United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JASON S. THORNE, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on petitioner Jason S. Thorne's amended motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 4). On November 19, 2012, the petitioner pled guilty to conspiring to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(C) and 846. The Court sentenced the petitioner to serve 156 months in prison. The petitioner appealed his conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal on May 30, 2013, pursuant to the petitioner's request. The petitioner did not seek a writ of certiorari from the United States Supreme Court.
The petitioner timely filed an original § 2255 motion in his criminal case on February 3, 2014. The motion was ultimately transferred to the civil docket as a § 2255 proceeding and amended. In his amended § 2255 motion, the petitioner raises the following claims:
Ground 1: His counsel provided ineffective assistance in violation of the Sixth Amendment for his advice about Thorne's potential sentence, his failure to file a motion for discovery, his failure to accept collect calls, his failure to investigate potential witnesses' criminal history, and his dismissal of Thorne's concerns as a need for "intense hand-holding";
Ground 2: The petitioner could not have been guilty due to an alibi for December 31, 2011 - incarceration in the Illinois Department of Corrections;
Ground 3: His counsel provided ineffective assistance in violation of the Sixth Amendment for advising him to plead guilty where there was insufficient truthful evidence of Thorne's conspiring with Robert Shreve; and
Ground 4: The Court erred in finding the petitioner to be a career offender because a prior felony conviction should have been a misdemeanor.
Pursuant to Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts, the Court has determined that it is plain from the motion and the record of the prior proceedings that the petitioner is not entitled to relief on any ground.
I. § 2255 Standard
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)), cert. denied, No. 14-8459, 2015 U.S. LEXIS 2050 (U.S. Mar. 23, 2015). 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). No hearing is necessary in this case because the record clearly demonstrates Thorne is entitled to no relief.
A. Ground 1: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel I
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 ...