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Patterson v. United States

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

June 10, 2013

JOE DEVERE PATTERSON
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Criminal No. DKC 08-0393.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Presently pending and ready for resolution is a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence filed by Petitioner Joe Devere Patterson. (ECF No. 47). The relevant issues have been briefed and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6, no hearing being deemed necessary. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

I. Background

Petitioner was charged by a six-count indictment with possession and distribution of heroin and crack cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Pursuant to an agreement with the government, he pleaded guilty to distribution of heroin (21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1)) and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)). On January 25, 2010, he was sentenced to a total term of imprisonment of sixty months, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. Petitioner did not appeal.

On November 21, 2010, he filed the pending motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 47). The government was directed to respond, and did so on February 28, 2011. (ECF No. 52).

II. Standard of Review

To be eligible for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a petitioner must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his or her "sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). A pro se movant, such as Petitioner, is entitled to have his arguments reviewed with appropriate consideration. See Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151-53 (4th Cir. 1978). But if the § 2255 motion, along with the files and records of the case, "conclusively show[s] that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, " the claims raised in the motion may be summarily denied. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

III. Analysis

Petitioner alleges, in purely conclusory fashion, that he received "insufficient legal counsel" because his "sentenc[e] resulted [from the] inclusi[on] of both a gun (weapon) charge/count and an enhancement for the referenced gun." (ECF No. 47, at 5). He asks the court to "revisit the sentencing guidelines in light of the credible evidence concerning the possession of the gun, " an issue which he "discussed... thoroughly with [his] attorney prior to sentencing." ( Id. ). In the cover letter accompanying his motion, he explains, "I was assured by my legal counsel that the sentencing court would not duplicate my possession of a firearm charge (whereby the evidence indicated that I was not the owner) with an enhancement (gun)." (ECF No. 47-2).[1]

Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are governed by the familiar standard adopted by the Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Under Strickland, Petitioner must show both that his attorney's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that he suffered actual prejudice as a result. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. To demonstrate actual prejudice, Petitioner must show 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.

In scrutinizing counsel's performance, courts must be highly deferential; indeed, there exists a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within a wide range of reasonably professional conduct. Id. at 688-89; Bunch v. Thompson, 949 F.2d 1354, 1363 (4th Cir. 1991). Courts must judge the reasonableness of attorney conduct "as of the time their actions occurred, not the conduct's consequences after the fact." Frye v. Lee, 235 F.3d 897, 906 (4th Cir. 2000). Furthermore, a determination need not be made concerning the attorney's performance if it is clear that no prejudice would have resulted from the alleged deficiency. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697.

In the context of a guilty plea, the showing of prejudice must take a specific form:

A different inquiry is necessary with respect to the prejudice prong... where a conviction is based upon a guilty plea. In that situation, a person must demonstrate "a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial." Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59, 106 S.Ct. 366, 88 L.Ed.2d 203 (1985). In discussing "the importance of protecting the finality of convictions obtained through guilty pleas, " the Supreme Court recently declared that "[s]urmounting ...

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