United States District Court, D. Maryland
REGINALD JEFFERIES, JR.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Criminal No. DKC 12-0284
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.
pending and ready for resolution is the motion of Petitioner
Reginald Jefferies, Jr. (“Petitioner”) to vacate,
set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. (ECF No. 45). The issues have been briefed, and the
court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local
Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Petitioner's
motion will be denied.
April 4, 2012, Petitioner was charged by criminal complaint
with multiple counts of fraud in connection with access
devices and with causing interstate transportation of goods
obtained by fraud. (ECF No. 1). The Federal Public Defender
was appointed to represent Petitioner, with Assistant Federal
Public Defender LaKeytria Felder appearing as counsel. (ECF
Nos. 5, 7). On May 18, Petitioner agreed to waive indictment
and plead guilty to one count of fraud in connection with
access devices (ECF No. 16 ¶ 1), and the government
filed an Information charging Petitioner with one count of
fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(2) on May 23
(ECF No. 14). When Petitioner appeared for arraignment on
July 19, the court suspended proceedings because it was not
clear Petitioner was prepared to accept the plea. (ECF No.
18). Subsequently, Petitioner wrote a letter to the court
requesting new counsel (ECF No. 19), and Joseph J. McCarthy
was appointed to represent Petitioner (ECF Nos. 21, 23).
Petitioner's arraignment was rescheduled and the speedy
trial clock was tolled. (ECF No. 22).
August 23, Petitioner waived indictment and pleaded guilty to
the Information. (ECF No. 24). During the Rule 11 hearing,
Petitioner was placed under oath, stated his desire to plead
guilty, and confirmed his understanding of the litany of
rights he would be required to waive. (ECF No. 49-3, at 3-4,
7-10). Petitioner stipulated that beginning on or about
February 20, 2008, and continuing through on or about April
2, 2010, he obtained credit cards in his own name, added
fictitious names as secondary users on the accounts, and then
used the credit cards to order items from various merchants
on installment payment plans. After Petitioner received the
items, he reported the credit cards as lost or stolen. As a
result, the credit card companies closed the accounts and
issued new account numbers, preventing the merchants from
charging the cards for the subsequent installment payments
that were due. Petitioner then sold the items he had
purchased on installment plans on eBay. (ECF No. 26-1, at
October 31, Petitioner moved to withdraw his guilty plea.
(ECF No. 29). At a motions hearing on November 29, Petitioner
orally moved to withdraw the motion, and then requested
additional time to reflect on his motion. (ECF No. 35). The
hearing was continued until December 3, Petitioner's
scheduled sentencing. (Id.). On December 3, the
court denied Petitioner's motion to withdraw his guilty
plea after hearing from the parties and sentenced Petitioner
to 18 months imprisonment and three years of supervised
release. (ECF Nos. 36, 39). The court ordered Petitioner to
pay restitution of $187, 881.88 and a special assessment of
$100. (ECF No. 39).
moved to correct his sentence on December 6, arguing that the
amount of restitution due was incorrectly fixed. (ECF No.
41). The motion was denied following a hearing. (ECF No. 43).
did not appeal. On June 24, 2013, he timely filed the pending
motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 45). The government
opposed (ECF No. 49), and Petitioner filed a reply (ECF No.
Standard of Review
2255 requires a petitioner asserting constitutional error to
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(a). If the § 2255 motion, along with
the files and records of the case, conclusively shows that
the petitioner is not entitled to relief, a hearing on the
motion is unnecessary and the claims raised in the motion may
be summarily denied. See Id. § 2255(b).
asserts claims for ineffective assistance of counsel based on
nine grounds. These are, briefly: (1) the alleged failure of
both his attorneys to review and investigate his case before
recommending that he enter a guilty plea; (2) his second
attorney's alleged failure to argue for withdrawal of the
plea or for probation; (3) his second attorney's failure
to file a motion to reconsider; (4)-(5) the alleged failure
of both his attorneys to investigate the grounds of the
search warrant; (6) the alleged failure of both his attorneys
to advise him of the rights he would give up by pleading
guilty; (7) the alleged failure of his first attorney to
inform Petitioner that the judgment would be a matter of
public record; (8) the alleged failure of the police
department to return items seized in the search of his
residence; and (9) the alleged failure of both his attorneys
to inform him of his right to a grand jury indictment. (ECF
No. 45, at 6-11). In his reply, Petitioner additionally
asserts that there was not a factual basis for the plea.
(See ECF No. 50, at 2-7, 9-11).
of ineffective assistance of counsel are governed by the
well-settled standard adopted by the United States Supreme
Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668
(1984). To prevail on a Strickland claim, the
petitioner must show both that his attorney's performance
fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that
he suffered actual prejudice. See Strickland, 466
U.S. at 688.
is a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls
within a wide range of reasonably professional conduct, and
courts must be highly deferential in scrutinizing
counsel's performance. Strickland, 466 U.S. at
688-89; Bunch v. Thompson, 949 F.2d 1354, 1363
(4th Cir. 1991). Courts must assess the
reasonableness of attorney conduct “as of the time
their actions occurred, not the conduct's consequences
after the fact.” Frye v. Lee, 235 F.3d 897,
906 (4th Cir. 2000). “A fair assessment of
attorney performance requires that every effort be made to
eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct
the circumstances of counsel's challenged conduct, and to
evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the
time.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689.
Furthermore, a determination need not be made concerning the
attorney's performance if it is clear that no prejudice
could have resulted from some performance deficiency. See
Id. at 697. To demonstrate actual prejudice, Petitioner
must show that there is a “reasonable probability that,
but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of
the proceeding would have been different.” Id.
petitioner who pleads guilty has an especially high burden in
establishing an ineffective assistance claim. As the Supreme
Court explained, “[t]he plea process brings to the
criminal justice system a stability and a certainty that must
not be undermined by the prospect of collateral challenges in
cases . . . where witnesses and evidence were not presented
in the first place.” Premo v. Moore, 562 U.S.
115, 132 (2011). Thus, a petitioner alleging ineffective
assistance in the context of a guilty plea must meet a
“substantial burden . . . to avoid the plea[.]”
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Prior to the Plea
raises a number of grounds for his ineffective assistance of
counsel claim that were apparent at the time he entered his
plea. Petitioner argues that both of his attorneys failed to
review the discovery in his case sufficiently and inquire
into the probable cause for the search of his home. (ECF No.
45, at 6-10 (Grounds 1, 4-5)). He also alleges that Ms.
Felder gave him incomplete advice when he asked if his guilty
plea would be a matter of public record. (Id. at 11
(Ground 7)). Finally, Petitioner states that his attorneys
failed to inform him of the rights he would give up by
pleading guilty, including specifically the right to a grand
jury indictment. (Id. at 10-11 (Grounds 6, 9)). The
government argues that these issues were known before