United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division
CODY M. SPRADLEY, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
DARROW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are Petitioner Cody M. Spradley's 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence,
ECF No. 1, and his Motion for Status, ECF No. 9. For the
following reasons, Spradley's § 2255 Motion is
DENIED and the Motion for Status is MOOT.
connection to a pair of robberies in Iowa and Illinois that
took place on March 25, 2014, Cody Spradley was charged in a
four-count indictment including: Count I, Conspiracy to
Obstruct Commerce by Robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1951(a); Counts II and IV, Brandishing a Firearm During A
Crime of Violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
924(c)(1)(a)(ii); and Count III, Obstruction of Commerce by
Robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a). Indictment,
Cr. ECF No. 1.
written plea agreement entered on May 7, 2015, Spradley
pleaded guilty to Count I, Conspiracy to Obstruct Commerce by
Robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a), and Count
II, Brandishing a Firearm During A Crime of Violence in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(a)(ii). Plea Agrmt.
2-3, Cr. ECF No 13. Count I carried a sentencing range of
zero to twenty years, and Count II carried a mandatory
minimum sentence of seven years, with a maximum of life in
prison. 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(a)(ii). On September 3,
2015, Spradley received a sentence to 60 months of
imprisonment for Count I, and a consecutive 84 months of
imprisonment for Count II, followed by three years of
supervised release. Judgment, Cr. ECF No. 20. Spradley was
also ordered to pay restitution to the convenience stores in
the amount of $132.00. Id.
plea agreement Spradley signed included a waiver of his right
to collaterally attack his plea agreement, his conviction, or
his sentence via a § 2255 motion, with a provision
excluding from the waiver “a claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel.” Plea Agrmt. ¶ 11-12, Mot.
Vacate Ex. C, ECF No. 1-1. Spradley did not file a direct
appeal. He filed the present collateral motion on December
30, 2015, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of
counsel from his court appointed Federal Public Defender,
George Tasseff. See Mot. Vacate. The United States
(“the Government”) filed a response arguing that
Spradley entered knowingly and voluntarily into the waiver,
and that he is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing because
his arguments are not appropriately made as ineffective
assistance of counsel claims and, in any case, are meritless.
Mot. Vacate 1.
Legal Standard on a Motion to Vacate Sentence Under 28 U.S.C.
U.S.C. § 2255, “the federal prisoner's
substitute for habeas corpus, ” Brown v. Rios,
696 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2012), permits a prisoner
incarcerated pursuant to an Act of Congress to seek that his
sentence be vacated, set aside, or corrected if “the
sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws
of the United States, or . . . the court was without
jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or . . . the sentence
was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is
otherwise subject to collateral attack[.]” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255(a). See Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d
1123, 1124 (7th Cir. 2015) (“As a rule, the remedy
afforded by section 2255 functions as an effective substitute
for the writ of habeas corpus that it largely
replaced.”). An individual may waive his rights to
collateral attack as part of a plea agreement, and
“[s]uch waivers are generally enforceable[.]”
Gaylord v. United States, 829 F.3d 500, 505 (7th
Cir. 2016). As long as a criminal defendant's decision to
enter a plea agreement is “knowing and voluntary,
” and the waiver language is “express and
unambiguous, ” the waiver is valid. United States
v. Quintero, 618 F.3d 746, 751 (7th Cir. 2010). When a
defendant enters into a plea agreement that waives direct or
collateral attack via § 2255, the agreement is upheld
pursuant to “ordinary contract law principles, ”
except to the extent that constitutional concerns must place
limits on private contracting between the defendant and the
government. Hurlow v. United States, 726 F.3d 958,
964 (7th Cir, 2013). The Sixth Amendment right to challenge
ineffective assistance of counsel in the negotiation of a
plea agreement is one such claim that may not be contracted
away by a defendant. Id.
an attorney has rendered ineffective assistance sufficient to
set aside a knowing and voluntary waiver is evaluated under
the two-part test of Strickland v. Washington, 466
U.S. 668 (1984). A petitioner claiming ineffective assistance
of counsel at the plea agreement negotiation must show: (1)
“‘counsel's representation fell below an
objective standard of reasonableness' when measured
against ‘prevailing professional norms, '”
and (2) that petitioner “was prejudiced by the
deficiencies in his counsel's performance, ” i.e.
that “but for counsel's errors, he would not have
pleaded and would have insisted on going to trial.”
Gaylord, 829 F.3d at 506 (quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-88). However, a
“broad, unsupported assertion of ineffective
assistance . . .as well as ‘garden variety attacks . .
. raise[d] in the guise of a claim of ineffective assistance
of counsel” are insufficient to overcome a collateral
attack waiver in a plea agreement. Id. at 966. When
a petitioner challenges the effectiveness of counsel at the
plea bargain stage, the Court should look to whether counsel
“attempt[ed] to learn all of the facts of the case,
[made] an estimate of a likely sentence, and communicate[d]
the results of the analysis before allowing his client to
plead guilty.” Id. (quoting Moore v.
Bryant, 348 F.3d 238, 241 (7th Cir. 2003)). If the
attorney's failure to do so is the “decisive factor
in the decision to plead guilty, the Sixth Amendment is
violated.” Moore, 348 F.3d at 241.
“When applying Strickland to the facts of a
particular case, ‘there is no reason for a court . . .
to approach the inquiry in the same order or even to address
both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes an
insufficient showing on one.'” McDaniel v.
Polley, 847 F.3d 887, 893 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697) (alteration in
seeks to invoke the provision in the plea agreement waiver
that protects his right to make ineffective assistance of
counsel claims on collateral review. Plea Agrmt. ¶ 12.
He argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel
because (1) he was not notified of the legislative intent of
the Hobbs Act “to curb labor union employ[sic]
racketeering activities and not local state robberies”;
(2) counsel did not inform him of the maximum and minimum
penalties resulting from the aggregation of offenses to which
he pleaded; (3) his aggravated robbery charge was incorrectly
used to calculate his sentence, and (4) that he is actually
innocent of “brandish[ing]” a firearm such that
the mandatory minimum in 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) does not apply to
him, and that counsel failed to inform him of the “true
nature” of a 924(c) charge. Mot. Vacate 1-4, ECF No. 1.
The Government responds that Spradley's collateral attack
is barred by the waiver in his plea agreement, and that
Spradley has characterized his claims as based on ineffective
assistance of counsel only to evade the waiver. Gov't
Mot. Dismiss 15-16, ECF No. 4.
first claims that he would not have pleaded guilty if Mr.
Tasseff had informed him of the congressional intent of the
Hobbs Act and the offense activity it requires. With this
claim, Spradley seeks to re-litigate the fundamental nature
of his indictment. 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) provides:
Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects
commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in
commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so
to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any
person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do
anything in violation of this section shall be fined under
this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
18 U.S.C.A. § 1951. At the change of plea hearing, the
Court methodically addressed each essential element of the
counts against Spradley, including Count I, Conspiracy to
Obstruct Commerce by Robbery. Plea Hr'g Tr. 13:18 -
16:10, Cr. ECF No. 23. Spradley testified that he understood
the elements of the offense, and articulated how his conduct
fulfilled each one: he made and executed a plan with another
individual to use firearms to rob two convenience stores-one
in the state of Iowa, and one in the state of Illinois, each
of which was a chain participating in interstate commerce.
Id. at 15:20-16:3. Such conduct provides the de
minimis effect on interstate commerce necessary to
violate the Hobbs Act. United States v. Carr, 652
F.3d 811, 813 (7th Cir. 2011). Spradley presents no evidence
that Mr. Tasseff misrepresented or ...