United States District Court, D. Maryland
ANTONIO HILL, JR.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending is the amended motion to vacate sentence pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2255 filed by Petitioner Antonio Hill, Jr.
(“Petitioner”). (ECF No. 303). For the following
reasons, counsel will be appointed and an evidentiary hearing
will be scheduled on the § 2255 petition.
9, 2012, a grand jury sitting in the District of Maryland
returned a two count indictment charging Petitioner with
conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to
distribute 1, 000 kilograms or more of marijuana in violation
of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (“Count 1”) and
conspiracy to commit money laundering in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 1956(h) (“Count 2”). (ECF No. 1).
On January 31, 2013, counsel for Petitioner moved to suppress
all of the evidence uncovered from a June 24, 2011, search
and subsequent evidence discovered linking Petitioner to drug
trafficking as the fruit of an unlawful search. (ECF No.
court held a suppression hearing on May 20, 2013. The
Government called the police officer who conducted the search
to the stand, and he provided his versions of events. The
officer stated that his partner first attempted a “key
turn” using a key gained from Petitioner's
codefendant. After determining that the key fit, the officer
knocked on the door, and Erico opened the door “all the
way” which allowed the officer to see drugs and a small
child in the apartment. The officer testified that after
Erico opened the door, Erico became belligerent, so the
officer detained him. The officer then conducted a protective
sweep of the apartment and applied for and obtained a search
warrant. (ECF No. 283, at 35-39).
claims that, prior to filing the motion to suppress,
Petitioner and counsel “had conferred with [Erico] . .
. with respect to having [him] testify” about the
search. (ECF No. 303, at 2). Erico “indicated to both
Petitioner and counsel that he [was] willing to
testify” that police opened the door to search the
apartment and that he never opened the door. (Id.).
Petitioner contends that the facts are as follows: On June
24, 2011, using a key obtained from one of Petitioner's
codefendants, local police opened the door to an apartment in
Maryland. Petitioner's brother, Erico, and his young son
were asleep inside the residence at the time. Police closed
the door, then reopened the door and ordered Erico to exit
the apartment. Police placed Erico in handcuffs, brought him
back inside the apartment, and then conducted a search
finding marijuana and other evidence of drug trafficking.
(ECF No. 303, at 4-5).
requested counsel call Erico to testify, but counsel refused.
(ECF No. 303, at 2). Counsel did not call any other witnesses
to testify about the search, and, thus, the undisputed
evidence was that “somebody open[ed] the door all the
way and right in front of [the police was] contraband.”
(ECF No. 283, at 67). The court denied the motion to
suppress. (ECF No. 186).
12, 2013, Petitioner pleaded guilty to Count 1 and Count 2
contained in the Second Superseding Indictment. (ECF No.
170). Petitioner appealed to the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. (ECF No. 279). The Fourth
Circuit affirmed and issued its mandate on May 5, 2015. (ECF
Nos. 289, 290).
January 4, 2016, Petitioner filed a motion to vacate
sentence, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 302). Petitioner
filed an amended motion to vacate sentence on January 13.
(ECF No. 303). The Government was directed to respond and it
did so on May 20. (ECF No. 314).
Motion to Vacate Due to Ineffective Assistance of
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).
petitioner alleging ineffective assistance of counsel must
show 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 (1984). In determining objective reasonableness,
“[j]udicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must
be highly deferential[, ]” and “a court must
indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls
within the wide range of reasonable professional
assistance[.]” Id. at 689; 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).
context of a § 2255 petition challenging a conviction
following a guilty plea, a petitioner 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.” Lee v.
United States, 137 S.Ct. 1958, 1965 (2017) (quoting
Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985)). A
petitioner must also “convince the court” that
such a decision “would have been rational under the
circumstances.” Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S.
356, 372 (2010). Therefore, a petitioner's subjective
preferences are not dispositive. United States v.