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United States v. Walker

August 17, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MICHAEL WALKER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

ORDER

BACKGROUND

On April 14, 1999, Michael Walker was initially indicted on federal drug possession with intent to distribute charges. A superseding indictment was returned on May 12, 1999, charging Walker, and others, with additional drug charges. On June 9, 1999, Walker and two co-defendants were charged in a second superseding indictment.

On December 3, 1999, Walker entered a guilty plea to the second superseding indictment. On July 6, 2000, the court granted Walker's motion to withdraw his first guilty plea, with which the government concurred, because of the Supreme Court's ruling in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). (Rec. Doc. No. 205.)

On March 1, 2001, Walker again entered into a plea agreement. In keeping with the second plea agreement, Walker pled guilty to count two of the second superseding indictment. Count two of the second superseding indictment charged Walker with possession with intent to distribute in excess of five (5) grams of crack cocaine on or about March 15, 1999, in violation of Title 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) & 841(b)(1)(B)(iii) and Title 18 U.S.C. § 2.

On November 6, 2001, through his trial counsel Douglas B. Chester, Esquire, Walker moved the court to withdraw his guilty plea. (Rec. Doc. No. 328.) We denied that motion on December 10, 2001. (Rec. Doc. No. 343.) Next, Walker filed a pro se motion and supporting brief for reconsideration of our December 10, 2001 order (Rec. Doc. Nos. 352 & 357), which was denied on March 5, 2002. (Order, Rec. Doc. No. 365.)

On September 17, 2002, a sentencing hearing was held before this court. Walker was sentenced, as a career offender, to 262 months imprisonment, 4 years supervised release, and $100 special assessment.

On July 11, 2003, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed Walker's conviction and sentence. United States v. Walker, 69 F.App'x 546 (3d Cir. 2003).

On January 24, 2004, Walker filed pro se his first motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence. Then, on July 6, 2004, Walker filed a "supplemental motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255" seeking to amend his motion to include a Blakely claim. On December 16, 2004, we directed the government to obtain and file an affidavit from Walker's trial counsel Douglas B. Chester, Esquire, that would address allegations made by Walker in his § 2255 motion. On February 7, 2005, we again directed the government to obtain and file an affidavit from Douglas B. Chester, Esquire. We received that affidavit on February 22, 2005. On March 7, 2005, Walker filed a second supplemental motion seeking to amend his motion to include a Booker claim.

By order dated May 17, 2005 we denied all of Walker's claims in his section 2255 motion except for his claim that he received ineffective assistance from his attorney regarding advice to plead guilty. In that order we ordered a hearing on that single issue.

After a series of delays and continuances, on May 15, 2006 a hearing was held. Both parties have fully briefed the matter and it is now ripe for our decision. For the following reasons we will deny Walker's motion for collateral relief. DISCUSSION:

I. WALKER'S STATEMENTS ARE NOT CREDIBLE

In our May 17, 2005 order we previously summarized the only remaining claim in Walker's § 2255 motion as follows: By pleading guilty at trial, Walker waived his right to challenge his conviction on any non-jurisdictional grounds other than the voluntariness of the plea. United States v. Broce, 488 U.S. 563, 569 (1989). Thus, the court will limit its ineffective assistance of counsel review to claims addressing advice given to Walker prior to the entry of his guilty plea, i.e., his claim that trial counsel advised Walker "we can always take back our plea." (Rec. Doc. No. 408, Ex. 1, at 10.) At this time we must consider whether Walker's counsel was ineffective in advising defendant about entering his plea of guilty, and whether the plea was knowing and voluntary.

The two-prong Strickland ineffectiveness standard applies to post-conviction challenges of guilty pleas. Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 57 (1985). The defendant must demonstrate (1) that counsel's performance was objectively unreasonable and (2) that counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the defendant. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-688 (1984). In order for a defendant challenging a guilty plea on ineffectiveness grounds to establish prejudice, he must demonstrate that "there is a reasonable ...


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