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Brackhan v. United States

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

October 26, 2016

CHARLES BRACKHAN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Charles Brackhan has filed a Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody (d/e 1). Petitioner asserts that (1) he is actually innocent of the offense of discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Count 3); (2) his counsel provided ineffective assistance by advising Petitioner that no defense was available to the § 924(c) charge and by failing to inform Petitioner of the elements necessary to secure a § 924(c) conviction; and (3) his guilty plea was involuntary due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Because Petitioner has waived or procedurally defaulted his claims and is not otherwise entitled to relief, Petitioner's Motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In May 2014, the grand jury returned an eight-count Superseding Indictment against Petitioner. See United States v. Brackhan, United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Case No. 13-30084 (hereinafter, Case No. 13-30084), Superseding Indictment (d/e 11). On September 25, 2014, Petitioner pleaded guilty to Count 1, manufacturing marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(D); Count 3, discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and Count 5, being a drug user in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3).

         In the Plea Agreement, the parties agreed that the appropriate sentence was a within guideline sentence on Counts 1 and 5 to run concurrently and the mandatory minimum of 120 months on Count 3 to run consecutively to Counts 1 and 5. Case No. 13-30084, Plea Agreement ¶ 16 (d/e 23). Because the Plea Agreement was made pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C), the sentence would be binding on the Court if the Court accepted the Plea Agreement. Id. ¶¶ 3, 17.

         At the Change of Plea hearing before United States Magistrate Judge Tom Schanzle-Haskins, Petitioner was placed under oath and advised that his answers were subject to the penalty of perjury. Case No. 13-30084, Change of Plea Transcript at 4 (d/e 46). Petitioner agreed that he had ample opportunity to discuss his case with his counsel and was satisfied with counsel's representation. Tr. at 6-7. Petitioner affirmed that he had an opportunity to discuss with counsel the charges in the Indictment to which he was pleading guilty. Tr. 7.

         Judge Schanzle-Haskins asked the prosecutor to explain the elements of the offenses. The prosecutor explained that Count 3 had four elements:

First, the defendant committed the conduct charged in Count 1 of the superseding indictment;
Second, that he knowingly possessed the firearm;
Third, his possession of the firearm was in furtherance of the marijuana manufacturing as alleged in Count 1; and
Fourth, that the defendant discharged the firearm during the commission of the offense as stated in Counts 1 and 3.

         Tr. 8. When Judge Schanzle-Haskins asked Petitioner if he understood the elements, Petitioner responded, “Yes, Your Honor.” Tr. at 8. After the prosecutor stated the possible penalties and Petitioner stated that he understood the possible penalties, Judge Schanzle-Haskins asked Petitioner if he had any questions about the nature of the charges or the possible penalties. Petitioner stated, “No, Your Honor.” Tr. 10.

         Judge Schanzle-Haskins advised Petitioner of his rights, and Petitioner waived those rights. Tr. 10-15. Petitioner denied that anyone made any promises or assurances other than what was contained in the Plea Agreement. Tr. 15. Petitioner affirmed that he was pleading guilty of his own free will because he was guilty. Tr. 15.

         When Judge Schanzle-Haskins asked the prosecutor to state what the evidence would be at trial, the prosecutor read the factual basis and stipulation of facts contained on pages 8, 9, and 10 of the Plea Agreement. In sum, Petitioner admitted that he manufactured marijuana at 26959 Sweetwater Avenue in Greenville, Illinois, periodically stayed at the Sweetwater property to tend his marijuana grow, kept a firearm for protection while at the property, and shot an individual who broke into the property intending to steal marijuana plants:

[O]n or about March 19th of 2013, law enforcement responded to a shots-fired call to defendant's property, specifically 26959 Sweetwater Avenue, Greenview, Illinois.
Nobody answered the door when they arrived, but officers observed several marijuana plants in a vehicle parked in the driveway.
As they began interviewing witnesses about what happened that night, officers learned that three individuals-namely Donald Roach, Chance Williams, and Aaron Fehl-went to the defendant's property intending to steal plants from the defendant's marijuana grow inside the residence.
Aaron Fehl broke into the residence with a firearm. The defendant was sta[y]ing inside the residence at the time. During an exchange of gunfire inside the house, the defendant shot and killed Fehl with a Kel-Tec 9 millimeter handgun bearing serial number ANP73.
When officers later entered the defendant's residence, they found several items indicative of a marijuana grow operation in two of the rooms in the house and recovered ...

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