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Martin v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 24, 2018

CURTIS R. MARTIN, JR., Petitioner,



         On July 28, 2015, pro se Petitioner, Curtis R. Martin, Jr. ("Petitioner" or "Martin"), pleaded guilty before this Court to one count of Wire Fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. (ECF No. 43 at 2.)[1] This Court sentenced Martin to ninety-six (96) months' imprisonment and ordered that he remain on supervised release for a period of three years.[2] (ECF No. 75.) Martin subsequently appealed his sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit because it was above the advisory Guidelines range of 63 to 78 months. (ECF No. 78.) On February 21, 2017, the Fourth Circuit affirmed this Court's Judgment. See United States v. Martin, 676 Fed.Appx. 214 (4th Cir. 2017). On January 10, 2018, Martin filed the subject Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 90.) The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See, e.g., United States v. Lemaster, 403 F.3d 216, 220-23 (4th Cir. 2005) (holding that a hearing must be held "[u]nless the motion and the files and records conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief . . . ."); United States v. White, 366 F.3d 291, 302 (4th Cir. 2004); United States v. Taylor, 139 F.3d 924, 933 (D.C. Cir. 1998); see also Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated herein, Petitioner's Motion to Vacate (ECF No. 90) is DENIED.


         The facts of this case are largely laid out in Martin's Plea Agreement. (Statement of Facts, ECF No. 32 at 12-16.)[3] To summarize, Martin incorporated Oledix Technologies, LLC ("Oledix") during die summer of 2010 while serving the final portion of a one-hundred and sixty-two (162) month federal prison sentence at a halfway house in the District of Maryland. (Id. at 12.) Martin represented Oledix as a technology firm that designed and distributed a variety of touchscreen products. (Id.)

         One of the companies from which Martin sought financing was New Century Financial ("NCF"), a Texas company in the business of accounts receivable financing. (Id. at 13.) In early April 2012, Martin provided NCF with fraudulent documents[4] that presented a misleading picture of Oledix's financial position. (Id.) As a result, Martin ultimately received financing on three different invoices from Oledix, with the amount of the invoices being substantially greater than the financing he received. (Id.) Specifically, on June 13, 2012, Martin submitted a request for financing to NCF. (Id.) This request was based upon a counterfeit invoice purportedly issued by Oledix to Johns Hopkins Medical Center ("Hopkins") in the amount of $174, 720, for the sale of three "Oledix mobile telemedicine carts." (Id. at 15.) The next day, based upon receipt of this Hopkins invoice, NCF provided $119, 986 in funding for Oledix via a wire transfer from its bank account in Texas to Oledix's PNC bank account in Maryland. (Id; see also Count 5 of Indictment, ECF No. 1 at 8.)

         On March 18, 2015, a federal Grand Jury charged Martin with various wire fraud offenses related to his involvement as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Oledix in these fraudulent schemes. (ECF No. 1.) Martin subsequently executed a Plea Agreement and pleaded guilty to Count 5 of the Indictment. (ECF Nos. 32, 43.) The Government then proceeded to dismiss Counts 1-4, and 6-14. (Id.) This Court sentenced Martin to ninety-six (96) months' imprisonment and ordered that he remain on supervised release for a period of three years subject to additional conditions. (ECF No. 75.)[5] Martin appealed this Court's Judgment to the Fourth Circuit based upon his sentence being above his advisory Guidelines range. Martin, 676 Fed.Appx. 214. The Fourth Circuit affirmed this Court's Judgment stating that "Martin's sentence [was] procedurally and substantively reasonable." Id. at 215. Currently pending is Martin's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 2255. (ECF No. 90.)


         Since Martin proceeds pro se in this manner, this Court must construe his pleadings liberally. See Brickson v. Vardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also Alley v. Yadkin County Sheriff Dept., 698 Fed.Appx. 141 (4th Ck. Oct. 5, 2017) (citing Erickson for the proposition that "]p]ro se complaints and pleadings, however inartfully pleaded, must be liberally construed and held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers").

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a prisoner in custody may seek to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence on four grounds: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court was without 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. Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 426-27 (1962) (citing 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. Addoniyo, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979) (quoting Hill, 368 U.S. at 428).

         The scope of a § 2255 collateral attack is far narrower than an appeal, and a '"collateral challenge may not do service for an appeal."' Foster v. Chatman, 136 S.Ct. 1737, 1758 (2016) (quoting United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165 (1982)). Thus, any failure to raise a claim on direct appeal constitutes a procedural default that bars presentation of the claim in a § 2255 motion unless the petitioner can demonstrate cause and prejudice, or actual innocence. United States v. Pettiford, 612 F.3d 270, 280 (4th Cir. 2010); see Dretke v. Haley, 541 U.S. 386, 393 (2004); Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339 (1994); see also United States v. Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d 490, 492-93 (4th Cir. 1999). However, any "failure to raise an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim on direct appeal does not bar the claim from being brought in a later, appropriate proceeding under § 2255." Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 509 (2003).


         In Martin's § 2255 Motion, he claims his sentence should be vacated based upon four grounds. First, Martin claims the Government failed to provide evidence establishing that the wire transmission in Count 5 of the Indictment moved in interstate commerce, "resulting in a fatally defective indictment, centralizing undue fraud upon the court." (ECF No. 32 at 2.) As a result, Petitioner argues that as a matter of law, no violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343 occurred and therefore he is not guilty of wire fraud. (Id.) Second, Martin requests to withdraw his guilty plea for "fair and just" reason under Rule 11(d)(2)(B) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. (Id. at 3.) Third, Martin alleges that he "experienced harm resulting from exposure to racial prejudice through a version of 'sentence entrapment'" (Id.) Fourth, Martin alleges that the "District Court committed 'plain error' when erroneously ordering restitution from BOP Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (IFRP) and impermissibly 'handing over' discretionary power to [the] probation department." (Id.)

         In light of Martin proceeding pro se in this matter, this Court has construed his legal arguments to assert five claims for relief. To summarize, Martin's Motion is based on the alleged: (1) invalidity of his guilty plea; (2) insufficiency of the facts supporting his conviction; (3) sentencing errors related to restitution and post-incarceration employment; (4) prosecutorial misconduct; and (5) ineffective assistance of trial counsel. (ECF Nos. 90, 97.)

         I. Procedural Default

         The general rule governing procedural default of claims brought under § 2255 bars consideration of any matters that "could have been but were not pursued on direct appeal, [unless] the movant. . . show[s] cause and actual prejudice resulting from the errors of which he complains," or shows "actual innocence." Pettiford, 612 F.3d 270, 280 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Mikalajunas, 186 at 492-93).

         Under the "cause and prejudice" standard, the petitioner must show: (1) cause for not raising the claim of error on direct appeal; and (2) actual prejudice from the alleged error. Bousky v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998) (emphasis added); see also Dretke, 541 U.S. at 393; Massaro, 538 U.S. at 505 (2003); Reed, 512 U.S. at 354 ("the writ is available only if the petitioner establishes 'cause' for the waiver and shows 'actual prejudice resulting from the alleged violation."'); Murray v. Carrier, Ml U.S. 478, 485, 496 (1986); United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 167-68 (1982); Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d at 492-93. In addition, any ineffective assistance of counsel claim may also be raised for the first time in a § 2255 petition. See Massaro, 538 U.S. at 508.

         In order to show cause for not raising the claim of error on direct appeal, a petitioner must prove that "some objective factor external to the defense such as the novelty of the claim or a denial of effective assistance of counsel" impeded their counsel's efforts to raise the issue earlier. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 753 (1991); see also Carrier, 477 U.S. at 492 ("[C]ause . . . requires a showing of some external impediment preventing counsel from constructing or raising the claim."); Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d at 493 (movant must demonstrate "something external to the defense, such as the novelty of the claim or a denial of effect assistance of counsel"). Additionally, the alleged error cannot simply create a possibility of prejudice, but must be proven to work to the petitioner's "actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with error of constitutional dimensions." Frady, 456 U.S. at 170 (emphasis in original). Pursuant to the Supreme Court's ruling in Carrier, prejudice does not support relief of a procedural default in the absence of a showing of cause. Id. at 494; Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 134 n.43 (1982).

         In order to show "actual innocence," the petitioner "must demonstrate actual factual innocence of the offense of conviction, i.e., that petitioner did not commit the crime of which he was convicted; this standard is not satisfied by a showing that a petitioner is legally, but not factually, innocent." Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d at 494 (citing Sawyer v. Whitley, 505 U.S. 333, 339 (1992)); see also Bouslej, 523 U.S. at 623. The actual innocence exception "only applies in limited circumstances." United States v. Jones, 758 F.3d 579, 583 (4th Cir. 2014). The petitioner must meet this burden by clear and convincing evidence. Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d at 494. In other words, a "petitioner must show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in light of the new evidence." Jones, 758 F.3d at 583 (emphasis added).

         In this case, Martin procedurally defaulted on all grounds raised in his § 2255 petition, with the exception of his ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim. See Massaro, 538 U.S. at 509. In Martin's direct appeal to the Fourth Circuit, he challenged this Court's decision to sentence him "above his advisory Guidelines range of 63 to 78 months," but chose not to raise any other issues pertaining to his conviction. See Martin, 676 Fed.Appx. 214. To be clear, Martin's sentencing challenge under § 2255 presents new claims regarding restitution and post-incarceration employment that were not raised on direct appeal. Id. Therefore, Martin's first four claims are procedurally barred unless he can demonstrate either (a) "cause and actual prejudice" sufficient to excuse his procedural default, or (b) that an "imminent miscarriage of justice" would result from a denial of the collateral attack, i.e. he is factually innocent of the charge against him. See Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d at 492-93 (4th Cir. 1999)). However, Martin fails to satisfy either exception for his procedural default.

         Here, Martin is unable to provide any "cause" for his procedural default Martin failed to provide evidence of any "objective factor external to the defense" that impeded his appellate counsel's opportunity to raise this issue, nor did he assert any claim as to the ineffective assistance of his trial counsel.[6] See Carrier, 477 U.S. at 488. Additionally, this is not a case where Martin can claim that the legal basis for his claim was not reasonably available to him at any time during these proceedings. See Bousley, 523 U.S. at 622. All the elements of the wire fraud statute are explained in detail under 18 U.S.C. § 1343. Therefore, Martin cannot allege that the legal basis for his claim was not reasonably available to him during these proceedings. Without being able to show cause under the "cause and prejudice" standard, Martin has not satisfied the first exception for procedural default on his claims. See Carrier, 477 U.S. at 494; Etigle, 456 U.S. at 134 n.43.

         In determining whether any "fundamental miscarriage of justice" would result if his claims were denied, this Court finds that Martin has failed to produce any "clear and convincing evidence" of his "factual innoncence of the offense of the conviction." Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d at 494 (citing Sawyer, 505 U.S. at 339 (1992)); see also Bousley, 523 U.S. at 623. Additionally, this Court notes that any "allegations in a § 2255 motion that directly contradict the petitioner's swom statements made during a properly conducted Rule 11 colloquy are always palpably incredible and patently frivolous or false." United States p. Lemaster, 403 F.3d 216, 221 (4th Or. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[A] district court should, without holding an evidentiary hearing, dismiss any § 2255 motion that necessarily relies on allegations that contradict the sworn statements." Id. at 222. In this case, both documentary evidence, and the undisputed facts on record direcdy contradict any attempt on behalf of Martin to claim "actual innoncence" of wire fraud in connection with his receipt of the $119, 985 that was sent to him in Maryland from NCF in Texas. (ECF Nos. 32, 43, 96-5.) Accordingly, Martin's allegations fail to represent a "prototypical example" of the application of the "actual innocence" exception; where a petitioner is innocent of all criminal wrongdoing, such as where he claims that the government has convicted the wrong person for the crime. See Sawyer, 505 U.S. at 340 (1992). Therefore, since Martin has not shown any "fundamental miscarriage of justice" would occur if his claims were denied, this Court finds that Martin has procedurally defaulted on all his claims besides his claim to ineffective assistance of counsel and is barred from bringing forth these claims in his § 2255 petition. Even if these four claims are not procedurally barred, they are meritless nonetheless.

         II. Petitioner's Claims Are Without Merit

         A. Guilty Plea

         More than thirty years ago, the Supreme Court stressed that "a voluntary and intelligent plea of guilty made by an accused person, who has been advised by competent counsel, may not be collaterally attacked." Mabry v. Johnson, 467 U.S. 504, 508 (1984); see also Bousley, 523 U.S. at 621 ("We have strictly limited the circumstances under which a guilty plea may be attacked on collateral review"); United States v. Timmreck, 441 U.S. 780, 784 (1979) (emphasizing that "the concern with finality served by the limitation on collateral attack has special force with respect to convictions based on guilty pleas."). Here, Martin's guilty plea was clearly established on record when he signed the Plea Agreement and affirmed his guilty plea in this Court's Rule 11 colloquy. (ECF Nos. 32, 43.) Therefore, Martin's only avenue to setting aside his guilty plea is to prove that his plea was not knowing or voluntary.[7]

         1. ...

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