United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Christopher Walter Palmer, Petitioner, Pro Se.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. GRIMM, District Judge.
November 6, 2013, Christopher Palmer was charged with
conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to
distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 28 grams or
more of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846.
See Indict., ECF No. 1. On November 8, 2013, Palmer
sold crack cocaine to an undercover law enforcement officer
in exchange for three machine guns. Plea Agr. Sealed Suppl.
10-11, ECF No. 96-1; Re-Arraignment Trans. 31:16-18,
32:12-15, ECF No. 96-2. On April 24, 2014, Palmer pleaded
guilty to a two-count Superseding Information which included
the original § 846 charge, as well as possession of a machine
gun, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922(o)(1). Plea Agr. 1, ECF No.
47. Palmer was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment and
five years of supervised release. Jgmt., ECF No. 81.
now brings a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 seeking to vacate,
set aside, or correct his sentence on the basis of
ineffective assistance of counsel. Def.'s Mot., ECF No.
85. First, Palmer alleges that ineffective assistance of
counsel rendered his guilty plea involuntary on the grounds
that his attorney (1) failed to present him with alternative
options to accepting the plea agreement and failed to notify
him of prosecutorial defects; (2) was unfamiliar with the
facts of his case; and (3) failed to advise him of his right
to a speedy trial or of the Sixth Amendment rights he would
surrender with the entry of his guilty plea. Id. at
1-2. Second, Palmer alleges ineffective assistance of counsel
on the basis that his attorney failed to protect his right to
a speedy trial. Id. at 5. Because the record does
not support Palmer's claims that his counsel was
ineffective in either respect, I will deny his motion to
vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence.
U.S.C. § 2255(a) permits a prisoner to file a motion to
vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence on the ground that
it "was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws
of the United States...." The prisoner must prove his
case by a preponderance of the evidence. Brown v. United
States, Civil No. DKC-10-2569 & Crim. No. DKC-08-529,
2013 WL 4562276, at *5 (D. Md. Aug. 27, 2013). If the court
finds for the prisoner, "the court shall vacate and set
the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or
resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence
as may appear appropriate." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).
Although "a pro se movant is entitled to have
his arguments reviewed with appropriate deference, " the
court may summarily deny the motion without a hearing
"if the § 2255 motion, along with the files and records
of the case, conclusively shows that [the prisoner] is not
entitled to relief." Brown, 2013 WL 4562276, at
*5 (citing Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151-53
(4th Cir. 1978); 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b)).
prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel as
the alleged constitutional violation,
a petitioner must show that counsel's performance was
constitutionally deficient to the extent that it fell below
an objective standard of reasonableness, and that he was
prejudiced thereby. Strickland v. Washington, 466
U.S. 668, 687-91 (1984). In making this determination, there
is a strong presumption that counsel's conduct was within
the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.
Id. at 689; see also Fields v. Attorney Gen. of
Md., 956 F.2d 1290, 1297-99 (4th Cir. 1992).
Furthermore, the petitioner "bears the burden of proving
Strickland prejudice." Fields, 956
F.2d at 1297. "If the petitioner fails to meet this
burden, a reviewing court need not consider the performance
prong." Fields, 956 F.2d at 1297 (citing
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697). In considering the
prejudice prong of the analysis, the Court may not grant
relief solely because the petitioner can show that, but for
counsel's performance, the outcome would have been
different. Sexton v. French, 163 F.3d 874, 882 (4th
Cir. 1998). Rather, the Court "can only grant relief
under... Strickland if the result of the proceeding
was fundamentally unfair or unreliable.'"
Id. (quoting Lockhard v. Fretwell, 506 U.S.
364, 369 (1993)).
United States v. Lomax, Civil No. WMN-13-2375 &
Crim. No. WMN-10-145, 2014 WL 1340065, at *2 (D. Md. Apr. 2,
2014). "When a petitioner alleges ineffective assistance
of counsel following the entry of a guilty plea, he must show
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. Fabian, 798 F.Supp.2d 647, 670-71 (D. Md.
2011) (quoting Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59
states that his motion to vacate should be granted on the
basis of ineffective assistance of counsel by his attorney,
Andrew Szekely. See Def.'s Mot. 1. Palmer states
that "his plea was not made intelligently, voluntarily,
and was made without sufficient awareness of the relevant
circumstances." Id. Furthermore, he states that
Defendant's counsel deceitfully obscured the facts of
this matter from Defendant. Counsel coerced Defendant into
accepting a plea as his only option in the matter. Counsel
never discussed any legal options with Defendant including
any other suppressive motions, the insufficiency of the
indictment and affidavits supporting the warrants, his right
to trial by jury, his right to a speedy trial and the
relevant statutes that prevent prolonged pretrial
incarceration, prosecutorial defects, affirmative defenses
and other statutory claims to challenge the indictment.
Defendant was assigned counsel who was ineffective, counsel
was never familiar with the facts of the matter, instead of
intelligently discussing the matter and options to Defendant,
counsel attempted to convince Defendant that he had no other
options other then [sic] going with plea offer. Counsel did
not provide guidance to Defendant on his rights and his legal
options in this matter, instead council [sic] convinced
against [Palmer's] better judgment that he had no options
but to take the plea.
Id. at 1-2. He separately alleges that "counsel
did not protect Defendant's rights regarding his
constitutionally protected right to a speedy trial. The
extraordinary delay and oppressive incarceration of
[D]efendant in this matter has prejudiced Defendant and
permitted the [G]overnment to strengthen their case."
Id. at 5. I will read Palmer as making two claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel: (A) with respect to the
voluntariness of his guilty plea and (B) with respect to the
protection of his right to a speedy trial.
Voluntariness of the Plea
alleges that his guilty plea was made involuntarily and
"without sufficient awareness of the relevant
circumstances." Id. at 1. His three bases for
this allegation are that Szekely (1) failed to present Palmer
with legal options and notify Palmer of prosecutorial
defects; (2) was unfamiliar with the facts of Palmer's
case and coerced his acceptance of the plea agreement; and
(3) did not advise Palmer of his right to a speedy trial or
of the Sixth Amendment rights he would surrender with the