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Alexander v. United States

December 7, 2007

JAMES ALEXANDER, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner James Alexander's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody (d/e 1) (Petition). The Government filed a Response to Petition for Relief Pursuant to Section 2255 (d/e 5). For the reasons stated below, Alexander's Petition is denied.

FACTS

On August 4, 2005, the Government charged James Alexander in Central District of Illinois Case No. 05-30064 with one count of distributing a mixture and substance containing cocaine base (crack cocaine), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) & 841(b)(1)(C). On September 22, 2005, Alexander entered into a plea agreement by which he agreed to plead guilty to the lone count, waive appellate and collateral attack rights, and cooperate with the Government. See Central District Illinois Case No. 05-30064, Plea Agreement (d/e 8). In exchange, the Government agreed to recommend a three-point acceptance of responsibility decrease and a downward departure if warranted by Alexander's cooperation. Id.

Two months later, on November 22, 2005, Alexander officially entered his guilty plea at a change of plea hearing. The Court conducted a lengthy hearing at which Alexander stated that he understood the terms of the agreement, that the agreement contained all aspects of his understanding with the Government, and that no other agreements or promises between them existed. Government's Response to Court Order (d/e 8), Exhibit 1, November 22, 2005 Transcript, at 20. Alexander specifically stated that he understood his rights to appeal and pursue collateral attack, but that he believed it was in his best interest to forgo those rights in exchange for the benefits the Government offered him in his plea agreement. Id. at 25-26.

The Government stated that if Alexander went to trial, it could establish, through audio and video recordings, that on May 9, 2005, he sold 1.4 grams of crack cocaine for $100 to an individual working as a confidential informant for the Government. Id. at 31. Alexander said he agreed with the facts presented and was pleading guilty because he was in fact guilty. Id. at 32. Alexander assured the Court that he was pleading guilty of his own free will. Id. The Court found that Alexander's plea was knowing and voluntary. Id.

On April 27, 2006, the Court sentenced Alexander to a prison term of 188 months. See Central District Illinois Case No. 05-30064, Judgment (d/e 14). At the hearing, Alexander informed the Court that he had reviewed the Pre-Sentence Report (PSR), and he withdrew all objections to the PSR. See Central District Illinois Case No. 05-30064, April 27, 2006 Minute Entry. As the PSR noted, Alexander could be considered a Career Offender. See Central District Illinois Case No. 05-30064, PSR (d/e 16). His status as a Career Offender contributed to a final offense level of 31 and a Criminal History Category of VI, which under the Sentencing Guidelines resulted in an imprisonment range of 188-235 months. The Court sentenced Alexander to the low end. Judgment issued May 1, 2006. See Central District Illinois Case No. 05-30064, Judgment. Alexander did not appeal.*fn1

On November 6, 2006, Alexander filed the instant Petition. He advances three arguments for the Court's consideration. First, he asserts that his conviction was obtained by a guilty plea that was unlawfully induced or made involuntarily without an understanding of the nature of the charge against him and the consequences of the law. In support, he states, "I did not understand or know what I was pleaing [sic] to. I thought that I was going to get 36-48 months for what I pleaed [sic] to." Petition, at 5. Second, he argues that his conviction was obtained by use of a coerced confession. In support, he alleges, "My lawyer told me if I did not plea out I was going to get a life sentence if I go to trial." Id. Third, he asserts that he was denied effective assistance of counsel and explains, "My lawyer told me that I could not object to the charge and I could not appeal because I plea out." Id.

ANALYSIS

Alexander raises numerous claims of error here. In all but one instance, however, he either waived or failed to preserve his right to raise them now. His only viable issue -- one of ineffective assistance of counsel in his plea negotiation -- fails as well, though, because he has not provided any evidence to support his allegation.

I. WAIVER

First, the Court finds that Alexander waived one of his arguments.

Alexander's plea agreement states that he "knowingly and voluntarily waives his right to collaterally attack the conviction and/or sentence . . . . including, but not limited to, a motion brought under Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255." Central District Illinois Case No. 05-30064, Plea Agreement, at ¶ 11. The validity of such a waiver rests on whether it was "express and unambiguous" and whether the record clearly demonstrates that it was made "knowingly and voluntarily." Jones v. United States, 167 F.3d 1142, 1144 (7th Cir. 1999). Here, the language of the waiver is clear and undoubtedly covers Alexander's right to bring a § 2255 motion.

If his waiver was knowing and voluntary, it is enforceable. Id. at 1145; United States v. Sines, 303 F.3d 793, 798 (7th Cir. 2002). But, a waiver does not deprive a defendant of the ability to pursue a claim "that relates directly to the negotiation of the waiver, such as a claim that the waiver was involuntarily made, was based on an impermissible factor such as race, exceeds the statutory maximum, or was made without effective assistance of counsel." Sines, 303 F.3d at 798. Thus, Alexander's waiver precludes all claims unrelated to the negotiation of his plea ...


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