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Medina v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

February 14, 2019




         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Doc. 1].

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner Samuel Zuniga Medina entered into a written plea agreement with the Government and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A) and 846. [Crim. Case No. 1:16-cr-00051-MR-WCM-2 (“CR”), Doc. 113 at 4-15: Presentence Report (hereinafter “PSR”)]. In exchange for Petitioner's plea, the Government agreed, among other things, to move to dismiss seven additional charges of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, for which Petitioner had been indicted. [CR Doc. 14: Indictment; CR Doc. 89: Plea Agreement]. The Government also agreed to move to dismiss an additional charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, which carries a consecutive mandatory minimum prison term of five years. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i).

         The plea agreement states that Petitioner discussed with his attorney “defendant's rights pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3742, 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and similar authorities to contest a conviction and/or sentence through an appeal or post-conviction [action] after entering into a plea agreement.” [CR Doc. 89 at 4-5]. In exchange for the concessions made by the Government in the Plea Agreement, Petitioner expressly agreed to waive all such rights to appeal or collaterally attack his conviction “except for claims of: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel or (2) prosecutorial misconduct.” [Id.].

         The Magistrate Judge accepted Petitioner's guilty plea after conducting the plea colloquy required by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11. [CR Doc. 93: Acceptance and Entry of Guilty Plea]. Petitioner was represented by counsel and placed under oath. [Id. at 1]. The Court described the elements of the offense and the applicable penalties, and Petitioner affirmed that he understood them. [See id. at 3-4]. Petitioner affirmed that he was, in fact, guilty of the offense to which he was pleading guilty. [Id. at 6]. He told the Court that he understood that his plea agreement waived his right to contest his conviction in a post-conviction proceeding. [Id. at 7-8]. He represented that he had “ample time” to discuss with his attorney “any possible defenses” that he may have to the charges and told him “everything that [he] want[ed his] attorney to know about [the] case.” [Id. at 8]. He also affirmed that he was “entirely satisfied with the services of [his] attorney.” [Id.]. The Magistrate Judge found that the plea was knowingly and voluntarily made and accepted it. [Id. at 9].

         The probation officer prepared a presentence report (PSR), which determined, among other things, that Petitioner was responsible for 29.3 grams of a mixture or substance containing methamphetamine plus 448.7 grams of actual methamphetamine. [CR Doc. 113 at 15-17]. The PSR noted that Petitioner's attorney did not file any objections, [id. at 26], and Petitioner's attorney confirmed on the record during the sentencing hearing that he had not filed any departure motions or sentencing memoranda, and that there were no issues regarding the PSR that needed to be resolved. [CR Doc. 134 at 3, 9: Sentencing Tr.]. Petitioner saw a copy of the presentence report before he was sentenced. [Id. at 8]. He told this Court at sentencing that he had an opportunity to review it with his attorney and that he understood the contents of the report. [Id.]. Petitioner's attorney confirmed that he had an opportunity to review the report with Petitioner and told the Court he was satisfied that Petitioner understood its contents. [Id.].

         Before sentencing Petitioner, this Court reviewed the plea colloquy conducted by the Magistrate Judge. [Id. at 4-8]. Petitioner confirmed that the answers he gave during the plea colloquy were true and correct. [Id. at 4-5]. He then affirmed that his answers would be the same if he were asked the same plea-colloquy questions again on the day of his sentencing. [Id.]. Asked if it was “still [his] plea to plead guilty in this matter, ” Petitioner replied, “Yes, sir.” [Id. at 6-7]. This Court confirmed the findings of the Magistrate Judge during the plea colloquy and reaffirmed the Court's acceptance of his guilty plea. [Id. at 7-8]. The Court adopted the PSR, including its conclusion that Petitioner had earned a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility. [CR Doc. 126 at 1: Statement of Reasons; CR Doc. 113 at 17].

         Although Petitioner's attorney advocated for a lower sentence, this Court sentenced Petitioner to a term of imprisonment of 188 months, within the 168 to 210-month advisory range as calculated pursuant to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. [Id. at 9, 10-18, 25]. The Fourth Circuit dismissed Petitioner's appeal on October 11, 2017. [CR Doc. 136]. In October 2018, Petitioner filed his timely 2255 motion before this Court. [Doc. 1]. The Government filed its response on January 7, 2019. [Doc. 3].


         Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings provides that courts are to promptly examine motions to vacate, along with “any attached exhibits and the record of prior proceedings . . .” in order to determine whether the petitioner is entitled to any relief on the claims set forth therein. After examining the record in this matter, the Court finds that the motion to vacate can be resolved without an evidentiary hearing based on the record and governing case law. See Raines v. United States, 423 F.2d 526, 529 (4th Cir. 1970).


         Petitioner presents two claims in his motion. First, he contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Second, he claims that he was deprived of due process during the period of pretrial detention. The Court will address each of these claims in turn.

         A. Petitioner's Ineffective Assistance ...

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