United States District Court, D. Maryland
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge
prison inmate Oluwagbenga Ajala pled guilty to wire fraud
conspiracy and, on May 9, 2017, was sentenced to 21 months in
prison. Represented by new counsel, he has filed a timely
motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons
that follow, the motion will be denied.
contends that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to
counsel because his attorney failed to advise him properly
regarding the immigration consequences of his guilty plea.
See Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 374 (2010). A
defendant alleging ineffective assistance of counsel must
establish both deficient performance and resulting prejudice.
See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688, 692
context of a guilty plea, prejudice is shown by establishing
that, but for the deficient advice, the defendant would not
have pled guilty but rather would have insisted on going to
trial, despite the strength of the evidence against him.
See Lee v. U.S., 137 S.Ct. 1958, 1965 (2017);
Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59
inquiry in this case does not reach the second step, however,
because the record established that Ajala was adequately
advised of the likelihood he would be deported as a result of
his fraud conviction. Trial counsel, James Crawford,
understood that Ajala had also consulted an immigration
attorney. In an email to his client before the plea, Crawford
On[e] of your big issues is your visa status and overall
ability to stay in this country. I have discussed this with
you for months and advised that I cannot represent you nor
officially advise you how your conviction in federal court
will effect [sic] you.
(Mot. to Vacate, ECF 28-4). Still, Crawford warned Ajala that
a conviction "would be detrimental to [him] and mo[s]t
likely result in deportation." Id.
with this, at the beginning of the plea colloquy Crawford put
this advice on the record:
MR. CRAWFORD: Now the biggest thing I am concerned about or
one of the things that I am concerned about is your status as
far as immigration. You are very concerned about it, is that
THE DEFENDANT: Correct.
MR. CRAWFORD: You understand any kind of guilty plea or
any type of finding of guilt, whether it is a trial
or an admission of guilt would put you in serious
jeopardy from being deported from the United States,
do you understand that?
MR. CRAWFORD: You and I talked about that and I understand
that you have a separate attorney I think, who is skilled as
far as immigration issues are concerned and he or ...