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Ford v. United States

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

June 18, 2013

QUINDELL FORD, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Civil Action No. RDB-12-2848.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

The pro se petitioner Quindell Ford ("Petitioner") has filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (ECF No. 182) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Subsequently, Petitioner filed a Motion to Amend and Supplement Section 2255 Motion (ECF No. 186) pursuant to Rule 15(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In these Motions, Petitioner claims that his sentence should be vacated because (1) this court lacked jurisdiction to convict and sentence him, and (2) his counsel rendered ineffective assistance in violation of his Sixth Amendment Rights.

This Court has reviewed Petitioner's Motion to Vacate (ECF No. 182), Petitioner's Motion to Amend and Supplement (ECF No. 186), the Government's Opposition (ECF No. 189), and Petitioner's Reply to the Government's Opposition (ECF No. 191), and finds that no hearing is necessary.[1] See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons stated below, Petitioner's Motion to Amend and Supplement Section 2255 Motion (ECF No. 186) is GRANTED and Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (ECF No. 182) is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On February 19, 2010, Petitioner Quindell Ford ("Petitioner") pled guilty to Counts Six and Seven of the Second Superseding Indictment (ECF No. 28). Specifically, he pled guilty to Interference with Interstate Commerce by Robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Hobbs Act) (Count Six), and to Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Count Seven).

Between December 22, 2008 and March 21, 2009, Petitioner was involved in seven robberies in the State of Maryland. Rearraignment Tr. 47, ECF No. 102. Petitioner planned the robberies with other conspirators, including Todd Bell, Trevon Jones, and others. Id. Petitioner also executed the robberies with these other conspirators. Id. During the execution of the robberies, Petitioner's primary role was to take the money from the businesses. Id. Plaintiff's plea in this case concerns the robbery of the Charles Street Liquors store in Baltimore, Maryland. Id. The Charles Street Liquors robbery involved a gun and such violence that the store owner sustained a head injury requiring medical attention. Id. at 47-48. Charles Street Liquors received and sold merchandise from outside the State of Maryland. Id. at 48.

On April 29, 2010, Petitioner filed a Motion to Withdraw his guilty plea (ECF No. 87). After holding a hearing on July 23, 2010 (ECF No. 113), this Court issued an Order (ECF No. 115) denying Petitioner's request to withdraw his guilty plea on July 26, 2010. On November 4, 2010, this Court sentenced Petitioner to a total period of 366 months incarceration with five years of supervised release (ECF No. 147). Petitioner appealed his sentence, and on September 9, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a Judgment (ECF No. 180) affirming this Court's decision. Petitioner filed the instant Motion to Vacate on September 20, 2012 (ECF No. 182), and the corresponding Motion to Amend and Supplement on October 22, 2012 (ECF No. 186).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court recognizes that Petitioner Quindell Ford ("Petitioner") is pro se and has accorded his pleadings liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a prisoner in custody may seek to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence where the court lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In general, prisoners are also instructed to raise any Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel claims in a motion under 28 U.S.C § 2255. See id. "Ineffective assistance claims are generally not cognizable on direct appeal, ... unless [an attorney's ineffectiveness] conclusively appears from the record.'" United States v. Benton, 523 F.3d 424, 435 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Richardson, 195 F.3d 192, 198 (4th Cir. 1999)).

To prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a petitioner must satisfy the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 671 (1984). See Roe v. Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470, 477 (2000). The first, or "performance, " prong of the test requires a showing that defense counsel's representation was deficient and fell below an "objective standard of reasonableness." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688. In making this determination, courts observe a strong presumption that counsel's actions fell within the "wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Id. at 688-89. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has previously noted that "[t]he defendant bears the burden of proving the first prong under the Strickland test, " and unless this burden is met, "a reviewing court does not need to consider the second prong." Fields v. Att'y Gen. of Md., 956 F.2d 1290, 1297 (1992).

The second, or "prejudice, " prong requires that a defendant demonstrate that his counsel's errors deprived him of a fair trial. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. The Fourth Circuit has concluded that the mere possibility of a different trial result does not satisfy the burden placed on the defendant. Hoots v. Allsbrook, 785 F.2d 1214, 1220 (4th Cir. 1986). Ineffective assistance of counsel claims may be disposed of solely based on a deficiency in showing prejudice. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697.

ANALYSIS

I. Petitioner's Motion to Amend and Supplement

Preliminarily, this Court addresses Petitioner's Motion to Amend and Supplement Section 2255 Motion (ECF No. 186) under Rule 15(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. "The Court may... permit a party to serve a supplemental pleading... even though the original pleading is defective in stating a claim or defense." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(d). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has instructed, "the standards used by a district court in ruling on a motion to amend or on a motion to supplement are nearly identical." Franks v. Ross, 313 F.3d 184, 198 n. 15 (4th. Cir. 2002). "In either situation, leave should be freely granted, and should be denied only where good reason exists... such as prejudice to the defendants.'" Id. (quoting Walker v. United Parcel Serv., 240 F.3d 1268, 1278 (10th Cir. 2002)). In light of the Government's non-opposition to this Motion, as well as the fact that Petitioner filed it within the one-year statute of limitations for filing a motion to vacate, this Court GRANTS ...


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