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Quinones v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 31, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal No. RWT-04-0234


ROGER W. TITUS, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are three motions relating to Petitioner Norberto Quinones's petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. First, Quinones argues in his original petition that his appointed counsel was ineffective on five grounds: (1) counsel failed to sufficiently develop the facts and evidence on appeal of this Court's denial of his motion for severance, (2) counsel failed to raise on appeal the issue of the propriety of a life sentence, (3) counsel failed to request an informant jury instruction, (4) counsel failed to raise on appeal that the trial court erred by not considering the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors at sentencing, and (5) counsel did not argue that this Court lacked jurisdiction to apply the sentencing guidelines. ECF No. 232-1, at 18-60. Second, Quinones moves to amend and supplement an existing claim to include an affidavit from a Government witness in which he declared that he committed perjury and was coerced by the Government into presenting false testimony. ECF No. 241. Quinones maintains this information supports ground two in his original petition. Id. at 2. Third, Quinones requests an evidentiary hearing regarding his petition. ECF No. 251. The Court has reviewed the motions, related memoranda, and applicable law. No hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons presented below, the Court denies all three motions.


On March 1, 2006, the Government charged Quinones as one of three defendants in a 22-count criminal indictment on charges related to his involvement in a conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and marijuana in open-air drug markets in Forestville, Maryland between 2000 and 2002. ECF No. 77, at 2. The Government presented evidence at trial, including the testimony of police officers, neighbors, citizens, friends, and associates of the defendants; physical evidence from numerous shootings; and drugs and guns seized by law enforcement officers. ECF No. 239, at 3. Approximately thirteen witnesses described Quinones and the other defendants' repeated drug-trafficking activities-including bagging, packaging, and selling cocaine base and marijuana-and the carrying and use of multiple firearms during their drug trafficking activity. Id. In addition, officers and other witnesses described the drug seizures and the events underlying each substantive offense. Id.

A jury convicted Quinones of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana and cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count 1); conspiracy to possess and use firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(o) (Count 2); possession with intent to distribute cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Counts 3 and 4); and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Count 5). ECF No. 152. As to Count 1, conspiracy to distribute and possess marijuana and cocaine base, the jury found that 50 grams or more of cocaine base was attributable to Quinones. ECF No. 135, ¶ 9. The jury also found one of Quinones's co-defendants guilty of murder as a result of the co-defendant's possession and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. Id. at ¶ 17.

At Quinones's sentencing on May 7, 2007, this Court determined that the murder perpetrated by Quinones's co-defendant was committed in furtherance of the drug conspiracy and was reasonably foreseeable to Quinones as a co-conspirator. ECF No. 176, at 14:7-13. Quinones was sentenced to life imprisonment for Count 1, 240 months imprisonment as to each of Counts 2, 3, and 4 (concurrent to Count 1), and 60 months imprisonment as to Count 5 (to run consecutively). ECF No. 152. Quinones appealed his convictions, which the Fourth Circuit affirmed on May 21, 2010. Quinones v. United States, 378 Fed.Appx. 349 (4th Cir. 2010). The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari on December 13, 2010. Quinones v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 840 (2010).

On December 9, 2010, Mr. Quinones filed a Motion for Modification of an Imposed Term of Imprisonment pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). ECF No. 215. This Court denied his motion in a Memorandum Opinion issued on August 1, 2011. ECF No. 221. The Fourth Circuit affirmed on February 14, 2012. ECF No. 237.

On November 14, 2011, Quinones filed this timely pro se motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 236. On the same day, he filed three motions-a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, ECF No. 233, a Motion Requesting an Evidentiary Hearing, ECF No. 34, and a Motion to Appoint Counsel, ECF No. 235-which the Court denied in an Order issued on November 21, 2011, ECF No. 236. The Government responded in opposition to the § 2255 petition on March 22, 2012, ECF No. 239, and Quinones filed a reply in support on April 9, 2012, ECF No. 240. Quinones moved to to amend and supplement his original petition on June 5, 2013, which the Government opposed on July 29, 2014, ECF No. 244. Finally, Quinones filed a motion requesting an evidentiary hearing regarding his petition on October 23, 2014. ECF No. 251.


Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a petitioner must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that "the 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 (2012); Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958). If the § 2255 motion, along with the files and records of the case, "conclusively show that [he] is entitled to no relief, " a hearing on the motion is unnecessary and the claims raised in the motion may be dismissed summarily.

I. Quinones's claims in his original petition for ineffective assistance fail because counsel's performance was not deficient and did not prejudice Quinones.

Courts examine claims of ineffective assistance of counsel under the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). Under the performance prong, a defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. Id. "Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential." Id. at 689; see also United States v. Terry, 366 F.3d 312, 317 (4th Cir. 2004). The alleged deficient performance must be objectively unreasonable and "requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. The Court must evaluate the conduct at issue from counsel's perspective at the time, and must "indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Id. Under the prejudice prong, a defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, there is a reasonable probability that the result of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 687, 694. Unless a defendant makes both showings, the Court cannot find that the conviction resulted from a breakdown in the adversary process which renders the result unreliable. Id. at 669. Finally, "there is no reason for a court deciding an ineffective assistance claim to approach the inquiry in the same order or even to address both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes an insufficient showing on one." Id. at 697.

Quinones raises several allegations that he characterizes as ineffective assistance in his original petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his ...

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