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ROBINSON v. U.S.

May 4, 2005.

ARTHUR ROBINSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITES STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RONALD GUZMAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Arthur Robinson's motion to have his sentence vacated, set aside or corrected pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

Background

  On November 27, 2001, a grand jury returned a four-count indictment against Robinson and co-defendant Jermaine Weeden for knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute quantities of mixtures containing cocaine base ("crack") in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). (Indictment.) In total, the four-count indictment alleges that Robinson possessed 52.89 grams of crack. (Id.)

  On April 18, 2002, Robinson entered into a plea agreement with the Government in which he pleaded guilty solely to count four, which charged him with possessing with intent to distribute approximately 10.8 grams of crack. (Id.; Plea Agreement at 2-4.) Though Robinson did not plead guilty to the three other counts, he admitted the facts establishing his guilt of those charges as relevant conduct for the purpose of computing his sentence under the Sentencing Guidelines. (Plea Agreement at 4.)

  Consistent with the evidence and his admissions in the plea agreement, Robinson and the Government agreed to a base offense level ("BOL") of 32 because the total amount of crack for which he was responsible was greater than 50 but less than 150 grams. (Id. at 7.) The parties also agreed to adjust the BOL based on a variety of factors, including Robinson's status as a career offender. (Id. at 7-10.) Ultimately, his adjusted base offense level ("ABOL") was determined to be 34 and his criminal history category was set at IV. (Id. at 7-8, 10.)

  The plea agreement also contained: (1) Robinson's waiver of most of his appeal rights*fn1 (id. at 13-14); (2) the Government's promise to recommend that the Court impose a sentence at the low end of the applicable guideline range or the mandatory minimum of 240 months, whichever was higher (id.); and (3) Robinson's acknowledgment that he had read, understood and voluntarily accepted all of the terms of the agreement (Id. at 16).

  On October 21, 2002, Robinson was sentenced by this Court to a term of imprisonment of 262 months, a term of supervised release of five years and a statutory assessment of $100.00. (10/21/02 Sentencing Order.)

  Discussion

  Robinson is entitled to section 2255 relief if his "sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, . . . the court was without jurisdiction to impose [it], . . . the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or [it] is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Robinson contends that his sentence is unconstitutional because it was imposed in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel.

  To prevail on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims, Robinson must satisfy the two-part test set forth by the Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). To do so, he must prove both that (1) his counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 688, 694-95. To satisfy the performance element, Robinson must specifically identify the acts or omissions that form the basis for his claim. Id. at 690. To satisfy the prejudice element, Robinson must show that he was actually prejudiced by his lawyer's errors. Id. at 692-94. In the context of this case, that means he must establish that "there was a reasonable probability that, but for his counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial." Arango-Alvarez v. United States, 134 F.3d 888, 892 (7th Cir. 1998).

  Robinson claims that his counsel was ineffective because he (1) negotiated a plea agreement without having adequately investigated the case; (2) agreed to inapplicable relevant conduct; (3) agreed to a "statutory sentencing that was not charged in the indictment"; (4) failed to object to the enhanced sentence that was ultimately imposed; and (5) agreed to waive his right to appeal.*fn2 We will address each claim in turn.

  Robinson's first claim is that his counsel recommended he take the plea without having conducted an adequate investigation of his case. In Robinson's view, appropriate legal research would have revealed that the Government cannot seek an enhanced sentence for a conviction under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a). In fact, Robinson says, the Government conceded as much in its oral argument before the Supreme Court in Edwards v. United States, 523 U.S. 511 (1998).

  Robinson is mistaken. The issue in Edwards was whether a judge, rather than a jury, could properly determine for sentencing the kind of drugs involved in a drug conspiracy. See id. at 513-14. During the oral argument of that case, the Government did not mention enhanced sentences for drug convictions, let alone concede that they are unavailable. See Edwards v. United States, No. 96-8732, 1998 WL 83179, at *26-51 (U.S. Feb. 28, 1998) (Oral Argument). In reality, the statutes pursuant to which Robinson was sentenced explicitly authorize enhanced sentences for drug crimes committed by defendants with prior felony drug convictions. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 841, 851; see also United States v. Jackson, 121 F.3d 316, 319 (7th Cir. 1997) (stating that 21 U.S.C. § 851 "applies when the government seeks to enhance the penalty for a ...


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