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Hebbeler v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 27, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on petitioner Rodney G. Hebbeler's motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 1) and his amendment to that motion, which the Court construes as a motion for leave to amend (Doc. 4). On July 12, 2016, the petitioner pled guilty to six counts of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), each occurring on a separate date within the period of January 30, 2015, to April 7, 2015. On November 20, 2016, the Court sentenced the petitioner to serve 87 months in prison on each count, all to run concurrently. The petitioner did not appeal his conviction.

         I. § 2255 Motion

         The Court will grant Hebbeler's motion to amend his § 2255 motion and considers the arguments in that amendment in this analysis. In his § 2255 motion and amendment, the petitioner raises ineffective assistance of his counsel, Cheryl Whitley, in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Specifically, he alleges she was ineffective by:

1. failing to adequately advise him leading to his sentencing, resulting in:
a. an incorrect description of a prior conviction in his presentence investigation report (“PSR” ¶ 42) which, in turn, makes him ineligible for assignment to a prison camp and drug treatment program; and
b. an incorrect statement in the PSR (¶ 11) that he used drugs in front of his children;[1]
2. misleading him as to the contents of the plea agreement regarding the length of his sentence; and
3. failing to object to the use of prior state convictions to support “career criminal” status that were older than the sentencing guidelines allow.

         II. Analysis

         The Court must grant a § 2255 motion when a petitioner'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)). 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).

         All of the grounds Hebbeler asserts as a basis for § 2255 relief rely on assertions of ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment. 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); Groves v. United States, 755 F.3d 588, 591 (7th Cir. 2014). To satisfy the first prong of the Strickland test, the petitioner must direct the Court to specific acts or omissions of his counsel. Wyatt v. United States, 574 F.3d 455, 458 (7th Cir. 2009). 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. To satisfy the second prong of the Strickland test, the plaintiff “must demonstrate ‘a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.'” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 104 (2011) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694); accord Groves, 755 F.3d at 591.

         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 ...

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