United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.
Felipe De Jesus Magana-Campos pled guilty, without a written plea agreement, to a charge of conspiracy to possess more than 1, 000 kilograms of marijuana with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. During the plea hearing, he admitted his involvement in a scheme in which approximately 20, 000 pounds of marijuana was hidden inside train cars and transported from Mexico to the Chicago area. The Court sentenced him to a prison term of 168 months, plus 5 years of supervised release. Magana-Campos did not appeal his conviction or sentence.
Magana-Campos has now filed a pro se motion to vacate his conviction and sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. He contends that his plea was not knowing and voluntary; his Fifth Amendment rights were violated when he was interrogated after he requested counsel; his confession was coerced; the Court erred in calculating his sentence; his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to assert entrapment as a defense and as a mitigating factor; the Court erred in altering the judgment; and his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to consider mitigating and exculpatory evidence. Magana-Campos also seeks an evidentiary hearing. The Court denies the motion and the request for a hearing for the reasons described below.
When reviewing a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, the Court must hold an evidentiary hearing if the movant alleges facts that, if proven to be true, would entitle him to relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); Sandoval v. United States, 574 F.3d 847, 850 (7th Cir. 2009). A hearing is not required, however, "if the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).
A defendant generally may not raise in a section 2255 motion a claim that was available on direct appeal but that he did not assert. Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 621-22 (1998). This rule does not apply to ineffective assistance of counsel claims, which "may be brought in a collateral proceeding under § 2255, whether or not the petitioner could have raised the claim on direct appeal." Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 504 (2003).
Because he did not file a direct appeal, Magana-Campos has procedurally defaulted all of his claims, with the exception of his ineffective assistance claim. He cannot pursue those defaulted claims unless he demonstrates cause and prejudice. Bousley, 523 U.S. at 622. Ineffective assistance of counsel can constitute cause for procedural default. Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986); Castellanos v. United States, 26 F.3d 717, 718 (7th Cir. 1994).
Accordingly, the Court will assess each claim to determine whether ineffective assistance will excuse procedural default and whether Magana-Campos is entitled to a hearing on his independent ineffective assistance claim. If the record shows that a particular underlying claim lacks merit, then counsel was not ineffective with respect to that claim. See Johnson v. Thurmer, 624 F.3d 786, 793 (7th Cir. 2010); Fuller v. United States, 398 F.3d 644, 650-52 (7th Cir. 2005). If a particular underlying claim is meritorious, then his attorney would have been ineffective with respect to that claim if "(1) his counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) the deficient performance so prejudiced his defense that it deprived him of a fair trial." United States v. Hall, 212 F.3d 1016, 1021 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688-94 (1984)). The record conclusively shows that Magana-Campos's claims lack merit and that none of the three attorneys who represented him during the criminal proceedings provided ineffective assistance.
A. Voluntariness of guilty plea
Magana-Campos first argues that his plea was not knowing and voluntary as required under the Constitution. Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 748 (1970). He contends that he was not aware that he faced a ten-year minimum sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A), in part because he speaks very little English. The record contradicts this claim. During the plea hearing, at which a Spanish-language interpreter was present and translating what was said, the Court stated:
For this crime, there is also something called a mandatory minimum sentence, and the mandatory minimum sentence is 10 years in prison. What that means is that I cannot give you a sentence of less than 10 years in prison unless there is an exception.... So if neither one of those exceptions applies, I can't give you a sentence of less than 10 years in prison.
Aug. 15, 2012 Tr. at 17-18. Magana-Campos affirmed that he understood that a mandatory minimum might apply and that there was no guarantee that he would qualify for an exception. Id. at 18-19. Barring a "compelling explanation" for the later contradiction, a judge is entitled to rely on a defendant's statement made under oath during a plea hearing. Thompson v. United States, 732 F.3d 826, 829 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted) ("[A] [§ 2255] motion that can succeed only if the defendant committed perjury at the plea proceedings may be rejected out of hand unless the defendant has a compelling explanation for the contradiction."); see also United States v. Stewart, 198 F.3d 984, 987 (7th Cir. 1999).
Magana-Campos also claims that his attorney coerced him into pleading guilty by threatening his family. However, Magana-Campos stated under oath that he was not coerced or threatened and that he was pleading guilty of his own free will. Aug. 15, 2012 Tr. at 14. Again, the Court may rely on the proposition that the representations made under penalty of perjury were truthful. Although "[a] believable claim that the plea had been coerced, and thus was involuntary, would demonstrate a good reason for deceit, " Magana-Campos's vague and unsupported allegations of coercion by his attorney are not credible. Stewart, 198 F.3d at 987; Aleman v. United States, 878 F.2d 1009, 1012-14 (7th Cir. 1989) (noting that a court need not grant a hearing if the petitioner's claims are "conclusory, speculative, and palpably incredible").
Magana-Campos's claim that members of a Mexican drug cartel urged him to plea "as a sort of scapegoat" also lacks merit. Mem. in Supp. of § 2255 Mot. at 9. He provides no details about the alleged urgings, other than that he received a threatening postcard while he was in jail and a "blonde Mexican came and took me to the library and told me that I'd better keep quiet, cause they had people everywhere.'" Magana-Campos Aff. (Representation) ¶ 13. These ...