant alleges that his original defense
counsel, Mr. Spies, failed to investigate the
government's evidence and was ineffective at
defendant's plea hearing. The government responds that
defendant cannot prove his ineffective assistance of counsel
claims, and the court should deny defendant's motion
(Doc. 112). For the reasons set forth below, the court denies
defendant's § 2255 motion.
pleaded guilty, without a written plea agreement, to: (1)
conspiring, between June 1, 2009 and May 6, 2013, to
distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than
one kilogram of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846;
(2) two counts of distribution of heroin within 1, 000 feet
of a playground, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(C), and 860(a); (3) possession with
intent to distribute heroin within 1, 000 feet of a
playground, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1),
841(b)(1)(B), and 860(a); and (4) possession of a firearm by
an unlawful user of a controlled substance, in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3). Mr. Spies reserved the right to
challenge the drug quantity and other applications of the
sentencing guidelines at sentencing.
the Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) was
prepared, but prior to sentencing, Mr. Spies filed a motion
to withdraw as counsel. The court granted his request and
appointed new counsel for defendant.
subsequently filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea
claiming actual innocence on two counts and ineffective
assistance of counsel against Mr. Spies. Following a hearing,
the court denied defendant's motion. Specifically, the
court found that defendant's guilty plea was voluntarily
and knowingly made, and defendant failed to show that Mr.
Spies was ineffective.
sentencing, the court found that defendant's total
offense level of 34 and criminal history category of I gave
him a guideline range of 151 to 188 months. However, the
court granted a variance based on the parties' sentencing
agreement and imposed a 129-month sentence. No direct appeal
was filed, and defendant timely filed his § 2255 motion
on August 5, 2015.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a prisoner in custody has the right
to challenge a sentence imposed by the district court if it
is in violation of the Constitution or other law of the
United States, or if the sentence imposed was in excess of
the maximum authorized by law. If the court finds that
defendant is being held in violation of federal law, the
court “shall vacate and set the judgment aside and
shall discharge the [defendant] or resentence him or grant a
new trial or correct the sentence . . . .” 28 U.S.C.
Sixth Amendment provides defendants a right to effective
assistance of counsel, and this right “extends to the
plea-bargaining process.” United States v.
Watson, 766 F.3d 1219, 1225 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156, 162 (2012)). The
court applies the standard identified in Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88, 694 (1984), when
determining whether a habeas petitioner's counsel
provided ineffective assistance. See Romano v.
Gibson, 278 F.3d 1145, 1151 (10th Cir. 2002) (applying
Strickland, a defendant bears the burden of
satisfying a two-pronged test. First, he must show that his
attorney's “performance was deficient” and
“fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness.” Id. at 687-88. The court
affords considerable deference to an attorney's strategic
decisions and “recognize[s] that counsel is strongly
presumed to have rendered adequate assistance and made all
significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable
professional judgment.” Id. at 690.
a defendant must demonstrate prejudice, which requires a
showing that there is “a reasonable probability that,
but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of
the proceeding would have been different.” Id.
at 694; see also Lafler, 566 U.S. at 163.
Specifically, a defendant must show “that but for the
ineffective advice of counsel there is a reasonable
probability that the plea offer would have been presented to
the court (i.e., that the defendant would have accepted the
plea and the prosecution would not have withdrawn it in light
of intervening circumstances), that the court would have
accepted its terms, and that the conviction or sentence, or
both, under the offer's terms would have been less severe
than under the judgment and sentence that in fact were
imposed.” Lafler, 566 U.S. at 163-64.
is no reason for a court deciding an ineffective assistance
claim to address both components of the inquiry if the
defendant makes an insufficient showing on one. If it is
easier to dispose of an ineffectiveness claim on the lack of
prejudice ground, then that course should be followed.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697.