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United States of America v. Derrick Steplight

February 7, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DERRICK STEPLIGHT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

Derrick Steplight ("Petitioner") is a federal prisoner incarcerated at FCI-Schuylkill. Petitioner filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion") because he received constitutionally ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny and dismiss with prejudice the motion. A Certificate of Appealability will not issue.

I.BACKGROUND

On April 28, 2005, Philadelphia Police Officers Christopher Szewczak and Michael Johncola stopped Petitioner's vehicle when they suspected his car was in violation of Pennsylvania law prohibiting excessive window tinting. One officer testified that Petitioner covered his waist with his hand when asked to produce his license, which indicated that Petitioner was hiding something. The officer asked Petitioner to step out of the car. But Petitioner drove off.

When Petitioner's vehicle was blocked by a double-parked car, he and his passenger, his nephew Shamir Steplight, abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot. One officer testified that each threw a firearm on the ground as they ran. The two were subsequently apprehended and arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm. Petitioner was later indicted in federal court for possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). Indictment 1, ECF No. 1.

On November 13, 2006, a jury convicted Petitioner of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. And U.S. District Court Judge Bruce W. Kauffman sentenced Petitioner to 204 months of imprisonment, 5 years of supervised release, a $1,500 fine, and a $100 special assessment.*fn1 Judgment 1-3, 5, ECF No. 33.

Petitioner appealed and was appointed counsel. United States v. Steplight, 366 F. App'x 388, 389 (3d Cir. 2010). Petitioner's appointed counsel, Michael J. Kelly, filed a motion to withdraw and, pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), prepared a brief in support of the motion.*fn2 Id. Counsel identified three potentially non-frivolous issues for appeal but concluded that each lacked merit.*fn3 Id. 389-90. The Third Circuit conducted a full examination of the proceedings and independently examined the issues raised in Counselor Kelly's Anders brief only to conclude that "no non-frivolous issues for appeal exist. Id. at 390. The court affirmed Steplight's conviction. Id. at 391.

Petitioner asserts that he filed a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, but the docket does not reflect the filing of such a petition. Section 2255 Mot. ¶ 9, ECF No. 52.

On April 25, 2011, Petitioner filed a pro se motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.*fn4 The Government responded. Government's Resp. 1, ECF No. 56. And Petitioner replied. Pet'r's Reply 1, ECF No. 62. The matter is now ripe for disposition.

II.LEGAL STANDARD

A prisoner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing as to the merits of his claim unless it is clear from the record that he is not entitled to relief.*fn5 The Court must dismiss the motion "[i]f it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief." Section 2255 Rule 4(b). A prisoner's pro se pleading is construed liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam); Huertas v. Galaxy Asset Mgmt., 641 F.3d 28, 32 (3d Cir. 2011).

III.DISCUSSION

Petitioner claims he received constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel during his trial and on appeal. Based on the Petitioner's ยง 2255 Motion and the evidence of record, it plainly ...


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