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Staszakk v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 21, 2017

MATTHEW LEE STASZAK, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on petitioner Matthew Lee Staszak's motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 1) and supplements to the motion (Docs. 6 & 31). The Government has responded to the motion (Docs. 20, 47 & 60), and Staszak has replied to those responses (Docs. 26, 51, 56 & 61). The Court also considers other motions pending in this case.

         I. Background

         On June 20, 2012, the grand jury returned an indictment against Staszak, and he pled not guilty to the charges. After being released on bond, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment changing one statutory citation and adding one additional charge. On October 4, 2012, Staszak failed to appear for arraignment on the superseding indictment, and the Government discovered he had removed his location monitoring device, an ankle bracelet, and had absconded. This led the grand jury to return a second superseding indictment while Staszak was a fugitive adding a charge of obstruction of justice based on Staszak's failure to appear at the arraignment. Staszak was eventually apprehended and his bond was revoked. He was arraigned on the second superseding indictment on June 3, 2013.

         On August 5, 2013, Staszak pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement and stipulation of facts to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a) and (e) (Count 1), two counts of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b) (Counts 2 and 3), and one count of failure to appear at a required court hearing in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3146(a)(1) (Count 4).

         On February 7, 2014, the Court held a sentencing hearing at which it found Staszak's offense level was 43 (adjusted down from 45 pursuant to United States Sentencing Guideline Manual (“U.S.S.G.”) Ch. 5, Part A cmt. n. 2 (2012)), and his criminal history category was I, which yielded a guideline sentencing range of life. The Court reduced that range to the 30-year statutory maximum pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5G1.1(a), see 18 U.S.C. § 2251(e); 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b), yielding an effective range of 360 months. The Court sentenced the petitioner to serve 180 months on Counts 1, 2 and 3, concurrently, and 60 months on Count 4, consecutive to the term for Counts 1, 2 and 3, for a total of 240 months in prison. The petitioner did not appeal his conviction. On January 8, 2015, Staszak filed the pending § 2255 motion.

         II.§ 2255 Motion

         In his § 2255 motion and supplements, Staszak argues the following:

Ground 1: His counsel was constitutionally ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel when she informed him in June and July 2013 that if he did not plead guilty, the Government would prosecute his family for aiding and abetting him while he was a fugitive; he was deprived of his Fifth Amendment due process right when he involuntarily pled guilty to avoid that threat of his family's prosecution;
Ground 2: He was deprived of his Fifth Amendment due process rights when the Government induced him to plead guilty by threatening to prosecute his family when it did not have probable cause to believe his family had aided or abetted him while he was a fugitive;
Ground 3: His counsel was constitutionally ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel when she failed to investigate Count 1, which would have revealed the Government did not actually possess certain evidence of the charged offense - a video of sexually explicit conduct with a minor and evidence linking his cell phone to any sexually explicit conduct - and recommended he plead guilty to Count 1 without conducting a proper investigation; he was deprived of his Fifth Amendment due process right when he unknowingly, unintelligently and involuntarily pled guilty;
Ground 4: His Fifth Amendment due process rights were violated when the Government committed prosecutorial misconduct by charging him with sexual exploitation of a minor without evidence of a video of sexually explicit conduct with a minor and evidence linking his cell phone to any sexually explicit conduct, which showed it lacked a nexus to interstate commerce and thus subject matter jurisdiction; his counsel was constitutionally ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel when she failed to argue the Government lacked jurisdiction; he was deprived of his Fifth Amendment due process right when he unknowingly, unintelligently and involuntarily pled guilty;
Ground 5: His counsel was constitutionally ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel when she advised him to execute a plea agreement and stipulation of facts and to plead guilty to Count 1 after he had informed her that the allegations in Count 1 had never occurred;
Ground 6: His counsel was constitutionally ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel when she advised him to execute a plea agreement and stipulation of facts and to plead guilty to Count 2 after he had informed him that the allegations in Count 2 had never occurred;
Ground 7: His counsel was constitutionally ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel when she failed to do legal research to discover that the conduct charged in Count 3 does not amount to a federal offense; his Fifth Amendment due process rights were violated when the Government committed prosecutorial misconduct by charging him with Count 3 when it knew his conduct did not amount to a federal offense; he was deprived of his Fifth Amendment due process right when he unknowingly, unintelligently and involuntarily pled guilty;
Ground 8: His counsel was constitutionally ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel when she failed to pursue the Government's offer for Staszak to cooperate in the prosecution of his minor victim's mother; his Fifth Amendment due process rights were violated when the Government committed prosecutorial misconduct by falsely representing to Staszak that he would receive a sentence reduction if he cooperated and to the Court at sentencing that there was an ongoing investigation of the victim's ...

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