United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING MOTION FILED PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C.
GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
THE COURT is the Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255
to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence  filed by
Anthony Shane Jeffers, who pled guilty to one count of
conspiracy to commit identity theft and theft of government
funds. This Court sentenced Jeffers to sixty months
imprisonment to be served consecutively with the term of
imprisonment imposed for a separate charge to which Jeffers
pled guilty in Cause Number 1:16cr28-LG-JCG-1. Jeffers now
asks the Court to vacate his sentence pursuant to § 2255
based on allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and
carefully reviewing the submissions of the parties,
Jeffers' former attorney, the record in this matter, and
the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion should be
was one of seven defendants charged in this criminal
conspiracy action. The Indictment states that “[i]t was
the object of the conspiracy for the defendants . . ., and
others, to unlawfully enrich themselves by conducting
multiple complex financial fraud schemes via the internet,
U.S. mail and various express package delivery
services.” (Indictment 5 (¶39), ECF No. 17). On
April 11, 2016, Jeffers agreed to plead guilty to one count
of conspiracy to commit identity theft and theft of
government funds in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. He
also agreed to waive his right to appeal his conviction or
sentence as well as his right to contest his conviction or
sentence in a post-conviction proceeding. Jeffers also pled
guilty to an information in cause number 1:16cr28-LG-JCG-1
that charged him with one count of interstate and foreign
travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a)(1). This Court
sentenced Jeffers to sixty months imprisonment for each
charge, for a total of 120 months imprisonment. Jeffers did
not file an appeal, but he now asks the Court to vacate his
sentence. He claims that his former attorney provided
ineffective assistance by failing to conduct a proper
investigation of the charges against him. He also claims that
he was actually a victim of the conspiracy for which he was
charged and that his email address was hacked.
U.S.C. § 2255(a) provides four grounds for relief: (1)
“that the sentence was imposed in violation of the
Constitution or laws of the United States;” (2)
“that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such
sentence;” (3) “that the sentence was in excess
of the maximum authorized by law;” and (4) that the
sentence is otherwise “subject to collateral
INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL
order to demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel,
Jeffers must satisfy the two-prong test set forth in
Strickland v. Washington, 468 U.S. 668 (1984).
Specifically, he “must show (1) that his counsel's
performance was deficient, and (2) that the deficient
performance prejudiced his defense.” Woodward v.
Epps, 580 F.3d 318, 325 (5th Cir. 2009). “[T]o
establish deficient performance, a [defendant] must
demonstrate that counsel's representation fell below an
objective standard of reasonableness.” Id.
(citation, quotation marks, and brackets omitted).
“With respect to guilty pleas, the prejudice
requirement ‘focuses on whether counsel's
constitutionally ineffective performance affected the outcome
of the plea process.'” United States v.
Glinsey, 209 F.3d 386, 392 (5th Cir. 2000) (citation
omitted). A defendant “must show that there is a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he
would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on
going to trial.” Id.
argues that his former attorney, Mr. Melvin Cooper, should
have performed a more thorough investigation of the charges
against Jeffers as well as Jeffers' claim that his email
account was hacked. Mr. Cooper has testified by affidavit
that he “retained the services of Global Computer
Forensic Investigation, who personally conducted the
investigation, assigned a Computer Hacking Forensic
Investigator, certified by the International Council of
E-Commerce Consultation whose findings were contrary to
Petitioner's allegations.” (Affidavit at 2, ECF No.
298). He also testified that he hired a handwriting expert to
examine counterfeit checks and money orders. (Id.)
Mr. Cooper also issued a subpoena to Yahoo, the company that
provided Jeffers' email account. (Id.) Mr.
Cooper listed all of the issues and difficulties that would
have arisen had Jeffers proceeded to trial, including
admissions that Jeffers had made to federal investigators and
similar offenses previously committed by Jeffers. Mr. Cooper
testified that he discussed all of these issues with Jeffers
before Jeffers decided to plead guilty. Furthermore, at the
change of plea hearing, Jeffers testified that he was
satisfied with Mr. Cooper's representation and the advice
he gave. Jeffers also admitted that he committed the acts
that formed the basis of the crimes to which he pled guilty.
the record reflects that Mr. Cooper thoroughly investigated
the charges and discussed all of Jeffers' options before
Jeffers pled guilty, Jeffers has not demonstrated that Mr.
Cooper's performance was deficient. Jeffers has also
failed to show that Mr. Cooper was ineffective in advising
him to plead guilty. Furthermore, Jeffers has not
demonstrated that he would not have pled guilty if Mr. Cooper
had conducted a more thorough investigation. Jeffers merely
argues that a more thorough investigation might have led a
jury to find reasonable doubt at trial. Therefore,
Jeffers' ineffective assistance of counsel is without
innocence' is not a free-standing ground for relief.
Rather, it is a gateway to consideration of claims of
constitutional error that otherwise would be barred from
review.” United States v. Scruggs, 691 F.3d
660, 671 (5th Cir. 2012). Furthermore, even if actual
innocence were a ground for relief, Jeffers has not
demonstrated that he was actually innocent of the crimes to
which he pled guilty. Therefore, his actual innocence claim
is without merit.
REQUEST FOR ...