Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Moquete v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 14, 2018

LINCOLN NORMANDO MOQUETE, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.

         On September 18, 2015, a jury convicted Petitioner Lincoln Normando Moquete of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 846, and possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 841. (ECF Nos. 26 and 80.) On December 15, 2015, Petitioner was sentenced to 144 months to run concurrent on each count. (ECF No. 100.) Petitioner subsequently appealed his conviction, raising several arguments, which the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied. (ECF Nos. 102 and 115); see also United States v. Moquete, 669 Fed.Appx. 179 (4th Cir. 2016).

         On November 1, 2017, Moquete, now incarcerated at FCI Williamsburg in Salters, South Carolina, filed this action to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.[1] (ECF No. 118.) The Government responded in opposition to Moquete's motion to vacate. (ECF No. 120.) Having reviewed the parties' submissions, this Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's Motion (ECF No. 118) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On March 9, 2010, Maryland State Police observed a co-conspirator of the Petitioner operating a rental car in excess of the posted speed limit on I-95 in Cecil County, Maryland. (ECF No. 60-1 at 8.) A canine narcotics detector alerted to the presence of narcotics in the vehicle. (Id.) A subsequent search of the vehicle produced a duffle bag containing thirteen kilograms of cocaine parceled into two bundles of bricks-one containing eight kilograms of cocaine and another containing five kilograms of cocaine. (Id.) The individual bricks were wrapped in plastic or plastic bags and then wrapped together in plastic wrap. (Id.) The cocaine was subjected to a latent print analysis through the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (“IAFIS”) wherein an examiner identified nineteen fingerprints belonging to Petitioner. (ECF No. 110 at 175.)

         Petitioner's co-conspirator ultimately pled guilty to federal drug offenses and was sentenced to 120 months' imprisonment. (ECF No. 109 at 62-63.) Petitioner's co-conspirator later inculpated another co-conspirator. (Id. at 66-67.) This additional co-conspirator identified Petitioner as his source. (ECF No. 110 at 228.) Petitioner retained private counsel (ECF No. 51), and the case went to trial on September 14, 2015. (ECF No. 66.) Both co-conspirators testified against Petitioner at trial. (ECF No. 110.) After a five-day trial, the jury convicted Petitioner of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. (ECF No. 81.) On December 15, 2015, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 144 months of imprisonment to run concurrent on each count and five years of supervised release. (ECF No. 100.) On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed Petitioner's conviction. (ECF No. 115.) On November 1, 2017, Petitioner moved to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 118.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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)).

         ANALYSIS

         The Petitioner raises the following claims in his Motion to Vacate: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel due to counsel's failure to proffer expert witness testimony to rebut the Government's fingerprint evidence; and (2) ineffective assistance of counsel due to counsel's failure to have a learned treatise read into the record to rebut the Government's fingerprint evidence. (ECF No. 118-1.) Petitioner argues that, at a minimum, an evidentiary hearing is required to resolve this Motion. (Id.)

         A freestanding claim of ineffective assistance of counsel may properly be asserted for the first time in a § 2255 petition. United States v. DeFusco, 949 F.2d 114, 120-21 (4th Cir. 1991). 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.

         I. Failure to Proffer Expert Witness Testimony

         Petitioner argues that counsel was ineffective for failing to hire an expert to rebut the Government's fingerprint evidence. Petitioner claims that an expert was needed to “present evidence to the jury on how fingerprint impressions could have been made on the packaging around the cocaine without actual, direct contact by Moquete.” (ECF No. 118-1.) According to Petitioner, such expert testimony would have “given the jury pause about Moquete's culpability.” (Id.) This argument constitutes an attack on counsel's trial strategy. United States v. Terry, 366 F.3d 312, 317 (4th Cir. 2004) (characterizing trial counsel's decision not to call a defense witness as a “strategic decision” and affording “enormous deference”) (quoting United States v. Kozinski, 16 F.3d 795, 813 (7th Cir. 1994)); see also Byram v. Ozmint, 339 F.3d 203, 209 (4th Cir. 2003). When attacking a strategic choice made during trial, a petitioner must “overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action ‘might be considered sound trial strategy.'” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101 (1955)). In deciding whether Petitioner has met this burden, this Court must make a “fair assessment of attorney performance, ” which “requires that every effort be made to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight.” Id.

         Although counsel did not proffer expert testimony to rebut the Government's fingerprint evidence, counsel did raise the issue of the potential lateral inversion of fingerprints. Counsel questioned the Government's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.