United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
For United States of America, Plaintiff: Patrick C. Pope, United States Attorney's Office (NDIL), Chicago, IL.
Romell Handley, Defendant, Pro se, Greenville, IL.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Rubén Castillo, Chief United States District Judge.
Presently before the Court are Petitioner Romell Handley's pro se motions to reconsider this Court's order denying his petition to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and to grant an evidentiary hearing. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's motion to reconsider is granted and his motion for an evidentiary hearing remains under advisement.
The relevant facts relating to Petitioner's criminal conviction are set forth in a published opinion by 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 section 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 was the third-ranking member (the " Enforcer" ) of the Deuces' most junior members (the " Shorties" ), and was thus responsible for assigning missions to Shorties, ensuring compliance with the Deuces' rules, and punishing Shorties who broke the rules. Petitioner was indicted on a charge of racketeering conspiracy (Count One) in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. 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 by Beau Brindley before and at trial, at sentencing, and on appeal. Petitioner contends that the government offered him a plea agreement prior to the trial. (R. 8, Mot. Reconsider at 3.) The draft plea agreement, which he attached to his petition would have required Petitioner to plead guilty to one count of possessing a firearm pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and one count of conspiring to commit murder in aid of racketeering pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5). (R. 4, Ex. A, Plea Offer ¶ 2.) Petitioner contends that under the plea offer, he would have faced a maximum penalty of 15 years and a mandatory minimum of five years. (R. 8, Mot. Reconsider at 5-7.)
Petitioner's characterization of the sentence he would receive under the plea offer is belied by the draft plea agreement he attached to his Petition. (R. 4, Ex. A, Plea Offer.) Under the heading " Maximum Statutory Penalties," the draft plea agreement states: " Count One carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years' imprisonment, which must be served consecutively to any other term of imprisonment
imposed by the Court." ( Id. ¶ 7(a).) It later reiterates: " Therefore, under the counts to which defendant HANDLEY is pleading guilty, the total maximum sentence is life imprisonment." ( Id. ¶ 7(d).) If anything, the plea offer seems to suggest that Petitioner would receive a minimum of 15 years: it estimates Petitioner's Sentencing Guidelines Range for Count Two to be 121 to 151 months, but notes that the statutory maximum was ten years, and thus " HANDLEY's effective guideline sentence for Count Two is 120 months' imprisonment. In addition, [Count One of the plea offer] carries a mandatory consecutive minimum sentence of 5 years' imprisonment." ( Id. ¶ 9(d).) The Guidelines Range for Count One was 5 years, and thus the total Guidelines-recommended sentence under the plea offer was 15 years. ( Id. ¶ 9(b).)
Despite his mischaracterization of the maximum sentence he could receive under the proposed plea agreement, Petitioner contends that he would have accepted this " sweetheart of a deal" if Brindley had not advised him to reject the plea offer because accepting it would allow the government to convict him of crimes that were not included by the indictment, of which there was no evidence, and would thus allow the government to sentence him beyond the maximum sentence he would receive if convicted at trial. (R. 8, Mot. Reconsider at 5-6.) Petitioner contends that Brindley advised him that the ...