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United States v. Jacobs

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 28, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LEWIS MEYER JACOBS, Defendant. Criminal Action No. 11-cr-474-01

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. CURTIS JOYNER, District Judge.

This case is now before the Court on Defendant/Petitioner's Habeas Corpus Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 21). For the reasons set forth below, the Petitioner's Motion is DENIED.

The Petitioner has also made several other motions, including to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 30), for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 29), and to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) (ECF No. 33). Although we GRANT the motion to proceed in forma pauperis, the remaining motions are DENIED.

Finally, the Government has moved to dismiss the habeas petition (ECF Nos. 24, 32). These motions are DENIED AS MOOT in light of the denial of the petition.

I. BACKGROUND

In September 2011, the Petitioner, Lewis Meyer Jacobs, pleaded guilty to two counts of an information which charged him with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, distribution of controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C). On March 8, 2012, this Court sentenced the Petitioner to a total of 60 months imprisonment, [1] a $200 special assessment, $328, 717 in restitution, and 36 months of supervised release. The Court also entered a forfeiture money judgment against the Petitioner in the amount of $1, 261, 080.00.

On March 1, 2013, the Petitioner filed this petition for habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 with this Court. In the petition, he asserts a Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Specifically, the Petitioner asserts that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance because he was unable to secure a downward departure from the Petitioner's Sentencing Guidelines range based on the Petitioner's serious medical conditions and assistance to law enforcement agencies.

The charges against the Petitioner, a licensed physician, stemmed from his issuance of fraudulent prescriptions for controlled substances in exchange for cash. The Government charged him in an information filed on August 24, 2011. The Petitioner ultimately pleaded guilty to both crimes charged against him in the information.

II. STANDARD

Section 2255 of Title 28 of the United States Code provides an avenue for individuals under federal custody to challenge their sentences. To succeed in such a challenge, the petitioner must demonstrate 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." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

The Petitioner's constitutional claim stems from an alleged Sixth Amendment violation. The Supreme Court of the United States has long recognized that the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment and the Due Process Clauses is crucial to protecting the fundamental constitutional guarantee of a fair trial. See Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668, 684-85 (1984). In order to establish that counsel's assistance was indeed ineffective, a petitioner must meet both elements of the two-pronged test established in Strickland. First, a petitioner must establish that counsel not only erred, but that counsel's errors were considerable enough to undermine the proceedings to such an extent that the outcome cannot be relied upon as fair and just. Id. at 687. Second, it must also be established that counsel's actions prejudiced the defendant and deprived defendant of a fair and reliable trial. Id. at 687. "Not every error by counsel, even if professionally unreasonable, ... warrant[s] setting aside the judgment of a criminal proceeding.'" Rainey v. Varner , 603 F.3d 189, 197 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Strickland , 466 U.S. at 691). A petitioner must demonstrate that counsel's error was prejudicial and that there is a reasonable probability that were it not for the error the outcome of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 197-98.

As to the Petitioner's claimed sentencing error, "a defendant who fails to object to errors at sentencing and subsequently attempts to raise them on direct appeal must demonstrate cause and prejudice for that failure.... [The] cause and prejudice standard applies to § 2255 proceedings in which a petitioner seeks relief from alleged errors in connection with his sentence that he has not directly appealed." United States v. Essig , 10 F.3d 968, 979 (3d Cir. 1993) (superseded by rule in non-relevant part) (internal quotations omitted); see also United States v. Mannino , 212 F.3d 835, 839 (3d Cir. 2000). "In procedural default cases, the cause standard requires the petitioner to show that some objective factor external to the defense impeded counsel's efforts to raise the claim." Essig , 10 F.3d at 979 (internal quotations omitted). "[I]neffective assistance of counsel... is cause." Id . (quoting Murray v. Carrier , 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986)).

The Petitioner also seeks relief pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c). "Congress has generally prohibited district courts from modifying a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed." United States v. Savani, ___ F.3d ___ , 2013 WL 2462941, at *4 (3d Cir. June 10, 2013). A limited exception to this general rule of finality exists in 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), which provides:

[I]n the case of a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 944(o), upon motion of the defendant or the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, or on its own motion, the court may reduce the term of imprisonment, after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are ...

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