United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
August 24, 2005.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Petitioner,
ALFREDO MONZON-VILLA Respondent.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: WAYNE ANDERSEN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This case is before the Court on the petition of Alfredo
Monzon-Villa for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons stated below, we deny the petition.
On May 8, 1996, Monzon-Villa was arrested and charged with
participating in a massive drug conspiracy. Specifically,
according to the plea agreement, Monzon-Villa conspired with
several others to purchase multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine
and marijuana and then distribute the narcotics to various
customers. Monzon-Villa was subsequently charged in the
indictment with possession with intent to distribute mixtures
containing cocaine and using a telephone to facilitate the
distribution of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1),
843 and 846.
On or about January 15, 1998, Monzon-Villa began the proffer
process in the presence of his first attorney. During the proffer
process, Monzon-Villa provided information regarding his
participation in the alleged drug conspiracy and, in particular, his involvement with "Pio" (the individual identified by
Monzon-Villa in the instant motion as the person who recruited
him to the conspiracy). Monzon-Villa began to provide substantial
detail regarding "Pio's" involvement in drug activities in the
January 15, 1998 proffer session, and he continued to provide
information to government investigators on May 5, 1998 regarding
other individuals involved in illegal drug activities.
Monzon-Villa then entered a plea of guilty and signed a plea
agreement with the government pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure. In the plea agreement Monzon-Villa
accepted a sentence of two-thirds of the low end of the
applicable guideline range for the charges brought against him
(262 months). This Court accepted the plea agreement on May 12,
1998 and sentenced Monzon-Villa to 175 months in the custody of
the Bureau of Prisons in October of 1998, pursuant to the
agreement. Between the time of the plea agreement and the
sentencing, Monzon-Villa had retained a second attorney.
Monzon-Villa then appealed his sentence to the United States
Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, alleging that his
guilty plea was involuntary and that his prison sentence was
incorrectly calculated. At that time, his new attorney filed a
motion to withdraw from representation of Monzon-Villa on the
ground that there were no nonfrivolous issues to be raised on
appeal. The Court granted counsel's motion to withdraw and
dismissed Monzon-Villa's appeal as frivolous.
The defendant has now retained his third attorney, and
petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus to grant an
evidentiary hearing to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In support of this motion,
Monzon-Villa alleges: 1) the government reneged on their promise
to give him a fifty percent reduction from the minimum sentence; and 2) he had ineffective assistance of counsel
because his second attorney did not argue for a fifty percent
reduction of the low end of the applicable guideline range,
either at the time of sentencing, or upon appeal.
Collateral relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, the federal version
of habeas corpus, "is reserved for extraordinary situations."
Prewitt v. United States, 83 F.3d 812, 816 (7th Cir. 1996). In
order to obtain relief under § 2255, the petitioner must
establish that his "sentence was imposed in violation of the
Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was
without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the
sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is
otherwise subject to collateral attack. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
I. The government's alleged promise of a fifty percent
First, the defendant claims that the government promised him a
fifty percent reduction off the low end of the applicable
guideline range, rather than the one-third reduction stipulated
in the plea agreement. Thus, Monzon-Villa argues that the plea
agreement could not have been voluntary because he would not have
voluntarily agreed to a one-third reduction after having been
promised a fifty percent reduction. However, Monzon-Villa
appealed his sentence before the Seventh Circuit on the same
theory, and his appeal was denied as frivolous. In the one page
order issued by the Seventh Circuit the Court stated that this
Court "complied with the requirements of Rule 11 of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure by ensuring that Monzon was competent
to plead guilty. The record in this case shows that [this Court],
with the aid of a Spanish-speaking interpreter, carefully
questioned Monzon-Villa during the plea colloquy to ensure that
he was aware of and understood the ramifications of his guilty plea.
[This Court] explained to him the nature of the charge, the terms
of the plea agreement, the consequences of a guilty plea, and the
possible penalties. Monzon-Villa acknowledged that he understood
all of this and also averred that his guilty plea was voluntary."
United States v. Monzon-Villa, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 31251
(citing United States v. Standiford, 148 F.3d 864, 868-69 (7th
Cir. 1998) (statements made in the plea agreement are presumed
Furthermore, the plea agreement clearly states, "the parties
have agreed that the sentence imposed by the Court shall include
a term of imprisonment in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons of
two-thirds of the low end of the applicable guideline range."
Therefore, Monzon-Villa's voluntary acceptance of the plea
agreement included an acceptance of a one-third reduction,
irrespective of whether the government had previously promised
him a fifty percent reduction or not. Monzon-Villa's sentence of
175 months is equal to roughly two-thirds of the low end of the
applicable guideline range (262-327 months), exactly as the
parties agreed. Thus, Monzon-Villa cannot successfully petition
for a writ of habeas corpus under § 2255 because the sentence was
not in excess of the maximum authorized by law, the Court had
jurisdiction to impose the sentence, and the existence of a
voluntary plea agreement establishes that the sentence was not
imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United
II. Ineffective assistance of counsel
Defendant's second claim in his petition for a writ of habeas
corpus alleges ineffective assistance of counsel. This claim is
governed by the two-part test set out in Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). To prevail on an ineffective
assistance of counsel claim, a petitioner must demonstrate that:
1) his attorney's performance was deficient; and 2) that he was actually prejudiced by this
deficient performance, United States v. Fuller, 312 F.3d 287,
291 (7th Cir. 2002), meaning that "there is reasonable
probability that but for [counsel's] unprofessional errors, the
results of the proceedings would have been different." Anderson
v. Sternes, 243 F.3d 1049, 1057, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 3893.
Moreover, scrutiny of counsel's performance is highly
deferential, United States ex rel. Simmons v. Gramley,
915 F.2d 1128, 1133 (7th Cir. 1990), and there is a strong presumption
that counsel performed effectively. United States v. Trevino,
60 F.3d 333, 338 (7th Cir. 1995). To meet his burden,
Monzon-Villa must establish specific acts or omissions of his
counsel that constitute ineffective assistance. The Court shall
then determine whether these acts or omissions were made outside
the wide range of professionally competent behavior. Menzer v.
United States, 200 F.3d 1000, 1003 (7th Cir. 2000).
Monzon-Villa argues that his counsel was ineffective in failing
to argue for a reduction in his sentence of fifty percent
reduction of the low end of the applicable guideline range.
However, this claim for ineffective assistance fails because is
does not satisfy either prong of the two-part test from
Strickland. As an initial matter, the Court does not believe
that the performance of Monzon-Villa's lawyer at sentencing and
on appeal was deficient because his counsel operated under the
terms of the voluntary plea agreement.
Furthermore, as stated above, the Seventh Circuit dismissed
Monzon-Villa's appeal regarding his sentence as frivolous. Thus,
Monzon-Villa was not actually prejudiced by the failure of his
attorney to argue for a fifty percent reduction. Since the Seventh Circuit determined the claim was frivolous, the outcome
would have been the same whether Monzon-Villa's attorney raised
the issue or not.
In sum, Monzon-Villa has failed to demonstrate that his
attorney's performance fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness. Moreover, even if his attorney had argued for the
fifty percent reduction, the United States Court of Appeals for
the Seventh Circuit determined that such an argument lacked merit
because the plea agreement was fully voluntary.
III. Evidentiary Hearing
Monzon-Villa seeks an evidentiary hearing for the allegations
contained in his petition. However, "it is well established in
this circuit that the district court need not hold a hearing on §
2255 petitions in every case where the petitioner makes factual
allegations." United States v. Bafia, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
1473, *2 (citing Aleman v. United States, 878 F.2d 1009, 1012
(7th Cir. 1989). Mere assertions and unsupported allegations
cannot sustain a petitioner's request for a hearing. Id. at *3
(citing United States ex re Edwards v. Warden, 676 F.2d 254,
256 n. 3 (7th Cir. 1982)). The Seventh Circuit has made it clear
that "in order for a hearing to be granted, the § 2255 petition
must be accompanied by a detailed and specific affidavit which
shows that the petitioner has actual proof of the allegations
going beyond mere unsupported assertions." Barry v. United
States, 528 F.2d 1094, 1101 (7th Cir. 1976); Aleman,
878 F.2d at 1012-1013; United States v. Aiello, 814 F.2d 109, 113 (2d
Cir. 1987) ("Application must contain assertions of fact that
petitioner is in a position to establish by competent
evidence."). Allegations which are vague, conclusory, palpably
incredible, patently frivolous or hearsay may be summarily
dismissed. Oliver v. United States, 961 F.2d 1339, 1343 n. 5 (7th Cir. 1992); Shah v. United States, 878 F.2d 1156 (9th Cir.
The allegations made by Monzon-Villa in this case are just the
type that should be dismissed without a hearing. Not only has the
Seventh Circuit determined that Monzon-Villa's claims are
frivolous due to the existence of a voluntary plea agreement
stipulating a one-third reduction of his sentence, but
Monzon-Villa's allegations of a promise of a fifty percent
reduction also lack any evidentiary support. The statements
regarding such a promise are conclusory statements, and the
petition provides no information that would lead one to believe
that they are based on actual facts. Thus, because Monzon-Villa's
petition provides only unsupported allegations and conclusory
statements, the Court uses its discretion to deny an evidentiary
hearing in this matter.
For the foregoing reasons, the § 2255 habeas corpus petition by
Alfredo Monzon-Villa is denied. This is a final and appealable
It is so ordered.
© 1992-2005 VersusLaw Inc.