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Vance v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 22, 2015

TERRENCE R. VANCE, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal No. 09-cr-40070-JPG


J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on petitioner Terrence R. Vance's motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 1). The Government has responded to the motion (Doc. 15).

I. Background

On March 16, 2010, the petitioner pled guilty to two counts of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). At the petitioner's sentencing on September 17, 2010, the Court found that the petitioner was a career offender based on one prior conviction for a crime of violence (stealing from a person) and one prior conviction for a drug crime (distribution of a controlled substance). See U.S.S.G. §4B1.1 (2009). The Court sentenced the petitioner to serve 262 months in prison. The petitioner appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Court's decision, United States v. Vance, 659 F.3d 613 (7th Cir. 2011), but the Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for resentencing in light of Dorsey v. United States, 132 S.Ct. 2321 (2012) (finding the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 applied to a defendant sentenced after enactment even if the offense of conviction occurred before enactment). Vance v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 65 (2012).

On remand, the Court held a new sentencing proceeding on November 20, 2012. The Court again found the petitioner to be a career offender based on the same prior convictions and sentenced him to serve 200 months in prison. The petitioner again appealed, and on August 20, 2013, the Court of Appeals granted counsel's motion to withdraw and dismissed the appeal. The petitioner did not seek a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court.

In his § 2255 motion, the petitioner argues that his counsel was ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights because he:

• failed to object to the use of a prior conviction for stealing as a crime of violence to support career offender status;
• failed to object to the career offender guideline provisions as unconstitutional; and
• failed to investigate evidence showing another person was totally responsible for the drugs and other materials seized in a November 7, 2008, search and failed to argue this theory in the petitioner's defense.

The Court directed the Government to respond to these arguments, which is has done.

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, "[r]elief under § 2255 is available only in extraordinary situations, such as an error of constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude or where a fundamental defect has occurred which results in a complete miscarriage of justice.'" United States v. Coleman, 763 F.3d 706, 708 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Blake v. United States, 723 F.3d 870, 878-79 (7th Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 2830 (2014)). 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 Vance's claims for relief allege ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. The Sixth Amendment 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 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); Fountain v. United States, 211 F.3d 429, 434 (7th Cir. 2000).

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; Fountain, 211 F.3d at 434; Adams v. Bertrand, 453 F.3d 428, 435 (7th Cir. 2006). "A reasonable probability is defined as one that is sufficient to undermine confidence in an outcome." Adams, 453 F.3d at 435 (citing Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694).

A. Failure to Object to Use of Stealing From a Person for Career Offender Status

Vance faults his counsel for failing to argue to the Court at sentencing that one of the prior convictions listed in the Presentence Investigation Report was not a "crime of violence" such that it could be used to support career offender status under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 (2009). He believes his prior conviction was for "Simple Stealing, " a misdemeanor which is not a crime of violence. The Government argues that Vance's prior conviction was not for "Simple Stealing" but for "Stealing from a Person, a Class C felony, " which is a crime of violence for career offender purposes. It believes Vance's counsel was not deficient for failing to make ...

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