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United States v. Hull

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 19, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMERON HULL, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN Z. LEE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Cameron Hull filed a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence [1] pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies his motion.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         In 2013, Hull was charged in an indictment with two counts of transporting a minor across state lines for purposes of prostitution (18 U.S.C. § 2423(a)) and one count of sex trafficking a minor (18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)). Shortly before his trial was scheduled, Hull pleaded guilty to a superseding information in which he was charged with facilitating the travel of a person in interstate commerce for the purpose of illicit sexual activity (18 U.S.C. § 2423(d)).

         In the plea agreement, Hull admitted to acting as a pimp for “BH, ” who at the time was under the age of eighteen. See Plea Agreement (“PA”) ¶ 6, No. 13 CR 216, ECF No. 59. He further admitted that he advertised BH for commercial sex in Illinois and arranged for her to work in Illinois and Indiana as a prostitute under his employ. Id. The plea agreement also details an instance in November 2011 in which Hull arranged for BH to travel to a motel in Indiana and advertised her for commercial sex, and then traveled with her back to Illinois, where he again advertised her for commercial sex. Id.

         In the plea agreement, Hull also waived certain rights, including as follows:

Defendant [ ] understands that he is waiving all appellate issues that might have been available if he had exercised his right to trial. . . . [D]efendant knowingly waives the right to appeal his conviction, any pre-trial rulings by the Court, and any part of the sentence (or the manner in which the sentence was determined) . . . . In addition, defendant also waives his right to challenge his conviction and sentence, and the manner in which the sentence was determined, in any collateral attack or future challenge, including but not limited to a motion brought under [§ 2255]. The waiver in this paragraph does not apply to a claim of involuntariness or ineffective assistance of counsel . . . .

Id. ¶ 19(c). In the very next paragraph of the plea agreement, Hull acknowledged that “Defendant understands that by pleading guilty he is waiving all rights set forth in the prior paragraphs. Defendant's attorney has explained those rights to him, and the consequences of his waiver of those rights.” Id. ¶ 20. Hull repeated that he understood this waiver on the record in entering his plea, and the Court explained it to him again at the sentencing hearing.

         Prior to the sentencing hearing, the probation office recommended that a sentencing enhancement apply because Hull had “engaged in a pattern of activity involving prohibited sexual conduct” under § 4B1.5(b) of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) ¶ 33, No. 13 CR 216, ECF No. 67. The probation office noted in part that “[t]here is sufficient evidence [Hull] had sex with BH on two occasions while she was a minor.” Id. This recommendation was consistent with Hull's plea agreement, in which the parties agreed that the enhancement would apply. PA ¶ 9(d).

         Hull's appointed counsel, Keith Scherer, did not object to the enhancement, and the Court adopted the Presentence Investigation Report without any changes. See Stmt. Reasons 1, No. 13 CR 216, ECF No. 89. The Court ordered a sentence of 121 months, which, with the § 4B1.5(b) enhancement, was within the applicable guidelines range. Hull filed the present motion thereafter.

         Legal Standard

         Section 2255 provides that a criminal defendant is entitled to relief from his conviction and sentence if “the court finds that the judgment was rendered without jurisdiction, or that the sentence imposed was not authorized by law or otherwise open to collateral attack, or that there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). A court may deny a § 2255 motion without an evidentiary hearing if “the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show” that the defendant is not entitled to relief. Id. Relief 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.” Blake v. United States, 723 F.3d 870, 878-79 (7th Cir. 2013).

         Analysis

         Hull raises three grounds for relief in his § 2255 motion. First, he asserts that Scherer was constitutionally ineffective for failing to file a notice of appeal on Hull's behalf, despite Hull instructing him to do so. Next, Hull contends that the Court improperly applied an enhancement to his sentence pursuant to § 4B1.5(b) of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Finally, Hull maintains that Scherer was constitutionally ...


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