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United States v. Carney

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

May 21, 2015




I. Introduction

Petitioner Hassan Carney brings the instant Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In doing so, Petitioner raises three issues for the court’s consideration: (1) trial counsel’s alleged ineffectiveness; (2) the propriety of a sentencing enhancement; and, (3) the reasonableness of the sentence imposed by this Court. For the reasons set forth herein, Petitioner’s Motion shall be denied.

II. Factual and Procedural History

Petitioner was indicted for his involvement in two cases that were consolidated solely for purposes of sentencing before this Court. The first case-originally assigned to this Court- involved a charge of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (Crim. No. 11-162). Approximately one month later, Petitioner-also known as “Willie Timmons”-was charged along with fifteen other defendants in a credit card/bank fraud ring (Crim. No. 11-223-2). Said matter was assigned to the Honorable Gene E.K. Pratter. Petitioner ultimately pled guilty in both cases and was later sentenced by this Court to an aggregate term of ninety-six (96) months imprisonment, followed by five (5) years’ supervised release. Petitioner was also ordered to pay a Seven Hundred Dollar ($700.00) Special Assessment fee and restitution in the amount of Three Hundred Sixteen Thousand Eight Hundred Twenty-Nine Dollars and Twenty Cents ($316, 829.20). This Court waived the fine for Petitioner.

Prior to sentencing, the government motioned for two enhancements; one regarding the unauthorized transfer or use of identification and the other regarding a leadership role in the conspiracy ring. The government subsequently agreed it would not pursue the leadership enhancement.[2] After reviewing all pertinent documentation and considering arguments presented by both sides, this Court determined that the unauthorized transfer enhancement was applicable. Accordingly, Petitioner’s offense level was adjusted to 22. With a criminal history category of VI, the suggested sentencing range became 84 to 105 months’ imprisonment.

III. Discussion

With the exception of the discretionary aspect of the ultimate sentence imposed for both cases, all of Petitioner’s claims pertain to Crim. No. 11-223 (“223 case”) and shall be discussed and cited accordingly.

A. Preclusive Effect of Plea Agreement

As a preliminary matter, Petitioner is barred from raising the instant claims by reason of his plea agreement. The Third Circuit recognized this fact when it summarily denied Petitioner’s Appeal. (USCA Order, ECF No. 537.) At the time of Petitioner’s plea hearing in the 223 case, the following exchange occurred between Petitioner and the Honorable Gene E. K. Pratter:

Court: Do you understand that by pleading guilty, though, you are giving up your right to a further - - any kind of a further proceedings or any kind of an appeal following a conviction?
Petitioner: Yes, Ma’am.
Court: And that means now that the only appeal you can take from a guilty plea is in a very few open limited - - actually they are very few limited and actually they’re rather rare circumstances. If, for example, there’s some reason that the Government appeals your sentence, which I want you to know really does not happen very often. If I were to impose an illegal sentence or a sentence that violated the Guidelines over what they call for and I didn’t have a good reason for that, you could appeal, but that doesn’t happen much I promise you. Or if there are any errors in this proceeding, which - - as to which it would be a manifest injustice not to let you appeal, then you can appeal, but that doesn’t happen very often. Or, if there was some other reason that the courts decide after the fact that it’s unfair not to let somebody have an appeal under certain circumstances, arguably then that gets reversed on appeal. The point here, though, Mr. Carney, is that for purposes of what you’re doing today, you really ought to have the working assumption that this is the end of the road and you can’t go running off to another court and try to get out of this, understood?
Petitioner: Yes.
Court: If you plead guilty and if I accept your plea, do you understand that you will waive, meaning give up forever, your right to a further trial of any kind as well as all these other rights we’ve been talking about? Do you understand that?
Petitioner: Yes.
Court: And that includes, by the way, the right to pursue what we call an indirect appeal, like looking for a writ of habeas corpus is an indirect appeal. You give that up, too, understood?
Petitioner: Yes.
Court: Okay. Do you understand all these rights we’ve been talking about?
Petitioner: Yes. Yes, I do.
Court: Do you have any questions about ...

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