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Fields v. USA

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

February 27, 2018

GEORGE FIELDS PETITIONER
v.
USA RESPONDENT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GLEN H. DAVIDSON SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on the motion of George Fields to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. §2255. The government has responded to the motion, and the matter is ripe for resolution.

         Facts and Procedural Posture

         Fields was involved in a drug trafficking organization in Clay and Chickasaw Counties that was led by Christopher Graham.[1] ECF doc. 474, pg. 19. In total, Graham provided Fields with approximately twelve (12) ounces of methamphetamine over the course of seven (7) months, which Fields distributed. Id. Fields sometimes paid for the product in advance and was sometimes fronted the methamphetamine by Graham, who was paid after Fields had sold the drugs. Id. On May 21, 2015, a confidential source, using official funds, purchased one (1) ounce of methamphetamine from Fields for $1, 550.00, in Okolona, Mississippi. Id. The D.E.A. tested the purchased substance and found it to contain approximately 21.6 grams of methamphetamine. Id. On July 16, 2015, a confidential source, using official funds, purchased two (2) ounces of methamphetamine from Fields in Clay County for $2, 400.00. Id. The D.E.A. also tested this substance and found it to contain approximately 54.7 grams of methamphetamine. Id. During each of these sales, Fields told the confidential source that he would have to contact his source to obtain that amount of methamphetamine, and analysis confirmed that Fields had communicated with a phone used by Graham before and after each of these sales. Id. Both transactions were also captured on surveillance. Id. Finally, a court-authorized wire-tap confirmed that Graham was Fields' supplier. Id. at 20.

         Fields was indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine (Count I) and distribution of methamphetamine (Counts VI and VII), in a Superseding Indictment entered in December 10, 2015. ECF doc. 51.[2] Fields initially pleaded not guilty to all charges. ECF doc. 128. On June 29, 2016, Fields pleaded guilty to Counts I, VI, and VII of the superseding indictment and was sentenced to serve a term of fifty-eight (58) months on each of Counts I, VI, and VII, to be served concurrently, as well as three (3) years of supervised release on each count, to run concurrently. ECF docs. 235 and 310. In addition, the charges against Field in the original indictment were dismissed. Id. On September 26, 2017, Fields filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. §2255. ECF doc. 467. The Court has considered the merits of Fields' petition and, for the reasons discussed below, finds that relief is not warranted in this case.

         Scope of §2255 Review

         There are four grounds upon which a federal prisoner may seek to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence: (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 the sentence; (3) that the sentence exceeds the statutory maximum sentence; or (4) that the sentence is "otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255; see United States v. Cates, 952 F.2d 149, 151 (5th Cir. 1992). The scope of relief under § 2255 is the same as that of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Cates, 952 F.2d at 151.

         A defendant seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. §2255 may not do so to raise issues that could have been raised on appeal. United States v. Walling, 982 F.2d 447, 448-449 (10th Cir. 1992). A petitioner may not raise constitutional issues for the first time on post-conviction collateral review unless he shows cause for failing to raise the issue on direct appeal and actual prejudice resulting from the error. United States v. Pierce, 959 F.2d 1297, 1301 (5th Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 1007 (1992); United States v. Shaid, 937 F.2d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 1991). The burden of showing "cause, " an "objective factor external to the defense, " rests with the petitioner. McCleskey v. Zant, 111 S.Ct. 1454, 1470(1991). No other types of errors may be raised on collateral review unless the petitioner demonstrates that the error could not have been raised on direct appeal, and if not corrected, would result in a complete miscarriage of justice. Pierce, 959 F.2d at 1301; Shaid, 937 F.2d at 232. Further, if a claim is raised and considered on direct appeal, a defendant is may not raise the issue in a later collateral attack. Moore v. United States, 598 F.2d 439, 441 (5th Cir. 1979).

         Field's §2255 Claims

         In the instant §2255 motion, Fields makes the following claim for relief, which the court has restated for clarity:

Ground One: Fields' attorney was constitutionally ineffective for failing to ask the court to consider whether Fields played a minor role in the conspiracy pursuant to §3B1.2 of the Sentencing Guidelines.
Ground Two: Field's attorney led him to believe the sentence would be thirty-six (36) months.[3]

         Standard for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims

         The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are governed by the standard laid out in Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668 (1984). To merit habeas corpus relief on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a habeas petitioner must satisfy the two-prong test set out in Strickland, supra, by demonstrating both constitutionally deficient performance by counsel and actual prejudice as a result of such ineffective assistance. See also Motley v. Collins, 18 F.3d 1223, 1226 (5th Cir. 1994) (summarizing the Strickland standard of review). A petitioner's failure to establish both prongs of the Strickland ...


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