United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
For United States of America, Plaintiff: Patrick C. Pope, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney's Office (NDIL), Chicago, IL.
Lionel Lechuga, Defendant, Pro se, Oxford, WI.
Rubé n Castillo, Chief United States District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Presently before the Court is Petitioner Lionel Lechuga's pro se petition to vacate his conviction and set aside his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons set forth below, the Court orders an evidentiary hearing on the factual bases of Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim.
The relevant facts relating to Petitioner's criminal conviction are set forth in a published opinion bye the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, see United States v. Morales, 655 F.3d 608 (7th Cir. 2011), and are repeated here only as they pertain to Petitioner's current § 2255 petition.
Petitioner was one of sixteen individuals indicted by a federal grand jury on various racketeering-related charges in 2006. Petitioner and his codefendants were members of the Aurora Deuces, the Aurora, Illinois chapter of the Insane Deuce Nation street gang. Petitioner asserts that he was retired but was pulled back into Deuce activity when the Aurora Deuces underwent a reorganization; the Seventh Circuit stated that contrary evidence indicated that Petitioner had been an active Senior Deuce prior to the reorganization.
Petitioner was indicted on charges of racketeering conspiracy (Count One) and conspiracy to distribute narcotics (Count Nine) in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. (" RICO" ). In an effort not to overwhelm the jury, and due to the logistical challenge of trying so many defendants in a single courtroom, this Court severed the case into two trials. Petitioner was grouped with the " less major players" and tried before Judge Leinenweber.
Petitioner was represented before and at trial by Patrick Blegen. Petitioner contends that shortly after the commencement of the trial, Mr. Blegen informed him that the government offered a plea agreement in which it agreed to recommend a 15-year sentence. Petitioner alleges that he asked Mr. Blegen whether his prior drug offenses would impact his sentence, and Mr. Blegen advised Petitioner that he was not a career offender under United States Sentencing Guidelines § 4B1.1. Mr. Blegen further advised Petitioner that if he went to trial, any resulting sentence was likely to be lower than 15 years. Mr. Blegen's advice was based on his conclusion that Petitioner was not a career offender and that he would fall into Criminal History Category III or IV. Based on counsel's advice, Petitioner declined the plea agreement. Petitioner was under the impression that his Adjusted Guidelines Base Offense Level would be 19, which resulted in a Sentencing Guidelines range of 46-57 months based on a Criminal History Category of IV.
On December 10, 2008, after a three-month trial, a jury found Petitioner guilty on both counts. Following the trial, the pre-sentence investigation report designated Petitioner as a career offender based on two prior drug convictions and the conviction on Count Nine. The investigation report allotted Petitioner 20 criminal history points and placed him in Criminal History Category VI. Petitioner's enhanced offense level was 43, resulting in a Sentencing Guidelines recommendation of a life sentence. On September 3, 2009, Petitioner was sentenced to a 20-year term of imprisonment and ...