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United States v. Hendricks

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 22, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
EMMANUEL S. HENDRICKS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN W. BROOMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on Defendant's Motion to Vacate Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 35.) The United States has filed a response and the matter is ripe for decision. (Doc. 37.) For the reasons stated herein, the motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         On March 27, 2018, Defendant was charged in a one-count indictment with knowingly possessing a firearm in interstate commerce, after having been convicted of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). (Doc. 1.) On May 31, 2018, the United States filed a one-count information alleging that Defendant knowingly possessed a firearm in interstate commerce that had the serial number obliterated, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(k) and 924(a)(1). (Doc. 18.)

         On June 5, 2018, Defendant appeared before the court with counsel, waived indictment, executed a plea agreement, and after a hearing conducted pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11, entered a plea of guilty to the information. (Docs. 20, 21, 22.)

         Defendant's written plea agreement with the government provided, among other things: that the parties would jointly recommend the court impose a 60-month custodial sentence; that Defendant “knowingly waives any right to appeal or collaterally attack any matter in connection with this prosecution, his conviction, or the components of the sentence to be imposed” and waives “any right to challenge his sentence, or the manner in which it was determined, or otherwise attempt to modify or change his sentence, in any collateral attack, including … a motion brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (except as limited by United States v. Cockerham, 237 F.3d 1179, 1187 (10th Cir. 2001));” that Defendant does not waive any subsequent claim regarding ineffective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct; that Defendant had sufficient time “to discuss this case, the evidence, and this Plea Agreement with his attorney and he is fully satisfied with the advice and representation his attorney provided;” that Defendant has read the plea agreement and understands it, and agrees it is true and accurate and not the result of any threats, duress, or coercion; that the plea agreement supersedes all other agreements or negotiations and contains every term of the parties' agreement; and that Defendant acknowledges he is entering the plea agreement and the plea of guilty because he is guilty, and is doing so freely, voluntarily, and knowingly. (Doc. 22.)

         Defendant appeared with counsel for sentencing on August 20, 2018. (Doc. 32.) Neither party objected to the Presentence Report (PSR), which determined that the applicable guideline range was 60 months custody.[1] The court imposed a custodial sentence of 60 months, to be followed by a supervised release term of three years. Judgment was entered on August 22, 2018. (Doc. 28.) No direct appeal was filed.

         On August 8, 2019, Defendant filed the instant motion to vacate sentence, which raises three arguments. (Doc. 35.) First, Defendant argues his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel was violated because his attorney failed to explain the plea agreement and the rights Defendant was giving up, he coerced or induced Defendant into pleading guilty, and he told Defendant to answer “yes” to questions during the plea colloquy. (Id. at 4.) Second, Defendant argues the government failed to prove that he was aware of his prohibited status as required by Rehaif v. United States, 139 S.Ct. 2191 (2019). (Id.) And third, Defendant argues he was unaware that the firearm had traveled in interstate commerce and he therefore entered his plea of guilty unknowingly. (Id. at 5.)

         II. 2255 Standard

         Section 2255(a) of Title 28 of the U.S. Code provides in part that “[a] prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States … or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence.” Unless the motion and the record of the case conclusively show the prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court must promptly grant a hearing. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). However, if it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record that the moving party is not entitled to relief, the judge must dismiss the motion. Rule 4(b), Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings.

         III. Analysis

         1. Effective assistance of counsel.

         “The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the effective assistance of counsel at ‘critical stages of a criminal proceeding,' including when he enters a guilty plea.” Lee v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 1958, 1964 (2017) (citation omitted.) “To demonstrate that counsel was constitutionally ineffective, a defendant must show that counsel's representation ‘fell below an objective standard of reasonableness' and that he was prejudiced as a result.” Id. (quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688, 692 (1984)). A court considering a claim of ineffective assistance must apply a “strong presumption” that counsel's representation was within the “wide range” of reasonable professional assistance. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. To establish prejudice, a defendant must show 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, 466 U.S. at 694. When a defendant alleges that his attorney's deficient performance led him to accept a guilty plea rather than go to trial, a defendant “can show prejudice by demonstrating a ‘reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.'” Lee, 137 S.Ct. at 1965 (citation omitted.)

         Defendant first alleges that his attorney failed to explain the plea agreement to him and failed to explain the rights he was giving up by pleading guilty. Even if the court were to assume the truth of those allegations, Defendant alleges no facts to support any finding of prejudice. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697 (“If it is easier to dispose of an ineffectiveness claim on the ground of lack of sufficient prejudice, which we expect will often be so, that course should be followed.”) Defendant does not allege he would have insisted on going to trial had his counsel better explained these matters. Nor does he identify any particular provision or right that he misunderstood. In fact, Defendant does not even allege that he misunderstood anything in the plea agreement or about the rights he was giving up. Moreover, the transcript of the Rule 11 hearing shows that, prior to pleading guilty, the court reviewed the terms of the plea agreement with Defendant, explained the rights Defendant would be giving up if he decided to plead guilty, discussed the potential sentence Defendant could receive if he pled guilty, and specifically discussed the ...


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