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Sims v. United States

July 20, 2010

RICO R. SIMS, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy Mcdade United States Senior District Judge

OPINION and ORDER

Before the Court is the Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence filed by Petitioner, Rico R. Sims, on July 23, 2009 (Doc. 1). The Motion is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On July 30, 2007, Petitioner entered a blind plea of guilty to the unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). He was sentenced to 60 months of incarceration (to be served consecutively to a term of imprisonment in another case) and 3 years of supervised release on November 19, 2007. Petitioner appealed his conviction and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on December 24, 2008.

Petitioner's arrest was the result of information obtained from Alicia Dean. Dean was arrested after a routine traffic stop revealed that she possessed ecstasy and marijuana. Dean told the police that she had recently purchased the marijuana from Petitioner at his residence in Peoria. The interviewing officer, Officer Barish, showed Dean a photographic lineup and she identified Petitioner as the person who sold her the marijuana. While Dean could not remember Petitioner's exact address, Officer Barish drove her to the street she indicated and she pointed out Petitioner's house. Officer Barish prepared a complaint based on information supplied by Dean and prepared an affidavit for Dean to sign. Dean's affidavit did not name her but rather identified her as "John Doe" and stated that she feared retaliation. A search warrant was issued by a state court judge, who personally questioned Dean, based on the complaint and the affidavit. A subsequent search of Petitioner's house revealed marijuana and two firearms and ammunition.

Petitioner moved to suppress the evidence before this Court challenging Deans' reliability and hence the warrant. Petitioner argued that the issuing judge was not aware of various facts and that this lack of knowledge rendered Dean's affidavit unreliable. This Court found that the warrant was supported by probable cause and that police officers could rely on the warrant in good faith. Petitioner then entered a blind plea of guilty, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.

On appeal, Petitioner challenged the search warrant arguing that the affidavit in support of the warrant did not establish probable cause to search his residence and that police officers could not have reasonably relied on the warrant. United States v. Sims, 551 F.3d 640 (7th Cir. 2008). Specifically, Petitioner argued that the issuing judge was not aware of Dean's arrest or the circumstances of her arrest nor was he aware of Dean's relationship with Petitioner. Id. at 644. Additionally, the affidavit did not include details like the layout of the residence or the amount of marijuana that would be there. Id. The Seventh Circuit found Petitioner's arguments unavailing. The Court stated that Petitioner may challenge an affidavit in which material facts have been omitted intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth. Id. at 645. However, the missing information did not "reach the level of constitutional materiality to a probable cause determination" and the information supplied was sufficient to establish probable cause. Id.

Petitioner timely filed a Motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 raising a number of arguments. Petitioner first argues that his counsel was ineffective because he was "deficient in providing advice" during the guilty plea stage, that the advice offered "was based on a gross misunderstanding of the law and facts of his case and the likely outcome of the charge," because his counsel failed to investigate his case, and because he provided "false and unreliable information relied upon by Petitioner." Petitioner further asserted that counsel failed to advise him as to the benefits of pleading guilty or going to trial. Specifically, Petitioner asserts that there "was no rational discussion of sentencing exposure because the 5 year sentence was never considered to be in the equation . . ." and that his counsel "induced him to reject offers to plead guilty and/or go to trial." Petitioner does not provide any details related to any conversation he had with his attorney nor is an affidavit attached to the Motion or supporting memorandum.

Petitioner also raises substantive claims. He again challenges Dean's Affidavit and the warrant issued as a result. He also argues that his sentence was improperly enhanced based on "multiple misdemeanor convictions." Petitioner seeks an evidentiary hearing to resolve factual discrepancies and an order setting aside his sentence.

STANDARD

Title 28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides that a sentence may be vacated, set aside, or corrected: upon the ground that the 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 . . . .

Relief under § 2255 is "an extraordinary remedy to one who already has had an opportunity for full process." Kafo v. United States, 467 F.3d 1063, 1068 (7th Cir. 2006). A hearing is not required if the records "conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255, ¶2; Almonacid v. United States, 476 F.3d 518, 521 (7th Cir. 2007); Kafo, 467 F.3d at 1067 (noting that in order for a hearing to be granted, the affidavit that accompanies a § 2255 motion must be a detailed and specific document that constitutes actual proof of the allegations and not merely unsupported assertions). An evidentiary hearing in this matter is unnecessary as the issues can be resolved on the documents provided to the Court.

Petitioner's ineffectiveness claims are analyzed under the familiar standard enunciated in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). In order to prevail on these claims, Petitioner must show that his counsel's performance was objectively deficient and that this deficient performance prejudiced his defense. Id. at 687. Counsel's performance is deficient if it "is one that falls below an objective standard of reasonableness under prevailing professional norms." Shell v. United States, 448 F.3d 951, 954-955 (7th Cir. 2006). Petitioner bears a "heavy burden" in establishing this first prong because of a strong presumption that counsel's conduct was reasonable. Id. In the specific context of a guilty plea, Petitioner must show that ...


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