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Reeves v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 29, 2014

KAI A. REEVES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal No. 09-cr-40069-GPM.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on petitioner Kai A. Reeves' motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 1), memorandum in support (Doc. 2), and amendment (Doc. 11). The Government has responded (Docs. 8 & 24), and Reeves has replied to the later response (Doc. 25).

I. Background

On July 9, 2010, Reeves entered an open plea to one count of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine (Count 1), one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin (Count 2), one count of distribution of less than 5 grams of crack cocaine (Count 10), one count of distribution of 5 grams or more of crack cocaine (Count 11), and one count of distribution of heroin (Count 12). The presentence investigation report ("PSR") prepared to assist the Court in sentencing Reeves found that Reeves' relevant conduct included 793 grams of crack cocaine and 100 grams of heroin. The finding regarding crack cocaine was based on an observation reported to law enforcement by a confidential source. Prior to the sentencing hearing, Reeves' counsel objected to the PSR's relevant conduct finding and the failure to apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 ("FSA"), Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372 (2010) (Doc. 536), but eventually withdrew the relevant conduct objections. On November 15, 2010, the Court[1] sentenced the petitioner to serve 121 months in prison, and judgment was entered November 22, 2012. The petitioner did not appeal his conviction.

Reeves' § 2255 motion bears a signature date of November 24, 2011, and his supporting memorandum bears a signature date of November 24, 2012. Both documents reached the Court for docketing on May 4, 2012. In his § 2255 motion, Reeves argues that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights for the following reasons:

• he failed to file a notice of appeal;
• he improperly withdrew the objections to the PSR's relevant conduct finding; and
• he failed to argue on appeal for application of the Fair Sentencing Act.

The Court later allowed Reeves to add the additional argument, based on Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013), that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to argue that facts triggering a statutory minimum sentence must be proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

II. Analysis

The Court must grant a § 2255 motion when a defendant's "sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. However, "[h]abeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for extraordinary situations." Prewitt v. United States, 83 F.3d 812, 816 (7th Cir. 1996). "Relief under § 2255 is available only for errors of constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude, or where the error represents a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice." Kelly v. United States, 29 F.3d 1107, 1112 (7th Cir. 1994) (quotations omitted). It is proper to deny a § 2255 motion without an evidentiary hearing if "the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively demonstrate that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); see Sandoval v. United States, 574 F.3d 847, 850 (7th Cir. 2009).

All of Reeves' claims in his § 2255 motion assert that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution provides that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right... to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence." U.S. Const. amend. VI. This right to assistance of counsel encompasses the right to effective assistance of counsel. McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 771, n. 14 (1970); Watson v. Anglin, 560 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir. 2009). A party claiming ineffective assistance of counsel bears the burden of showing (1) that his trial counsel's performance fell below objective standards for reasonably effective representation and (2) that this deficiency prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688-94 (1984); United States v. Jones, 635 F.3d 909, 915 (7th Cir. 2011); Wyatt v. United States, 574 F.3d 455, 457 (7th Cir. 2009).

To satisfy the first prong of the Strickland test, the petitioner must direct the Court to specific acts or omissions of his counsel. Wyatt, 574 F.3d at 458. The Court must then consider whether in light of all of the circumstances counsel's performance was outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance. Id. The Court's review of counsel's performance must be "highly deferential[, ]... indulg[ing] a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689; accord Wyatt, 574 F.3d at 458. Counsel's performance must be evaluated keeping in mind that an attorney's trial strategies are a matter of professional judgment and often turn on facts not contained in the trial record. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. The Court cannot become a "Monday morning quarterback." Harris v. Reed, 894 F.2d 871, 877 (7th Cir. 1990).

To satisfy the second prong of the Strickland test, the plaintiff must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceedings would have been different such that the proceedings were fundamentally unfair or unreliable. Jones, 635 F.3d at 915; Adams v. Bertrand, 453 F.3d 428, 435 (7th Cir. 2006). "A reasonable probability is defined as one that is ...


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