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United States v. Aguilera

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MAURICIO AGUILERA (02), Defendant/Petitioner.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Daniel D. Crabtree, United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the court on defendant Mauricio Aguilera's Motion to Vacate Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 80). The government responded to Mr. Aguilera's motion with a Motion to Enforce Collateral-Attack Waiver Provision in Plea Agreement and to Dismiss Mr. Aguilera's Motion to Vacate Sentence (Doc. 85). After considering the evidence and the parties' submissions, the court denies Mr. Aguilera's motion and grants the government's motion. The court explains why below.

         I. Background

         Mr. Aguilera was charged with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute 2, 721.6 grams of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) (Docs. 54, 85 at 1). Mr. Aguilera pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement with the government (Docs. 54, 85 at 1- 2). That agreement contained a provision requiring Mr. Aguilera to waive his right to appeal, collaterally attack, or challenge his sentence in any way. This provision explicitly included actions brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Docs. 54, 85 at 2). The waiver explicitly excluded appellate or post-conviction challenges based on ineffective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct claims (Docs. 54, 85 at 2).

         Mr. Aguilera's presentence report found a total offense level of 27 (Docs. 60, 85 at 2). The offense level was adjusted because Mr. Aguilera qualified for the safety valve under the United States Sentencing Commission's Guidelines and his acceptance of responsibility (Docs. 60, 85 at 3). The presentence report calculated Mr. Aguilera's criminal history category as I (Docs. 60, 85 at 3). The sentencing guidelines called for a range of 70 to 87 months' imprisonment (Docs. 60, 85 at 3). Ultimately, the court sentenced Mr. Aguilera to 70 months in prison (Docs. 62, 85 at 4).

         Mr. Aguilera filed a timely Motion to Vacate Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on October 3, 2016 (Docs. 80 at 4, 85 at 4-5). He relies on Amendment 794 to the Sentencing Guidelines, which allows, in relevant part, for a “defendant who does not have a proprietary interest in the criminal activity and who is simply being paid to perform certain tasks” to be “considered for an adjustment under [the] guideline” (Doc. 85 at 3-4). U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 3B1.2 cmt. n.3(C) (U.S. Sentencing Comm'n 2016). Mr. Aguilera also argues that he played only a minor role in transporting and delivering the methamphetamine (Doc. 80 at 4). He argues the court imposed an “[u]nconstitutional sentence” because it did not give him a minor role sentencing adjustment (Doc. 80 at 4).

         The government responds by arguing that Mr. Aguilera's Motion is barred because he waived his right to collaterally attack his sentence in his written plea agreement with the government (Docs. 54, 85 at 2). The government also argues that Mr. Aguilera's waiver is enforceable under a Tenth Circuit test to determine the enforceability of collateral attack waivers. United States v. Hahn, 359 F.3d 1315, 1325 (10th Cir. 2004). The government moves the court to enforce the collateral attack waiver and dismiss Mr. Aguilera's Motion. The court addresses the waiver issue in the section below.

         II. Motion to Vacate Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255

         The following three sections address whether Mr. Aguilera has waived the right to collaterally attack his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 by knowingly and voluntarily entering a guilty plea. United States v. Hahn, 359 F.3d 1315, 1325 (10th Cir. 2004).

         A. Hahn Standard

         The Tenth Circuit addressed the enforceability of collateral attack waivers in United States v. Hahn. Id. at 1325-28. Under its test, courts must determine whether a defendant's appeal or collateral attack falls within the scope of the waiver, whether the defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his appellate rights, and whether enforcing that waiver would produce a miscarriage of justice. Id. at 1325. Here, the court concludes that Mr. Aguilera waived his right to collaterally attack his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in his written plea agreement and that the court properly can enforce this waiver.

         1. Scope

         Under Hahn, courts must consider, first, whether the appeal “falls within the scope of the appellate waiver.” Id. at 1325. Courts are required to “‘strictly construe'” any waivers in a defendant's plea agreement and resolve any ambiguities in favor of a defendant's appellate rights. Id. (quoting United States v. Andis, 333 F.3d 886, 890 (8th Cir. 2003)).

         Here, Mr. Aguilera's appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 falls directly within the scope of the collateral attack waiver in his written plea agreement (Doc. 54). Mr. Aguilera waived his right to challenge or collaterally attack his sentence in any manner, including a challenge brought under the statute he cites as grounds for his motion (Doc. 54). See United States v. Chavez-Salais, 337 F.3d 1170, 1172 (10th Cir. 2003) (determining that collateral attacks include challenges under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, “that complain about the substance of, or proceedings that determined, a defendant's original sentence”). Mr. Aguilera argues that the court gave him an unconstitutional sentence by not recognizing that he played only a minor role in transporting and delivering the methamphetamine he admitted he possessed (Doc. 80 at 4). But, Mr. Aguilera's plea agreement required him to waive his right to appeal, collaterally attack, or challenge his sentence in any way, including by motions made under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Docs. 54, 85 at 2). Even when ...


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