United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
pending and ready for resolution is a motion to vacate
sentence filed by Petitioner Marvin Bowden
(“Petitioner”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
(ECF No. 41). For the following reasons, the motion will be
February 5, 2014, Petitioner pled guilty pursuant to a plea
agreement in which he waived indictment and pled guilty to
the charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to
distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine (“Count
1”) and of conspiracy to use and carry a firearm in the
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and during and in
relation to a crime of violence (“Count 2”). On
July 21, Petitioner was sentenced to 120 months imprisonment,
concurrent on Counts 1 and 2. On March 19, 2015, Petitioner
filed the pending motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 41). The government was
directed to respond to the motion and did so on July 27. (ECF
Standard of Review
eligible for relief under § 2255, a petitioner must
show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his
“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). A pro se movant, such as
Petitioner, is entitled to have his arguments reviewed with
appropriate consideration. See Gordon v. Leeke, 574
F.2d 1147, 1151-53 (4th Cir. 1978). But if the
§ 2255 motion, along with the files and records of the
case, conclusively shows that he is not entitled to relief, a
hearing on the motion is unnecessary and the claims raised in
the motion may be dismissed summarily. § 2255(b).
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
alleges that his decision to plead guilty was the result of
ineffective assistance of counsel. (ECF No. 41, at 2). To
establish ineffective assistance of counsel, the petitioner
must show both that his attorney's performance fell below
an objective standard of reasonableness and that he suffered
actual prejudice. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S.
668, 687 (1984). There 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). 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.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697.
context of a § 2255 petition challenging a conviction
following a guilty plea, a defendant establishes prejudice by
demonstrating “a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and
would have insisted on going to trial.” Hill v.
Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985); accord United
States v. Mooney, 497 F.3d 397, 401 (4th Cir.
2007). Moreover, Petitioner “must convince the
court” that such a decision “would have been
rational under the circumstances.” Padilla v.
Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 372 (2010). Petitioner's
subjective preferences, therefore, are not dispositive; what
matters is whether proceeding to trial would have been
objectively reasonable in light of all of the facts.
United States v. Fugit, 703 F.3d 248, 260
(4th Cir. 2012).
petitioner who pleads guilty has an especially high burden in
establishing an ineffective assistance claim. As the Supreme
Court of the United States 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[.]” Id.
argues that his counsel's performance was objectively
unreasonable because counsel failed to conduct adequate
factual and legal investigations to discover the defenses of
prosecutorial misconduct, entrapment, racial profiling, and
selective prosecution and failed to inform Petitioner of
those defenses, which were “successful in obtaining
relief” for his co-defendants. (ECF No. 41, at 2).
Petitioner argues that he “was prejudiced as a result
of his counsel's errors because had he been advised . . .
he too would have insisted on going to trial and thereby
would have obtained the same exact relief as his
co-defendants.” (Id.). First, the defenses of
prosecutorial misconduct, entrapment, racial profiling, and
selective prosecution were not successful in obtaining relief
for his co-defendants. Petitioner's co-defendants were
found guilty of all charges and sentenced to longer terms of
imprisonment than Petitioner. United States v. Hare,
820 F.3d 93, 97 (4th Cir. 2016). Moreover,
Petitioner was not prejudiced by pleading guilty because it
was not objectively reasonable in light of the circumstances
to proceed to trial. If Petitioner had insisted on proceeding
to trial, he would have been charged with four charges rather
than just the two to which he pleaded guilty. The evidence
against Petitioner was overwhelming on all four charges and
Petitioner was the lead member of the conspiracy, recruiting
his co-defendants to commit the robbery of the purported drug
stash house. Hare, 820 F.3d at 95-96. Had the jury
been presented with this and other evidence of
Petitioner's guilt, it almost certainly would have found
Petitioner guilty on all charges along with the rest of his
co-defendants. Thus, Petitioner would have faced a sentence
for a much longer term of imprisonment than what he received.
“Pleading guilty generally involves a conscious
decision to accept both the benefits and burdens of a
bargain. That decision may not be lightly undone by
buyer's remorse on the part of one who has reaped
advantage from the purchase.” Fugit, 703 F.3d
at 260. Petitioner cannot show that proceeding to trial would
have been rational under the circumstances and thus his
ineffective assistance claim fails for lack of
next argues that the sentence he received for Count 1 was
disproportionate to that which his co-defendants received.
(ECF No. 41, at 2-3). Petitioner argues that counsel was
ineffective for not raising the issue of sentencing ...