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United States v. Mendez

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

June 6, 2019



          John Z. Lee, United States District Judge

         Defendant Johnny Mendez has filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons stated herein, Mendez's motion [1] is denied. His motion for discovery [4] is also denied.


         Mendez was arrested on December 12, 2012. See Order of 12/13/12, No. 12-CR-00969, ECF No. 15. On December 26, 2012, the Government was granted a 45-day extension of time to seek the return of an indictment against Mendez and his codefendants. See Order of 12/26/12, No. 12-CR-00969, ECF No. 29. Subsequently, Mendez was charged with multiple offenses relating to the distribution of large quantities of cocaine and heroin, as well as a firearms offense, on February 21, 2013. See Indictment, No. 12-CR-00969, ECF No. 33. The charges were the culmination of an “extensive investigation” focusing on members of the Spanish Cobra street gang. Mem. Op. & Order at 1, No. 12-CR-00969, ECF No. 255.

         On October 3, 2013, Mendez filed motions to suppress certain evidence, including all evidence seized from his residence on November 30, 2012; statements he made on that date; and evidence obtained from wiretaps conducted during the investigation. See Mots. to Suppress, No. 12-CR-00969, ECF Nos. 164, 165, 169. The Court held a hearing on certain aspects of these motions in June 2014. See Orders, No. 12-CR-00969, ECF Nos. 239, 240, 241, 243.

         Several law enforcement officers testified at the hearing as to what occurred when they arrived at Mendez's residence on November 30, 2012. In its order denying the motions to suppress, the Court summarized the hearing testimony as follows:

When Officer Harris knocked on the door of the Mendez residence and announced his presence, he saw Mendez look out through the front window. Officer Harris told Mendez that officers needed to talk to him, but Mendez responded to the effect of “[f]*** that” and ran away from the window. Officer Wagner approached the side door of the Mendez residence and observed Mendez attempting to flee out of the side door. When Mendez encountered Officer Wagner, he ran back inside the house. Mendez then attempted to escape the house through a window but was met by Officer Wagner and again retreated into the house. Mendez was then observed in the attic of the house, after which the officers lost sight of him for a minute.

Mem. Op. & Order at 9 (citations omitted).

         Mendez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 1000 grams or more of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count One) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) (Count Nineteen), pursuant to a written plea agreement. See Plea Agreement, No. 12-CR-00969, ECF No. 331. At the change of plea hearing, Mendez stated that he had had sufficient time to speak with his attorney about the case; that he was satisfied with the representation he had received; and that he did not have any questions about the case that he wished to discuss with his attorney. See 2/24/15 Hr'g Tr. at 6:3-11, No. 12-CR-00969, ECF No. 504. He acknowledged that he had read the plea agreement, discussed it with his attorney, had no further questions about it, and signed it of his own free will. Id. at 10:21-12:14. He also admitted that the Government's factual basis regarding Count Nineteen was true. Id. at 22:13-23:24.

         Mendez was sentenced to a term of 180 months' imprisonment on June 19, 2015. See Judgment, No. 12-CR-00969, ECF No. 394. At sentencing, Mendez was informed of his right to appeal. 6/19/15 Hr'g Tr. at 37:9-17, No. 12-CR-00969, ECF No. 472. Mendez, however, did not file an appeal.

         Mendez filed his § 2255 petition, along with a motion for discovery, on June 17, 2016. See Def.'s § 2255 Mot., ECF No. 1; Def.'s Mot. Discovery, ECF No. 4. Prior to the Government filing its response, Mendez sought leave to amend his petition. See Def.'s Mot. Amend, ECF No. 16. The Court granted Mendez leave to amend his petition; however, Mendez did not file an amended petition. See Order of 1/25/17, ECF No. 29; Order of 8/21/17, ECF No. 31.

         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).


         Mendez raises five grounds for relief, all of which relate to the alleged ineffectiveness of his former attorney. To succeed, Mendez's claims of ineffective assistance must satisfy the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). First, he must show that his attorney's performance was constitutionally deficient insofar as it “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness” as measured against “prevailing professional norms.” Id. at 688. Second, he must show that any error made by his attorney caused him prejudice. Id. at 692.

         I. ...

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