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Thompson v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

October 20, 2017




         Stanley Cordell Thompson (“Thompson”), a federal inmate, has filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging that his attorney made an unkept promise that he would receive a more lenient sentence if he pleaded guilty. See Doc. #76. The United States of America opposes the motion. See Doc. 82. Having considered the pleadings and the record, including the relevant parts of Thompson's underlying criminal case, along with the relevant law, the Court finds that an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary[1], and that the § 2255 motion should be denied.


         Background Facts and Procedural History

         On January 20, 2016, Thompson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and four counts of distribution of cocaine after he entered a plea agreement with the government under Rule 11(c)(1)(B) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. As part of the plea agreement, the government agreed to recommend that Thompson receive a 48-month sentence, but the parties made no agreement on the sentence the Court would ultimately impose. See Doc. #36. The plea supplement stated, “should the Court not accept [the government's] recommendation, the defendant will be bound by the plea agreement and will have no right to withdraw the guilty plea.” Id. at ¶4. At his change of plea hearing, Thompson acknowledged his understanding of the plea agreement, including his understanding that each of the five counts against him carried a maximum 20-year term of imprisonment. Doc. #81 at 10.

         Based on Thompson's criminal history and the drug quantity, his sentencing guidelines range was 87 to 108 months. Doc. #74 at 19. At sentencing, the Court rejected the 11(c)(1)(B) recommendation. Doc. #74 at 19-23. The Court sentenced Thompson to an 87-month term of imprisonment. Doc. #69.

         Thompson took no direct appeal. However, on or about July 27, 2017, Thompson filed the instant motion, claiming that his guilty plea was involuntarily given because of his attorney's unkept promise that he would receive a 48-month sentence if he pleaded guilty.


         Legal Standard

         After a defendant has been convicted and exhausted his appeal rights, a court may presume that Ahe stands fairly and finally convicted.@ United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 164 (1982). A motion brought pursuant to § 2255 is a Ameans 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 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 exceeds the statutory maximum sentence; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Collateral attack limits a movant's allegations to those of Aconstitutional or jurisdictional magnitude.@ United States v. Samuels, 59 F.3d 526, 528 (5th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). Relief under § 2255 is reserved, therefore, for violations of Aconstitutional rights and for that narrow compass of other injury that could not have been raised on direct appeal and, would, if condoned, result in a complete miscarriage of justice.@ United States v. Capua, 656 F.2d 1033, 1037 (5th Cir. 1981).



         Thompson alleges that his plea was involuntary given because his attorney rendered ineffective assistance in promising him he would not receive more than a 48-month sentence if he pleaded guilty. Thompson's claim that his attorney rendered ineffective assistance is governed by the two-pronged test as set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984), which holds that a movant may not succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel unless he demonstrates that his attorney rendered deficient performance that prejudiced the defense. Id. at 687. In the context of a guilty plea, a movant can show 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. Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985) (quotation marks omitted).

         To be valid, a guilty plea must be made voluntarily and intelligently. Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 242-43 (1969); Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 618 (1998) (holding plea is Aconstitutionally valid only to the extent it is >voluntary= and >intelligent=”). A plea that “is induced by deception, an unfulfillable promise, or misrepresentation” is not voluntary. United States v. Amaya, 111 F.3d 386, 389 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Brady v. UnitedStates, 397 U.S. 742, 755 (1970). However, there is a strong presumption of veracity accorded to sworn declarations made in open court. Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 73-74 (1977) (quotation marks omitted). In order to successfully allege that counsel's unkept promises entitle him to relief despite the inconsistent representations he made in open court when entering his guilty plea, Thompson must prove: the exact terms of the alleged promise; the exact circumstances of the promise; and the identity of an eyewitness to the promise. See UnitedStates v. Cervantes, 132 F.3d 1106, 1110 (5th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). When ...

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