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 are the  Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to
Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence and related 
Memorandum in Support filed by Saul Guzman-Ontinveros. He
asks the Court to vacate his sentence pursuant to § 2255
because his trial counsel provided him ineffective assistance
of counsel. After reviewing the Motion, supporting
Memorandum, the record in this matter, and applicable law,
the Court finds that his Motion should be denied.
Guzman-Ontinveros pleaded guilty to one count of attempting
to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a
mixture containing cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(B). He had also been indicted
for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5
kilograms or more of a mixture containing cocaine. That
charge was dismissed, however, pursuant to the terms of his
plea agreement. On September 25, 2018, Guzman-Ontinveros was
sentenced to a term of 70 months' imprisonment, a
five-year term of supervised release following release, and a
$5000 fine. He did not appeal his conviction or sentence.
August 29, 2019, Guzman-Ontinveros filed the instant §
2255 Motion, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel by
his retained attorney, Rufus G. Alldredge, Jr. His Motion
asserts four ineffective assistance of counsel claims:
(1) counsel was ineffective “in Pretrial, Plea
Agreement, [and] Post-Plea;” (2) counsel was ineffective
for failing to seek application of the “Safety
valve” provision in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e) at
sentencing and for filing an untimely and
“anemic” motion to suppress; (3) counsel was
ineffective for failing to request an evidentiary hearing,
for failing to secure a conditional guilty plea, and for
failing to explain that he would likely be deported if he
pleaded guilty; and (4) counsel was ineffective for failing
to enforce the terms of the plea agreement, specifically the
Government's recommendation that he be sentenced in the
lower 25% of the guideline range. (Mot. Vacate 4-8, ECF No.
77). He also filed, the same day, a Memorandum in Support,
which, despite its label, instead appears to be a declaration
made under penalty of perjury. (See Mem. Supp. 2-6, ECF
movant in a § 2255 proceeding may not bring a
broad-based attack challenging the legality of the
conviction. Indeed, a collateral attack is limited to
alleging errors of “constitutional or jurisdictional
magnitude.” United States v. Shaid, 937 F.2d
228, 232 (5th Cir. 1991). 28 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 attack.”
district court may deny a § 2255 motion without
conducting a hearing “only if the motion, files, and
records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is
entitled to no relief.” United States v.
Bartholomew, 974 F.2d 39, 41 (5th Cir. 1992). However,
the § 2255 movant bears the burden of “produc[ing]
independent indicia of the likely merit of [his]
allegations.” United States v. Edwards, 442
F.3d 258, 264 (5th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Contested factual issues may not be decided on the
basis of affidavits alone unless the affidavits are supported
by other evidence in the record. United States v.
Hughes, 635 F.2d 449, 451 (5th Cir. 1981).
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Standard
habeas petitioner must establish two elements to demonstrate
that he suffered constitutionally deficient assistance of
First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance
was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors
so serious that counsel was not functioning as the
“counsel” guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth
Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient
performance prejudiced the defense. This requires showing
that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the
defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable.
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984).
Under Strickland, this court can look at either
prong first; “if either one is found dispositive, it is
not necessary to address the other.” United States
v. Webster, 392 F.3d 787, 794 n.12 (5th Cir. 2004)
(quoting Buxton v. Lynaugh, 879 F.2d 140, 142 (5th
establish deficient performance, a [defendant] must
demonstrate that counsel's representation fell below an
objective standard of reasonableness.” Woodward v.
Epps, 580 F.3d 318, 325 (5th Cir. 2009) (citation,
quotation marks, and brackets omitted). The deficiency prong
“requires that [counsel] research relevant facts and
law, or make an informed decision that certain avenues will
not be fruitful.” United States v. Fields, 565
F.3d 290, 294 (5th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). “[S]olid, meritorious arguments
based on directly controlling precedent should be discovered
and brought to the court's attention.” See
Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
However, the fact that an attorney reached the wrong
conclusion does not necessarily make his performance
deficient as the right to counsel does ...