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United States v. Blake

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division

October 28, 2014

United States of America Plaintiff,
v.
Lamar Blake, Defendant.

ORDER

PHILIP G. REINHARD, District Judge.

For the reasons stated below, defendant Lamar Blake's petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [1] is denied in part. The court orders an evidentiary hearing on the sole issue of whether Blake requested an appeal and his counsel refused or ignored the request. Pursuant to Rule 8(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, Blake's request for appointment of counsel is granted for that purpose only. The court appoints Attorney Paul Gaziano, Federal Defender, 401 W. State St. Ste 800 Rockford, IL 61101 as counsel to represent Blake. The case is set for a status hearing on December 9, 2014, at 10:30 a.m., to schedule an evidentiary hearing. The U.S. Marshal is ordered to have Blake returned to the custody of the U.S. Marshal, NDIL, Western Division, no later than December 3, 2014. All of Blake's other claims are denied. Blake's motion for discovery [9] is denied at this time.

STATEMENT-OPINION

Defendant, Lamar Blake, ("Blake" or "defendant") a federal prisoner, has filed a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See [1]. In his petition, he raises a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim and a number of ineffective assistance of counsel claims. See id. Blake's due process claim is based upon his belief that his guilty plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily. [2] at 9-10. His ineffective assistance of counsel claims are premised on contentions that his trial counsel 1) failed to adequately prepare for Blake's sentencing hearing; 2) failed to object to the Sentencing Guideline Calculations in Blake's presentence investigation report ("PSR"); 3) failed to raise arguments concerning the relevant factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a); 4) failed to request a downward departure; and 5) failed to file a direct appeal. Blake asks the court to grant him an evidentiary hearing and also requests appointment of counsel. [2] at 10-20.

Respondent has answered the petition, and argues that Blake's claims fail on their merits. Respondent contends Blake's attorney was constitutionally adequate and claims Blake is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing or appointed counsel.

A. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On April 17, 2012, an indictment was returned charging defendant, Lamar Blake, with one count of distributing cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (count one) and one count of possessing a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) (count two)[1]. See United States v. Blake, No. 12-CR-50028, (N.D. Ill. Apr. 17, 2012); [1]. On March 15, 2013, Blake pled guilty to both counts pursuant to a written plea agreement. See United States v. Blake, No. 12-CR-50028, (N.D. Ill. March 15, 2013), [28].

In relevant part, the plea agreement provided that Blake agreed he was a career offender "[p]ursuant to Guideline § 4B1.1(a)... because (1) [he] was at least 18 years old at the time [he] committed the instant offense (2) the instant of conviction [was] a felony that [was] a controlled substance offense; and (3) [he] ha[d] at least two prior felony convictions of a controlled substance offense... [.]" United States v. Blake, No. 12-CR-50028, (N.D. Ill. March 15, 2013), [28] at 5. The plea agreement also set forth Blake's anticipated guideline range. Id. at 8.

On the same day the plea agreement was signed, the Honorable Frederick J. Kapala held Blake's change of plea hearing. See United States v. Blake, No. 12-CR-50028 (N.D. Ill. March 15, 2013), [27]. At the hearing, the following colloquy occurred:

The Court: All right. Mr. Blake, it's been indicated to me that you wish to plead guilty to Counts 1 and 2 of the indictment; is that correct?
Defendant Blake: Yes.
The Court: And you understand that you're leaving the decision as to the penalty up to my discretion within the statute and in consideration of the United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines.
Defendant Blake: Yes.

Tr. of Plea Hearing, United States v. Blake, No. 12-CR-50028, (N.D. Ill. Apr. 16, 2014); [43] at 3.

Judge Kapala then placed Blake under oath and asked him a series of questions to ensure that he was mentally competent to enter his guilty plea. See id. at 3-8. After he determined Blake was competent, Judge Kapala explained the charges in the indictment and asked Blake if he understood those charges. Blake responded affirmatively and also indicated that he understood the terms of the plea agreement. At that point Judge Kapala asked Blake:

The Court: Other than the plea agreement, has anyone made any promises or assurances to you of any kind in an effort to induce you to plead guilty in this case?
Defendant Blake: No, sir.
The Court: Has anyone attempted in any way to force you to plead guilty in this case?
Defendant Blake: No, sir.
The Court: Are you pleading guilty of your own free will? Defendant Blake: Yes, sir.

Id. at 11.

Judge Kapala then instructed the government to describe what the evidence would show with respect to both counts if Blake were to go to trial. After the government completed its statement, Judge Kapala asked Blake if he disagreed with any part of the government's statement. Id. at 17. Blake stated that he did not and subsequently entered a guilty plea to counts one and two of the indictment. Id.

On June 21, 2013, this court held Blake's sentencing hearing.[2] See United States v. Blake, No. 12-CR-50028, (N.D. Ill. June 21, 2013), [35]-[36]. During the sentencing hearing, the following colloquy occurred:

The Court: All right. I'm going to address you, Mr. Blake, ask you some questions. You have received a copy of the presentence investigation ...

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