United States District Court, D. Maryland
DARRYL A. STUCKEY, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Civil No. RWT-14-0534
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ROGER W. TITUS, District Judge.
Pending before the Court is Petitioner Darryl Stuckey's petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. In it, Petitioner contends that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. Petitioner asserts that his counsel provided him with ineffective assistance by failing to 1) notice his actual innocence regarding Count One, 2) object to the order to pay restitution, 3) object to sentencing calculation errors, 4) file a direct appeal, and 5) fully investigate his medical records and adequately represent his health to the Court. Mot. 1-18, ECF No. 60. Petitioner also submits his post-conviction rehabilitation efforts for consideration. Id. at 19-20.
Petitioner is out of prison and currently on supervised release, but is still eligible for the instant motion because he initiated his § 2255 motion while in prison and because individuals on parole or supervised release are considered to be in "physical custody" for the purposes of a motion that contests a restriction on individual liberty. See Jones v. Cunningham, 371 U.S. 236, 240 (1963) ("[T]he use of habeas corpus has not been restricted to situations in which the applicant is in actual, physical custody."); Hammitt v. U.S. Probation Office, 235 F.Appx. 129, 130 n.2 (2007) (stating the relevant inquiry is whether the petitioner's status subjects him to a restraint on his liberty).
On February 25, 2012, a federal grand jury returned a twelve-count indictment against Petitioner. ECF No. 1. On December 21, 2012, Petitioner pleaded guilty to Counts One and Seven of the indictment. ECF No. 44. Count One charged Petitioner with corruptly endeavoring to impede the internal revenue laws in violation 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a). Id. ¶ 1. Count Seven charged Petitioner with fraudulently concealing assets in a bankruptcy proceeding in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 152(1). Id. This Court issued a judgment of conviction in accordance with the plea agreement on June 11, 2013, adjudging the defendant guilty on Counts One and Seven and dismissing Counts Two through Six and Eight through Twelve. ECF No. 57. Petitioner was sentenced to a twenty-four month prison term and a total of three years of probation with the requirement to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") on his release. Id.
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.
A. Petitioner does not provide any evidence, let alone clear and convincing evidence, that would cause this Court to disregard the representations he made under oath during his plea hearing.
Petitioner does not present any evidence that would allow this Court to disregard the statements he made under oath at his plea hearing. A defendant's representations at a plea hearing carry a strong presumption of verity and a "formidable barrier in any subsequent collateral proceedings." Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 74 (1977). Absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, a defendant is bound by the representations he made under oath during a plea colloquy. See Fields v. Attorney Gen. of Md., 956 F.2d 1290, 1299 (4th Cir. 1992) (finding that because the petitioner presented no evidence to suggest that his representations during the plea hearing were untruthful or involuntary, he was rightly bound by the sworn statements).
Petitioner gives this Court no reason to disregard the representation he made during his plea hearing. During the plea hearing, Petitioner answered in the affirmative when asked if he had discussed the charges in the indictment with his attorney and if he was satisfied by the counsel, representation, and advice given to him by his attorney. See Gov't Resp. Ex. A, at 6, EFC No. 67 (Plea Hearing Transcript). Petitioner further verified that he reviewed, signed, and understood the plea agreement. Id. at 6-7. No assertion in Petitioner's § 2255 motion reaches the high, clear, and convincing standard necessary to cast doubt on Petitioner's stated satisfaction with counsel that he made during his plea hearing. In fact, even absent this high standard, Petitioner's § 2255 motion claims are without merit.
B. Even if the clear and convincing evidence necessary to disregard Petitioner's claims under oath was present, Petitioner's claims that he suffered prejudice from his counsel's performance are without merit.
In evaluating the claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, courts apply the two-prong test set out in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). First, Petitioner must show that counsel's presentation fell "below an objective standard of reasonableness." Id. at 688. Second, Petitioner must show there is a reasonable probability that, absent counsel's errors, the outcome of the case would have been different. Id. at 669. However, when a conviction is based on a guilty plea, the second prong of the Strickland test requires a petitioner to show that not only would the outcome of the case have been different but that there is "a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial." United States v. Fugit, 703 F.3d 248, 259 (4th Cir. 2012) (emphasis added) (quoting Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985)).
1. Petitioner's claim he suffered prejudice because his counsel failed to notice he was actually innocent of Count One is without merit.
Petitioner alleges counsel was ineffective for failing to notice that the requisite elements for a charge of corrupt or forcible interference with the administration of the internal revenue laws pursuant to § 7212(a) were absent. Mot. 10. Petitioner argues that a required element to trigger the operation of the statute is the threat of force, forcefulness, corrupt solicitation, or intimidation, and that there was no actual threat or intimidation alleged in his case. Id. However, this assertion misinterprets the requisite elements of the statute. It is a well-established principle that courts should construe the omnibus clauses of federal obstruction statutes broadly. United States v. Bostian, 59 F.3d 474, 478 (4th Cir. 1995) (citing United States v. Martin, 747 F.2d 1404, 1409 (11th Cir. 1984) ("Congress may use a term that conveys the type of conduct regulated rather than enumerate all the specific instances within the legislation.")). Even legal actions may violate § 7212(a) if the defendant commits them to "secure an unlawful benefit for himself or others." United States v. Wilson, 118 F.3d 228, 234 (4th Cir. ...