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Quintana v. Chandler

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 23, 2013

Carmelo Quintana, Petitioner-Appellant,
Nedra Chandler, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.

Argued May 22, 2013

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 08 c 5629—Edmond E. Chang, Judge.

Before Flaum, Rovner, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

Flaum, Circuit Judge.

On a cold night in the winter of 1999, Carmelo Quintana and his two friends lured a woman into a van. Quintana restrained the victim, while his friend sexually assaulted her. Eventually, the victim escaped by jumping nude out of the moving van. Quintana was arrested and charged with kidnapping and sexual assault. After serving a year in prison awaiting trial, the state offered Quintana a plea deal, somewhat surprising in its leniency, of a four-year sentence on the kidnapping charge and a four-year sentence on the sexual assault charge to run concurrently at 50% good time, allowing Quintana to plead guilty and serve one more year in prison before being released. Quintana declined the deal, opting to go to trial and face a minimum of two six-year consecutive sentences. Following his conviction, the district court sentenced Quintana to two consecutive terms in prison: one lasting six years and the other lasting twenty-one years. Thirteen years into his sentence, Quintana asks this court to grant him a writ of habeas corpus, claiming his trial counsel failed to adequately inform him of the consequences of his plea. For the reasons set forth below, we deny the writ.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

In the winter of 1999, Quintana was a passenger in a van driven by Dagoberto Alvarado. Jorge Navarette, also a passenger, pulled a woman into the van, took her clothes off, and tried to rape her, while Quintana held her down, covered her mouth, and slapped her buttocks. The woman tried to escape but was pulled back in. She then offered to get on top of Navarette to improve her chances of escaping, which allowed her to jump out of the moving van naked and screaming. Police detained Navarette and Quintana, and Alvarado apparently fled to Mexico. Quintana confessed to committing the crime.

After being charged, Quintana retained a lawyer with limited experience—prior to representing Quintana, Attorney Dennis Kellogg had handled only three felony trials. Aside from their initial meeting, Quintana met with Kellogg only at court appearances and never apart from his co-defendant. Quintana's conversations with his lawyer were short and translated by his co-defendant's counsel, other inmates, and court interpreters.

Before his trial, the state offered Quintana a plea deal requiring him to serve two concurrent four-year terms of imprisonment at 50%. Because Quintana had already served a year in prison, the deal would have required him to serve only one additional year. He declined the state's offer, however, and according to Kellogg, insisted he was innocent. Quintana claimed Alvarado was the perpetrator. Evidence also suggests that Kellogg apparently misunderstood Quintana's potential sentence. He thought Quintana was facing two six-year concurrent minimum sentences at 50%, but in actuality, the charged crimes presented two six-year minimum consecutive sentences to be served at 85%.

Quintana proceeded to a simultaneous, but separate, bench trial with Navarette. At trial, the two defendants presented a story of consensual sex between Alvarado and the victim. The trial court rejected this argument as incredible and ultimately sentenced Quintana to a twenty-one-year term for sexual assault and a six-year term for kidnapping to be served consecutively at 85% for good time.

B. Procedural Background

After an unsuccessful direct appeal, Quintana pursued state post-conviction relief claiming, among other things, that Kellogg's performance during the plea stage was ineffective. He submitted two affidavits, one that he signed and one signed by Kellogg. Quintana's affidavit stated that when he rejected the plea offer, he believed that his sentences would run concurrently, that he would only have to serve 50% of the time, and that Kellogg had not advised him otherwise. Quintana claimed he would not have proceeded to trial had he been properly informed on the length and consecutive nature of the sentence he was facing. He also stated that he did not understand the law of guilt by accountability or that his statement would be introduced against him at trial. Kellogg's affidavit confirmed some of Quintana's allegations. He admitted he did not know the sentences would be served consecutively. He noted that there was "some discussion" on sentences not being served at 50% and that he characterized the offer as "reasonable, " but explained that Quintana insisted he was innocent because Alvarado was the perpetrator.

The trial court denied Quintana's petition and the state appellate court affirmed, holding that Quintana had failed to establish that any deficiency on Kellogg's behalf resulted in prejudice. It found Quintana's affidavits self-servingly unreliable and uncorroborated especially in light of Kellogg's statements that there was "some talk" that sentences were ...

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