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Goodall v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 1, 2018

ERIC GOODALL, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROGER W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter arises out of a criminal case wherein the Petitioner Eric Goodall (“Goodall”) was charged with two counts of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of being a felon in possession of ammunition. ECF No. 9. Prior to trial, Goodall pled guilty to all counts. ECF Nos. 29, 30. Now pending before the Court is Goodall's petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence (§ 2255 Motion) in which he outlines a number of arguments for ineffective assistance of counsel and substantive defects that he believes are proper grounds for relief. See ECF Nos. 65, 75.

         BACKGROUND

         On October 22, 2013, United States Postal Inspectors intercepted a package containing an Arizona Iced Tea jug with 3.6 kilograms of a mixture containing phencyclidine (“PCP”) being delivered to the address of a home owned by Goodall. See ECF No. 30-1 at 1. The next day, law enforcement conducted a controlled delivery of the package at that address; Goodall answered the door and accepted the package. See Id. Immediately thereafter, law enforcement conducted a search of the home pursuant to a valid search warrant and apprehended Goodall, who attempted to flee. See Id. Law enforcement's search uncovered Goodall's receipt for a return parcel (subsequently intercepted), which contained $80, 000 in currency. See Id. Also on October 23, 2013, United States Postal Inspectors intercepted yet another package containing an Arizona Iced Tea jug with 3.6 kilograms of a mixture containing PCP that was also addressed for delivery to that same home owned by Goodall. See Id. at 2.

         After his arrest, law enforcement conducted a search pursuant to a second valid search warrant on October 25, 2013-this time at a different address that Goodall identified as his current home. See Id. Among other things, this search uncovered $22, 316 in currency, a Porsche purchased with drug-related proceeds, a scale, a grain alcohol bottle, an Arizona Iced Tea jug with PCP residue, and a box of ammunition (located in his bedroom). See id.

         On December 4, 2013, a federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging Goodall with: one count of possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of PCP in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); one count of attempting the same; one count of attempted possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of PCP in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and one count of being a felon in possession of ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). ECF No. 9. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Goodall pled guilty to all three counts on August 21, 2014. ECF Nos. 29, 30. On May 27, 2015, the Court sentenced Goodall to 156 months of imprisonment followed by five years of supervised release. ECF Nos. 48, 50.

         Having waived his right to appeal in his plea agreement, ECF No. 30 at 6-7, Goodall never appealed his conviction or sentence. On June 1, 2016, Goodall filed his initial § 2255 Motion, ECF No. 65, and on August 26, 2016, he filed an amended § 2255 Motion, ECF No. 75. The Government responded in opposition on January 19, 2017, ECF No. 81, and Goodall replied in support of his Motion on April 24, 2017 and May 1, 2017, ECF Nos. 84, 85.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         Under § 2255, a petitioner must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that “the 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 (2012); Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958). If the § 2255 motion, along with the files and records of the case, “conclusively show that [he] is entitled to no relief, ” a hearing on the motion is unnecessary and the claims raised in the motion may be dismissed summarily. See id.

         I. Goodall's Claims for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel are Meritless.

         Goodall presents various arguments for ineffective assistance of counsel-(1) counsel's failure to have the PCP mixture independently tested, (2) counsel's failure to inform Goodall that he was ineligible for the Residential Drug Abuse Program (“RDAP”), (3) counsel's failure to inform Goodall about the availability of nolo contendere pleas, (4) counsel's failure to challenge the two drug counts as duplicative, and (5) counsel's failure to object to errors in the Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) or raise arguments for a reduction at sentencing. See ECF No. 65 at 2-6; ECF No. 75 at 3-8. The Court finds that these arguments are contradicted by the record and have no legal basis.

         Courts examine claims of ineffective assistance of counsel under the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). Under the performance prong, a defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. Id. “Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential.” Id. at 689; see also United States v. Terry, 366 F.3d 312, 317 (4th Cir. 2004). The alleged deficient performance must be objectively unreasonable and “requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. The Court must evaluate the conduct at issue from counsel's perspective at the time, and must “indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Id.

         Under the prejudice prong, a defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense, and but for counsel's unprofessional errors, there is a reasonable probability that the result of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 687, 694; see also United States v. Fugit, 703 F.3d 248, 260 (4th Cir. 2012) (“[I]n the guilty plea context, a person challenging his conviction must establish ‘a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.'”). Unless a defendant makes both showings, the Court cannot find that the conviction resulted from a breakdown in the adversarial process that renders the result unreliable. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. Finally, “there is no reason for a court deciding an ineffective assistance claim to approach the inquiry in the same order or even to address both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes an insufficient showing on one.” Id. at 697.

         PCP Testing. Goodall erroneously claims (1) that “only a field test” was ever performed on the PCP mixtures and (2) that his counsel should have challenged the evidence by ordering further testing because the state of the liquid was unsuitable for retail sale (and thus, would have required further synthesis, resulting in a lower yield of the actual drug at the point of sale). See ECF No. 75 at 3-4. However, the mixtures confiscated during the course of the investigation were analyzed and verified by a DEA laboratory. See ECF No. 81-1. Furthermore, the quality of the mixture is irrelevant to a defendant's culpability under the law. Whether the mixture required further distillation or whether it was ready for illicit use, the first substance Goodall possessed and the second substance Goodall attempted to possess were each greater than 3 kilograms of “mixture[s] or substance[s] containing a detectable amount of PCP.” Thus Goodall's argument holds no water, and he “cannot surmount the standard required for ineffectiveness because defense ...


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