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Sanders v. United States

April 12, 2010


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


A. Introduction and Background

Before this Court is DeAngelo Sanders' March 2009 petition to vacate, set aside or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Analysis of the petition begins with an overview of the procedural history of the underlying criminal case, United States v. Sanders (Case No. 05-cr-30200-MJR), which arose from a December 2005 incident.

At 4:30 pm on December 6th, Alton Police stopped a car being driven by Amid Kennedy. DeAngelo Sanders sat in the front passenger seat, and a juvenile rode in the back seat. Police surrounded the vehicle. Cursory visual inspection of the car revealed a sawed-off .410-caliber shotgun lying on the floorboard directly in front of where Sanders was sitting.

According to evidence introduced at a pretrial hearing, Sanders had removed the weapon from his pants and placed it on the floor beneath him.

Alton Police Captain Scott Waldrup recovered the weapon, which was loaded (with one live round chambered), had a barrel measuring 11 and 7/6 inches in length, and had an overall length of 24 inches. The gun was not registered as required by 26 U.S.C. §§ 5845, 5861, and 5871.

Sanders (who had prior convictions, including an Illinois conviction for aggravated battery with great bodily harm) and Kennedy were arrested and taken to Alton Police Department at 4:48 pm. Sanders was advised of his Miranda rights (both orally and in writing). At 4:55 pm, Sanders signed a written Miranda waiver. Interrogation began.

Roughly one hour into interrogation, Sanders was again admonished of his Miranda rights. His statement was videotaped and audio-recorded. Sanders stated that he provided "protection" for Kennedy (served as Kennedy's bodyguard) and that he had handled the shotgun multiple times, including at some point on December 6th, prior to his arrest. At one point Sanders indicated that the shotgun was his, but later he said it was Kennedy's.

On December 8, 2005, Sanders was driven to the Benton, Illinois federal courthouse for an initial appearance. Before departing for Benton, Agent Joshua Knapp of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms again read Sanders his Miranda warnings. Sanders indicated that he understood his rights. During the trip to Benton, Sanders told the transport officers that he got the shotgun from his cousin and that he and his cousin sawed off the gun barrel and stock. Sanders said he put the tape over the sawed-off stock of the gun. He said he got the gun to protect Kennedy. Sanders never contradicted his admission that he had handled the gun.

Via two-count indictment issued December 16, 2005, Sanders was charged with possessing a Remington Arms 410-gauge shotgun with a barrel length of 111/4 inches and an overall length of 241/2 inches (Count 1) and being a felon in possession of a firearm (Count 2).

Defense counsel (Daniel G. Cronin of the Federal Public Defender's Office) moved for a psychiatric and psychological examination of Defendant Sanders. The Court granted that motion as well as subsequent defense motions for an independent psychological examination by Dr. Daniel Cuneo, for the production of medical records pertaining to Defendant Sanders, for a contact visit while undergoing his competency evaluation, and to continue trial.

Following a June 2006 hearing, the undersigned Judge declared Sanders competent and reset trial for July 2006. Sanders then filed a series of motions to exclude certain evidence, allow the introduction of other evidence, impose discovery sanctions against the Government, and suppress incriminating statements made to BATF Agents Joshua Knapp and Jeffrey Matthews. In August 2006, having continued the trial, set a briefing schedule, and held a hearing, the Court ruled on the motions, denying Sanders' request to suppress the incriminating statements he made to the agents.

Both parties filed additional motions, which the Court resolved on October 10, 2006. Trial commenced October 16, 2009, lasted four days, and culminated in jury verdicts of guilty on both counts. Sanders moved for a new trial. The Court denied that motion in January 2007.

The undersigned Judge sentenced Sanders to 120 months in prison on Count 1 and 295 months in prison on Count 2 (the terms to be served concurrently), plus 5 years of supervised release, an $800 fine and a $200 special assessment. Judgment was entered accordingly on January 19, 2007.

Sanders appealed. In April 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed Sanders' conviction and sentence.

In March 2009, Sanders moved to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The motion survived threshold review in November 2009. The Court set (and several times extended) a briefing schedule. The motion became ripe with the filing of Sanders' reply brief on March 4, 2010. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Sanders' request for relief and dismisses his § 2255 petition.

An evidentiary hearing is not warranted. Sanders asserts an ineffective assistance claim. Such claims often require an evidentiary hearing, "because they frequently allege facts that the record does not fully disclose." Osagiede v. United States, 543 F.3d 399, 408 (7th Cir. 2008). But the issues raised here can be resolved on the existing record, which conclusively demonstrates that Sanders is entitled to no relief. See Rule 8(a) of RULES GOVERNING SECTION 2255PROCEEDINGS; Almonacid v. U.S., 476 F.3d 518, 521 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 551 U.S. 1132 (2007); Gallo-Vasquez v. U.S., 402 F.3d 793, 797 (7th Cir. 2005); Galbraith v. U.S., 313 F.3d 1001, 1010 (7th Cir. 2002). Stated another way, Sanders has not alleged facts that, if proven, would entitle him to relief. See Sandoval v. U.S., 574 F.3d 847, 850 (7th Cir. 2009).

B. Analysis of § 2255 Petition ## APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

28 U.S.C. § 2255 authorizes a federal prisoner to ask the court which sentenced him to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence, if "the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, ... the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or ... the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law."

Relief under § 2255 is limited. Unlike a direct appeal, in which a defendant may complain of nearly any error, § 2255 proceedings may be used only to correct errors that vitiate the sentencing court's jurisdiction or are otherwise of constitutional magnitude. See, e.g., Corcoran v. Sullivan, 112 F.3d 836, 837 (7th Cir. 1997)(§ 2255 relief is available only to correct "fundamental errors in the criminal process"). Section 2255 has been described as "the federal-prisoner substitute for habeas corpus." U.S. v. Boyd, 591 F.3d 953, 955 (7th Cir. 2010). Accord Washington v. Smith, 564 F.3d 1350, 1351 (7th Cir. 2009)(referring to a § 2255 petition as "the federal prisoner's equivalent to a § 2254 petition attacking a criminal judgment entered by a state court").

As the Seventh Circuit has declared, § 2255 relief "is appropriate only for an error of law that is jurisdictional, constitutional, or constitutes a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice." Harris v. United States, 366 F.3d 593, 594 (7th Cir. 2004). Accord Prewitt v. United States, 83 F.3d 812, 816 (7th Cir. 1996)("relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for extraordinary situations"). And § 2255 cannot be used as a substitute for a direct appeal or to re-litigate issues already raised on direct appeal. Coleman v. United States, 318 F.3d 754, 760 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 926 (2003). AccordSandoval, 574 F.3d at 850 ("claims cannot be raised for the first time in a § 2255 motion if they could have been raised at trial or on direct appeal").

In the case at bar, Sanders tenders three grounds for § 2255 relief, all three premised on ineffective assistance of counsel (Doc. 1, p. 4):

(1) his lawyer failed to object to inconsistent testimony and hearsay ...

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