United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER
Donetta W. Ambrose Senior Judge
action, Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts, one of
violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e), and
one of violating 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1). On December 12,
2014, the Court sentenced him to concurrent terms of
imprisonment of 180 months, followed by a term of supervised
release. Defendant has filed a pro se Motion to
Vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.For the following
reasons, Defendant's Motion will be denied.
is available under Section 2255 only under exceptional
circumstances, when the claimed errors of law are "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, 82 S.Ct. 468, 7 L.Ed.2d 417 (1962). A district
court need not hold an evidentiary hearing on a Section 2255
motion if the motion, files, and records show conclusively
that the defendant is not entitled to relief. United
States v. Ritter, 93 Fed.Appx. 402 (3d Cir. 2004).
“To progress to an evidentiary hearing, a habeas
petitioner must do more than proffer gauzy generalities or
drop self-serving hints that a constitutional violation lurks
in the wings”; as a result, vague and conclusory
allegations do not justify a hearing. David v. United
States, 134 F.3d 470, 478 (1st Cir. 1998). Further,
pro se pleadings are to be liberally construed, and
I have considered Defendant's submissions accordingly.
See United States v. Otero, 502 F.3d 331, 334 (3d
Cir. 2007). In this case, a hearing is unnecessary, and the
Motion will be disposed of on the record.
contends that counsel was ineffective in several respects,
related to failures to challenge searches of his home and
vehicle and to properly deal with Defendant's guilty
plea, and for failing to challenge ACCA enhancements. The
Government argues that Defendant's Motion is
context of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a
court should be "highly deferential" when
evaluating an attorney's conduct; there is a "strong
presumption" that the attorney's performance was
reasonable. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
689, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). "It
is...only the rare claim of ineffectiveness of counsel that
should succeed under the properly deferential standard to be
applied in scrutinizing counsel's performance."
United States v. Gray, 878 F.2d 702, 711 (3d Cir.
demonstrate that counsel was ineffective, a defendant must
show that counsel's performance fell below "the wide
range of professionally competent assistance" and also
that the deficient conduct prejudiced defendant.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. Counsel's conduct
must be assessed according to the facts of the particular
case, viewed as of the time of counsel's conduct.
Id. at 689. Under the prejudice prong, the pertinent
question is "whether there is a reasonable probability
that, absent the errors, " the result would have been
different. Id. at 695; see also
Gray, 878 F.2d at 709-13. The prejudice prong of
Strickland rests on "whether counsel's deficient
performance renders the result of the . . . proceeding
fundamentally unfair, " or strips the defendant of a
"substantive or procedural right to which the law
entitles him." Id. at 700.
is… only the rare claim of ineffectiveness of counsel
that should succeed under the properly deferential standard
to be applied in scrutinizing counsel's
performance." Gray, 878 F.2d at 711.
Accordingly, a guilty plea may be withdrawn based on
ineffective assistance of counsel only if "(1) the
defendant shows that his attorney's advice was under all
the circumstances unreasonable under prevailing professional
norms, and (2) the defendant shows that he suffered
'sufficient prejudice' from his counsel's
errors." United States v. Maynard, 152 F.
App'x 191 (3d Cir. 2005). Moreover, counsel is not
ineffective for failing to raise meritless claims. See
Parrish v. Fulcomer, 150 F.3d 326, 328 (3d Cir. 1998).
Consistent with these principles, when a client is presented
with a plea, an attorney's advice “need not be
perfect, but it must be reasonably competent. His advice
should permit the accused to make an informed and conscious
choice." Herring v. Estelle, 491 F.2d 125, 128
(5th Cir. 1974). (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). I am mindful, too, of the "fundamental
interest in the finality of guilty pleas." Hill v.
Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 58, 106 S.Ct. 366, 88 L.Ed.2d 203
context, I note that "the representations of the
defendant, his lawyer, and the prosecutor at [a plea]
hearing, as well as any findings made by the judge accepting
the plea, constitute a formidable barrier in any subsequent
collateral proceedings. Solemn declarations in open court
carry a strong presumption of verity." Blackledge v.
Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 73-74, 97 S.Ct. 1621, 52 L.Ed.2d
136 (1977). “A plea of guilty is a statement under
oath, not a stopgap option to be discarded when it is no
longer useful.” United States v. Ho-Man Lee,
No. 13-29, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56138, at *33 (D.N.J. Apr.
ACCA Enhancement 
received a mandatory minimum sentence, pursuant to his Rule
11(c)(1)(c) agreement and Section 924(e), of 180 months, or
fifteen years. He avers that the predicate crimes relied on
therefor are, for various reasons, invalid; counsel, he