United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. BIGGERS, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Singleton (“Singleton”) comes before the Court on
a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The Government has responded to
Singleton's claims, and the Court has held an evidentiary
hearing concerning Singleton's allegation that counsel
refused to file an appeal on Singleton's behalf. Having
considered the pleadings and the record, including the
evidence adduced at the evidentiary hearing, along with the
relevant law, the Court finds that the motion should be
denied, for the reasons that follow.
Background Facts and Procedural History
April 23, 2015, a federal grand jury returned an indictment
against Christopher Singleton and several others in which
Singleton was charged with conspiracy to distribute and
possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana,
conspiracy to commit money laundering, and five counts of
distribution of cocaine. The conspiracy involved the delivery
of drugs from Texas to Mississippi, where the drugs were
sold. The proceeds from the sale of the drugs were then
placed in an 18-wheeler registered to a company of one of
Singleton's co-defendants, and Singleton, under the guise
of a legitimate trucking trip, would drive the drug proceeds
to Texas. Upon arrival in Texas, Singleton would retrieve
cocaine from a vehicle of one of the co-conspirators and
transfer large amounts of the drug proceeds before returning
to Mississippi and selling the cocaine to others.
months after his arrest, and with the assistance of appointed
counsel, Singleton entered into a binding plea agreement in
which the parties agreed that the total amount of drugs
attributable to Singleton was greater than 50 kilograms of
cocaine hydrochloride but less than 150 kilograms.
See Docs. #100 and 130 at 9-10; see also
Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 11(c)(1)(C). At the change of plea
hearing, the Court advised Singleton of his rights, including
the right to remain silent, the right to proceed to trial on
a presumption of innocence, and the right to plead not
guilty. See Doc. #130 at 4-5. Singleton stated at
the hearing that he had discussed the terms of the plea
agreement with his counsel, and he affirmed that counsel had
given him adequate advice regarding the decision to enter a
plea. Id. at 4, 6. When asked whether he had been
threatened or forced into pleading guilty, or whether anyone
made any promises, other than the plea agreement, to cause
Singleton to plead guilty, Singleton answered in the
negative. Id. at 7, 10.
plea agreement also contained a waiver provision in which
Singleton, with limited exceptions, waived his right to
appeal or collaterally attack his conviction. Id. at
9. The plea agreement's waiver paragraph was discussed on
the record by counsel for the Government, who stated:
There's a waiver paragraph where the defendant [is]
waiving any rights to appeal the conviction or sentence and
the manner in which the sentence was imposed on any ground
whatsoever, including 18 U.S.C. 3742 and 28 U.S.C. 2255.
There is an exception where the defendant can appeal, and
that [is] ineffective of assistance of counsel relating to
the validity of the waiver of appeal or the validity of the
guilty plea itself.
Doc. #130 at 9. It was additionally noted on the record that
the plea supplement contained an agreement as to the amount
of drugs attributable to Singleton for guideline purposes.
Id. The Government set forth the elements that must
be proved and the factual basis of proof, after which
Singleton stated that he understood those elements and agreed
with the factual basis. Id. at 11- 14. After the
substance of the plea agreement was described by the
Government, the Court insured Singleton understood the
The Court: Mr. Singleton, you've heard the prosecutor
state the agreement that you entered into with the Government
attorneys in regard to this particular case. Do you agree to
the accuracy of what he said is the plea agreement?
Singleton: Yes, sir.
Id. at 10. After the government went read the
factual basis for the charges into the record, the Court
The Court: Mr. Singleton, did you do everything [the
Government] just described you did; or are there some things
that he said you did that you disagree with? Singleton: I did
Id. at 14.
Singleton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and
possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana,
as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the
Court accepted his plea. See Doc. #130 at 15.
Following Singleton's guilty plea, the United States
Probation Service prepared its Pre-Sentence Investigation
Report (“PSR”), and Singleton's sentencing
guidelines range was calculated to be 135-168 months based on
an offense level of 33 with a criminal history category of I.
PSR ¶64. Singleton did not file any objections to the
PSR and was sentenced on March 14, 2016, to a term of 135
months imprisonment. Judgment entered on March 16, 2016.
See Doc. #172.
did not appeal the judgment. Instead, on August 11, 2016,
Singleton filed the instant § 2255 motion, claiming that
his attorney rendered ineffective assistance (1) in failing
to inform Singleton of a plea deal offered by the Government
that would have reduced his sentence; (2) in failing to move
object to reduce Singleton's sentence on the basis of his
alleged minor participation in the crimes; and (2) in
refusing to file a notice of appeal as to Singleton's
sentence. The Government responded to the motion, and the
Court subsequently ordered an evidentiary hearing on
Singleton's allegation that counsel refused to file an
appeal. Counsel was appointed to Singleton for the purpose of
the evidentiary hearing, which was held on March 14, 2017.
defendant has been convicted and exhausted his appeal rights,
a court may presume that “he stands fairly and finally
convicted.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S.
152, 164 (1982). A motion brought pursuant to § 2255 is
a “means of collateral attack on a federal
sentence.” Cox v. Warden, Federal Detention
Ctr., 911 F.2d 1111, 1113 (5th Cir. 1990) (citation
omitted). There are four separate grounds upon which a
federal prisoner may move to vacate, set aside, or correct a
sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255: (1) the judgment was
imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the
United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to
impose the judgment; (3) the sentence exceeds the statutory
maximum sentence; or (4) the judgment or sentence is
otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. §
2255(a). Collateral attack limits a movant's allegations
to those of “constitutional or jurisdictional
magnitude.” United States v. Samuels, 59 F.3d
526, 528 (5th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). Relief under
§ 2255 is reserved, ...