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Randle v. United States

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 10, 2013

JERMAINE RANDLE, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES, Respondent. Civil Action No. 11-5012

MEMORANDUM

Anita B. Brody, J.

On August 5, 2011, Jermaine Randle filed a habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 seeking to vacate or set aside his sentence based on Sixth Amendments claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Because I find that Randle’s counsel at the time of the Change of Plea and Sentencing hearing (“primary counsel”) was ineffective when she failed to object to, move to withdraw or appeal his illegal sentence under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), I will grant his § 2255 motion to vacate his sentence and guilty plea.

I. BACKGROUND

On October 17, 2006, Jermaine Randle’s parole agent conducted a search of Randle’s bedroom and discovered 46.07 grams of cocaine base packaged for the purposes of distribution. On October 24, 2007, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Randle with one count of possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B). Randle filed a motion to suppress, which I denied.

On December 3, 2009, Randle entered a guilty plea pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C). The written plea agreement stated that he would receive a sentence of 96 months imprisonment and a $100 special assessment. It made no mention of a fine or supervised release period despite the fact that the statute mandates a fine and “a term of supervised release of at least [four] years.” 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B). The Government’s Change of Plea Memorandum also described the plea agreement as including only the 96 months imprisonment and $100 special assessment.[1] Gov’t Change of Plea Memo at 3. Although the Government identified this numerical error at the Change of Plea Hearing, it failed to identify the more glaring omission of supervised release in the written plea agreement.

Because Randle entered into a C Plea, I explained to him at the Change of Plea hearing that “[I]f I don’t give you the sentence that you’ve agreed to, then, of course, you have a right to withdraw your plea.” Transcript of Change of Plea Hearing at 11. I asked him if he understood this, and he responded affirmatively. At the time that Randle pleaded guilty, he was on parole in Pennsylvania. I explained to him that by entering a guilty plea, it would be an admission that he violated his parole. Id. at 12-13. When he signed the plea agreement, Randle also agreed to waive his right to appeal or collaterally attack his conviction or sentence under most circumstances.[2] I explained to him the meaning of the waiver and he responded that he understood.

On March 9, 2010, Randle was sentenced to 96 months imprisonment, five years of supervised release, a $1, 000 fine and a $100 special assessment. Randle’s sentence was issued on March 10, 2010, and the judgment became final 10 days later, on March 20, 2010. On March 12, 2010, Randle wrote to his primary counsel:

I am writing because I would like for you to appeal my sentence. I never agreed to 5 years probation to follow the 96 months. This is clearly a breech [sic] of contract. I have tried to contact you via e-mail as well as through my mother calling you. Please let me know if you will be handling this issue. Thank you.
Sincerely,
Jermaine Randle

Pet. Aff. Ex. A. At a hearing on March 11, 2013 regarding Randle’s § 2255 petition, Randle testified that he asked his primary counsel to appeal his sentence because at the time he thought that was the proper remedy, but that essentially, he wanted “to actually fix the sentence because I felt like I got time that I didn’t agree to.” Transcript of March 11, 2013 Hearing, 27:23-25, 28:1-2. He did not hear back from his primary counsel, and he asked his mother and his friend Letitia Youngblood Wood to call her. Id. 28:5-8. Wood stated that she reached his counsel, who said that she would be in contact with Randle. Id. 20:20-21. After this conversation, Wood did not hear from back from primary counsel, and could not reach her again. Id. 20:22-25. On April 1, 2010 Randle wrote a second letter to his primary counsel:

This is my second attempt at contacting you about my case. Could you please respond? My time to appeal is limited. If you do not plan on representing me, please let the courts know so that I may proceed Pro Se. Thank you.
Sincerely ...

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