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Wilson v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 24, 2015

SCOTT WILSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Civil Action No. RDB-13-302

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

On February 5, 2010, Petitioner Scott Wilson ("Petitioner" or "Wilson") pled guilty to arson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). ECF Nos. 37 & 38. On July 10, 2010, Petitioner was sentenced by this Court to a term of two-hundred and forty (240) months incarceration and three (3) years of supervised release. On January 28, 2013, Petitioner filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 83. The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons that follow, Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On October 31, 2008, Petitioner was living in a home located at 7202 Mink Hollow Road, Highland, Maryland. Plea Agreement, Statement of Facts, ECF No. 37. Petitioner owned and worked for a company called Subtractions LLC, a computer and electronics recycling company servicing the Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia areas. Id. The official business address of Subtractions LLC was 7202 Mink Hollow Road. Id. Additionally, there were several business vehicles registered to the Mink Hollow Road address and Petitioner maintained a space there for Subtractions LLC business. Id.

On or about October 31, 2008, Petitioner intentionally set a fire which resulted in significant damage to real and personal property located at 7202 Mink Hollow Road. ECF No. 37. The Howard County Fire Department responded to the fire; thereafter, Petitioner attempted to flee the property and narrowly missed hitting a Howard County Fire Department firefighter with Petitioner's vehicle. Id.

On December 31, 2008, Petitioner poured screws and glass on the driveway of an individual with the initials "PMF, " a potential witness for the Government in this case. ECF No. 37. On January 8, 2009, Petitioner threatened to kill individuals with the initials "MLM" and "JM II" and the grandchildren of MLM. Id. Both MJM and JM II were potential witnesses for the Government in this case as well. Id.

On January 9, 2009, a United States Magistrate Judge issued a criminal complaint against Petitioner for arson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). ECF No. 1. On January 22, 2009, Petitioner was indicted by a federal grand jury for arson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). ECF No. 8. On February 19, 2009, the grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment charging Petitioner with one count of arson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i), and two counts of obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512. ECF No. 12.

On February 5, 2010, Petitioner pled guilty to Count One of the Superseding Indictment, arson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). ECF No. 37. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Count Two and Count Three of the Superseding Indictment were dismissed on the Government's motion. ECF No. 51. On July 10, 2010, Petitioner was sentenced by this Court to a term of two-hundred and forty (240) months incarceration and three (3) years of supervised release. ECF No. 49. Petitioner was ordered to pay $147, 247.46 in restitution and a $100.00 special assessment. ECF No. 49. Judgment on Petitioner's sentence was entered on August 4, 2010. ECF No. 51.

On August 10, 2010, Petitioner filed a timely Notice of Appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. ECF No. 53. On November 4, 2011 the Fourth Circuit entered judgment affirming the judgment of this Court. ECF No. 67. On January 28, 2013, Petitioner filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 83. This court addresses Petitioner's claims for relief below.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court recognizes that 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 (1) "the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, " (b) the court lacked "jurisdiction to impose the sentence, ... [(c)] the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or [(d) the sentence] is otherwise subject to a collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. "[A]n error of law does not provide a basis for collateral attack unless the claimed error constituted a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.'" United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979) (quoting Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962)).

To state a claim for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 based on a Sixth Amendment claim of ineffective assistance of counsel 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 second, or "prejudice" prong, requires that defendant demonstrate that his counsel's errors deprived him of a fair trial. Id. at 687.

In applying the Strickland test, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has noted that there is no reason to address both prongs if the defendant makes "an insufficient showing on one.'" Moore v. Hardee, 723 F.3d 488, 500 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697). Thus, ineffective assistance of counsel claims may be disposed of based solely on a deficiency in satisfying either the "performance" prong or the "prejudice" prong. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697. The Fourth Circuit has also noted that the mere possibility of a different trial result does not satisfy the burden of proving prejudice placed on the defendant. See Hoots v. Allsbrook, 785 F.2d 1214, 1221 (4th Cir. 1986). Additionally, "[i]neffective 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)). Furthermore, when a defendant alleges ineffective assistance after a guilty plea has been entered, the burden of proving the second prong of prejudice becomes even greater. In ...


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