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Anderson v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 13, 2017

CRAIG OKEIDO ANDERSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Civil Action No. RDB-16-1468

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The pro se Petitioner Craig Okeido Anderson (“Petitioner” or “Anderson”) pled guilty before this Court to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), pursuant to a Plea Agreement with the Government. J., p. 1, ECF No. 59. Judge Quarles[1] of this Court sentenced Petitioner to 84 months imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. Id. at 2-3. Currently pending before this Court is Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 76).[2] Having reviewed the parties' submissions, this Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons discussed herein, Petitioner's Motion to Vacate (ECF No. 76) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On August 27, 2014, Petitioner Craig Okeido Anderson (“Petitioner” or “Anderson”) pled guilty before this court to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), pursuant to a Plea Agreement with the Government. J., p. 1, ECF No. 59. At a Rearraignment hearing before Judge Quarles of this Court, Anderson verified on the record that he had read and discussed the Plea Agreement with his court-appointed counsel, understood the charges against him, and was satisfied with his counsel's services. Rearraignment Tr., pp. 5-9, ECF No. 70.[3] Judge Quarles accepted Anderson's guilty plea, finding that he had knowingly and voluntarily entered into that guilty plea with the assistance of counsel. J., p. 1, ECF No. 59. Subsequently, in a November 14, 2014 letter to this Court (ECF No. 48), and at a January 13, 2015 hearing, Anderson moved to withdraw his plea. This Court denied that request, finding that Anderson had not established any of the six factors required for a criminal defendant to withdraw his guilty plea. See Mem. Op., p. 6, ECF No. 56 (citing United States v. Moore, 931 F.2d 245, 248 (4th Cir. 1991). This Court sentenced Anderson to 84 months imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. J., p. 1, ECF No. 59.

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed Anderson's conviction and upheld this Court's denial of Anderson's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. United States v. Anderson, 624 F. App'x 106 (4th Cir. Dec. 14, 2015). In his pending Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 76), Anderson argues that his court-appointed counsel rendered ineffective assistance, in violation of his rights under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Mot., ECF No. 76; Reply, ECF No. 82. Additionally, Anderson contends that he is entitled to a sentence reduction in light of the United States Supreme Court's holding in Johnson v United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), which declared the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), unconstitutionally vague. See Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 78.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pro se filings are “liberally construed” and are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)(citation omitted). 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, ” (2) the court lacked “jurisdiction to impose the sentence, . . . [(3)] the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or [(4) 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)).

         DISCUSSION

         In order to establish ineffective assistance of counsel, Petitioner must satisfy the two- pronged test established in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 671 (1984). First, Petitioner must show that his counsel's performance was deficient such that it fell below an “objective standard of reasonableness.” Id. at 688. In assessing whether counsel's performance was deficient, courts adopt a “strong presumption” that an attorney's actions fall within the “wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Id. at 689. Second, Petitioner must show that his counsel's performance was prejudicial, meaning the defendant was “depriv[ed] . . . of a fair trial.” Id. at 687. To demonstrate such prejudice, Petitioner must show there was a “reasonable probability that, but for counsel's [alleged] unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding[s] would have been different.” Id. at 694. Both of these prongs must be satisfied for the Petitioner to obtain the relief he is seeking. Id. at 687.

         In the plea bargaining context, “claims of ineffective assistance of counsel . . . are governed by the two-part test set forth in Strickland.” Missouri v. Frye, 132 S.Ct. 1399, 1405 (2012) (citing Hill, 474 U.S. at 57). However, the “prejudice prong of the test is slightly modified” in that Petitioner must show “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.” Hooper v. Garraghty, 845 F.2d 471, 475 (4th Cir. 1988) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Id. (quoting Hill, 474 U.S. at 59).

         I. Petitioner Has Failed to Demonstrate Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Petitioner argues his “trial counsel failed to advise him before pleading guilty to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) that . . . this was a deportable offense under the Immigration and Naturalization Act (8 U.S.C. § 1227).” Mot., p. 8, ECF No. 76. He specifically contends that his attorney “did not confer with [Petitioner] and explain the adverse consequence of deportation by entering a plea of guilty.” Id. at 10.

         In this case, Petitioner is incapable of demonstrating ineffective assistance because he explicitly indicated on the record at his Rearraignment proceedings that he was satisfied with his counsel's representation and that he was voluntarily pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The record reads as follows:

THE COURT: Mr. Anderson, you've just taken an oath to tell the truth. That means that any statement you make this afternoon has to be ...

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