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United States v. Bronson

June 25, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JOHN I. BRONSON, JR. DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the court is a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence by a person in federal custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("petitioner's motion to vacate" or "§ 2255 petition") (Doc. No. 108) filed by petitioner John I. Bronson ("petitioner"). Also pending is petitioner's motion for reconsideration for an extension of time to file a § 2255 petition ("petitioner's motion for reconsideration") (Doc. No. 110), and petitioner's motion to amend and supplement pleading ("petitioner's motion to amend") (Doc. No. 117). Upon reviewing petitioner's motion for an extension of time to file a § 2255 petition (Doc. No. 105), petitioner's motion to vacate, petitioner's motion for reconsideration, the government's response to petitioner's motion to vacate (Doc. No. 115), petitioner's traverse (Doc. No. 116), petitioner's motion to amend, the government's response to petitioner's motion to amend (Doc. No. 119), and petitioner's response to the government's response (Doc. No. 120), the court will deny petitioner's motions.

I. Background

On March 5, 2003, a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging petitioner with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine (count one), conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a quantity of oxycodone (count two), and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone (counts three-five), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846.

On April 28, 2003, petitioner filed a motion to suppress his statements, both verbal statements and signed statements acknowledging his criminal conduct, made to the police during his initial arrest. (Doc. No. 13.) Petitioner offered evidence that he was intoxicated as support for his motion to suppress. After a hearing, the motion to suppress was denied by this court on February 20, 2004. (Doc. No. 43.) On March 3, 2004, petitioner entered a plea of guilty to counts one and three of the indictment. (Doc. No. 46.) As a result of entering a plea of guilty, petitioner was entitled to a three-point reduction in the calculation of his offense level under the United Stated Sentencing Guidelines. Petitioner also stipulated to the amount of controlled substances involved in the case, and reserved the right to challenge this court's order denying his motion to suppress his statements. On July 30, 2004, this court sentenced petitioner to a term of imprisonment of 151 months to be followed by a five-year term of supervised release. (Doc. No. 55.) Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit which affirmed the conviction, but vacated the sentence and remanded the case for resentencing in view of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). (Doc. No. 66.)

On remand, this court sentenced petitioner to a term of imprisonment of 135 months, to be followed by a five-year term of supervised release. On March 23, 2006, petitioner appealed and on August 28, 2007, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the sentence.

United States v. Bronson, 238 F. App'x 893 (3d Cir. 2007). Petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court, but, on October 9, 2007, was denied a writ of certiorari. United States v. Bronson, 128 U.S. 428 (2007).

On October 8, 2008, petitioner presented a motion for an extension of time to file a § 2255 petition to prison officials. Petitioner's motion was filed by the clerk of court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on October 15, 2008. (Doc. No. 105.) In the motion for an extension, petitioner argued that the court should grant him additional time to file a § 2255 petition because of circumstances beyond his control that deprived him of legal materials. On October 21, 2008, the court denied his motion because it lacked jurisdiction to consider the timeliness of the § 2255 petition. The court noted that petitioner must file an actual petition in order for the court to rule upon its timeliness. (Doc. No. 106.)

After the court issued its October 21, 2008 order, petitioner drafted a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence by a person in federal custody, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Granting petitioner the benefit of the doubt, the court will assume prison officials received petitioner's motion on October 21, 2008, the date the motion was signed by petitioner. On October 27, 2008, petitioner's § 2255 petition was filed by the clerk of court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 108.) In his § 2255 motion, petitioner alleges ineffective assistance of counsel based upon the following grounds: (1) counsel's advice that he would prevail on his suppression motion on appeal if he pled guilty, (2) counsel's ineffective argument with respect to the suppression motion both at the hearing and on appeal, and (3) counsel's ineffective presentation of expert witness testimony. Also on October 27, 2008, petitioner filed an affidavit in support of his § 2255 motion to vacate sentence. (Doc. No. 109.)

On October 30, 2008, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of his motion for an extension of time in light of the § 2255 motion filed on October 27, 2008. (Doc. No. 110.) Petitioner elaborated upon the grounds that he believed entitled him to an extension, stating that he was denied adequate access to the law library and that he suffered a sinus infection. On December 10, 2008, the government filed its response in opposition to petitioner's motion to vacate. (Doc. No. 115.) In response, petitioner filed a traverse on January 12, 2009. (Doc. No. 116.) Petitioner also filed a motion to amend and supplement pleading on January 26, 2009. (Doc. No. 117.) In his motion to amend, petitioner argued that his due process rights had been violated during the interrogation following his arrest. On February 20, 2009, the government filed a response to petitioner's motion to amend. (Doc. No. 119.) On March 16, 2009, petitioner filed a response to the government's response to his motion to amend. (Doc. No. 120.)

II. Standard of Review

A district court is required to hold an evidentiary hearing on a motion to vacate sentence filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 unless the motion and files and records of the case show conclusively that the movant is not entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("Unless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court shall... grant a prompt hearing thereon, determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto."); United States v. Booth, 432 F.3d 542, 545-46 (3d Cir. 2005).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a federal prisoner in custody may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence upon the ground that "the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack." The Supreme Court recognizes that the statute provides four grounds upon which relief can be granted:

(1) "that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States;" (2) "that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence;" (3) "that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law;" and (4) that the sentence "is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 3 CHARLES A. WRIGHT, ET AL., FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 593 at 695 (3d ed. 2004) (quoting Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 426-27 (1962)). The statute provides as a remedy for a sentence imposed in violation of law that "the court shall vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate." 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

III. Analysis

In petitioner's motion to vacate, he argues that he is entitled to post-judgment relief under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2255 based upon ineffective assistance of counsel. Petitioner argues counsel was ineffective for the following reasons: (1) counsel's advice that he would prevail on his suppression motion on appeal if he pled guilty, (2) counsel's ineffective argument with respect to the suppression motion both at the hearing and on appeal, and (3) counsel's ineffective presentation of expert witness testimony. The court, however, may not consider the ...


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