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State. v. Waters

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 31, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
WAYNE WATERS Criminal Action No. 11-100

MEMORANDUM

John R. Padova, J.

Before the Court is Wayne Waters’s Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. We held an evidentiary hearing on the Motion on June 5, 2013. For the following reasons, the Motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Waters was arrested on March 10, 2010 by officers of the Philadelphia Police Department Narcotics Strike Force South who had been engaged in surveillance on the 1900 block of South Norwood Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (6/7/11 Hr’g Tr. at 32, 36, 65-66.) The Strike Force officers witnessed Waters selling crack cocaine to three individuals from his home at 1915 South Norwood Street. (Id. at 35, 50.) Other Strike Force officers stopped two of these individuals and seized two packets of crack cocaine from each of them. (Search Warrant at 2.) After Waters left his home later that afternoon, he was arrested by members of the Strike Force, who seized three packets of crack cocaine, a set of keys, two cell phones, and $132 from him. (6/7/11 Hr’g Tr. at 35-36, Search Warrant at 2.) The Strike Force officers subsequently obtained a search warrant for Waters’s house and searched it later that evening. (6/7/11 Hr’g Tr. at 41, 45.) They seized additional crack cocaine, two Heckler & Koch .45 semiautomatic pistols, ammunition, and other items from the house. (Id. at 45-46, 58-59.) The Strike Force officers seized a total of 32.8 grams of crack cocaine in connection with Waters’s arrest, including the packets of crack cocaine they seized from the two purchasers. (PSI ¶ 15.)

After his arrest, Waters was charged by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with manufacture/delivery/possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance, in violation of 35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 780-113; intentional possession of a controlled substance by a person not registered under the Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act, in violation of 35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 780-113; use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia, in violation of 35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 780-113; possession of an instrument of crime in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 907; and carrying a firearm on public streets in Philadelphia in violation of to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6108. Commonwealth v. Waters, No. CP-51-CR-0003471-2010, docket (Phila. Cnty. Court of Common Pleas). Waters was arraigned on these charges on April 7, 2010. Id. A pre-trial conference was scheduled in his case for May 13, 2010, but was continued until May 20, 2010. His trial was originally scheduled for January 13, 2011, but was continued three times. Id.

In early 2011, Waters was indicted by a federal grand jury, which charged him with violation of federal laws arising from the activities underlying his March 10, 2010 arrest. Specifically, Indictment No. 11-100 charged Waters with distribution of a mixture and substance containing cocaine base (“crack”) in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C) (Count I); possession of a mixture and substance containing crack with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C) (Count II); possession of 32 grams of a mixture and substance containing crack with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B) (Count III); and possession of two Heckler & Koch .45 caliber semiautomatic pistols, and .45 caliber ammunition, in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (Count IV). (Docket No. 1.) The Indictment was unsealed on February 28, 2011 and Waters was arrested by federal authorities and had his initial appearance in federal court that same day. (Docket Nos. 4, 6.) On July 13, 2011, nearly five months after Waters was arrested and arraigned on the federal charges arising from his March 10, 2010 arrest, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania nolle prosequied its charges against him. Commonwealth v. Waters, No. CP-51-CR-0003471-2010, docket.

On May 18, 2011, Waters filed a Motion for a Franks Hearing and Motion to Suppress Evidence in this Court, seeking the suppression of the evidence seized from his home by the Task Force officers. (Docket No. 19.) On June 7, 2011, we held argument on and granted the Motion for a Franks Hearing. (7/14/11 Mem. at 1.) We held the Franks Hearing on June 7 and 8, 2011. (Id.) We denied the Motion to Suppress on July 14, 2011. (Id.)

On September 28, 2011, we accepted Waters’s plea of guilty to all four counts of Indictment No. 11-100. (Docket No. 39.) We sentenced Waters on January 9, 2012, to sixty months of imprisonment on each of Counts I, II, and III, to be served concurrently, and sixty months of imprisonment on Count IV, to be served consecutively to his sentence as to Counts I, II, and III; three years of supervised release as to Counts I, II, and III, and four years of supervised release as to Count IV, all terms of supervised release to be served concurrently; a special assessment of $400; and a fine of $1000. (Docket No. 42.) Waters did not appeal his judgment of conviction or sentence.

Waters filed the instant Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on January 9, 2013. The Motion asserts three claims for relief, all of which assert that Waters’s attorney provided ineffective assistance for: (1) rejecting a formal plea offer made by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania without first consulting with Waters; (2) failing to accept the plea offer after Waters made it clear that he wished to accept the plea offer; and (3) failing to file a motion to dismiss Indictment No. 11-100 based on alleged violations of Waters’s constitutional rights. We appointed Kathryn Cacciamani, Esquire to represent Waters on March 27, 2013, gave counsel for Waters and the Government the opportunity to file supplemental memoranda of law, and held an evidentiary hearing on June 5, 2013 (the “Hearing”).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Waters has moved for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which provides as follows:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released 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, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). “‘Section 2255 does not provide habeas petitioners with a panacea for all alleged trial or sentencing errors.’” United States v. Perkins, Crim. A. No. 03-303, Civ. A. No. 07-3371, 2008 WL 399336, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 14, 2008) (quoting United States v. Rishell, Crim. A. No. 97-294-1, Civ. A. No. 01-486, 2002 WL 4638, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 21, 2001)). In order to prevail on a Section 2255 motion, the movant’s claimed errors of law must be constitutional, jurisdictional, “a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice,” or “an omission inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure.” Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962).

Waters’s claims are all based on the alleged ineffective assistance of his attorney, Arnold Joseph, Esquire, who represented Waters in connection with both the state and federal charges against him. In order to prevail on a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel, a criminal defendant must demonstrate both that (1) his attorney’s performance was deficient, i.e., that the performance was unreasonable under prevailing professional standards, and (2) that he was prejudiced by his attorney’s performance. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687–88, 690-92 (1984). Prejudice is proven if “there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Id. at 694. “A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Id. Consequently, counsel cannot be found to be ineffective for failing to pursue a meritless claim. See United States v. Sanders, 165 F.3d 248, 253 (3d Cir. 1999) (“There can be no Sixth Amendment deprivation of effective counsel based on an attorney’s failure to raise a meritless argument.” (citations omitted)); see also Parrish v. Fulcomer, 150 F.3d 326, 328 (3d Cir. 1998).

III.DISCUSSION

A. Counsel’s Alleged Ineffectiveness ...


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