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Melter v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 5, 2017

DOUGLAS MELTER, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Crim. No. 13-12 Erie

          OPINION

          MARK R. HORNAK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Petitioner Douglas Me Iter's pro se Motion for Relief pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(l-3) ("Petitioner's Rule 60(b) Motion"). ECF 65. By this motion, Petitioner seeks relief from the Judgment Order entered by this Court on December 7, 2016, in which this Court denied his motion brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("Petitioner's Section 2255 Motion") and determined that a certificate of appealability ("CO A") should not issue.

         On August 29, 2017, the Government filed its Response to Petitioner's Motion for Relief Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(l-3). ECF 69. In its response, the Government contends: "Melter's Motion should be denied because: (1) the Third Circuit has already denied a COA; (2) Melter has failed to establish grounds for relief set forth in Rule 60 (b)(1)-(3); and (3) Melter's motion is really a successive habeas petition captioned as a Rule 60(b) motion." Id. at 1.

         I. Legal Analysis.

         Rule 60(b) provides in relevant part:

(b) Grounds for Relief from a Final Judgment, Order, or Proceeding. On motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b);
(3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party;....

Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1), (2), and (3). The motion was filed less than one year after the entry of the order, and therefore, it was timely filed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c).

         In support of his Rule 60(b) Motion, Melter makes the following arguments. First, Petitioner argues that "the denial of Petitioner's CO A was based on an incorrect standard that placed too heavy a burden on Petitioner" as recently decided in Buck v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 759 (2017). ECF 65 at 1. Second, Petitioner argues that a reasonable jurist would debate that the plea agreement he entered into was knowing and voluntary because as a result of defense counsel's failure to file for discovery or to investigate any aspect of the Government's case, they had no idea of the evidence against Petitioner when they advised him to accept the government's plea deal. Id. at 2. "Without understanding the case against him or his alternative options for defense, the plea cannot represent a 'knowing or voluntary' choice by the Petitioner, satisfying the requirement for a COA." Id. Third, Petitioner argues that a reasonable jurist would debate the validity of his plea deal because he did not get any benefit from entering into the plea agreement because the three level reduction in his offense level as a result of his plea did not lower his sentencing guidelines range. ECF 65 at 7. "Had Defendant been aware of this [no benefit], he would have demanded a jury trial as a guilty verdict, if reached would have not have changed the Defendant's sentencing exposure but would have allowed Defendant to keep his rights to appeal." Id. Fourth, Plaintiff argues that a reasonable jurist would debate the Court's decision regarding Petitioner's Section 2255 Motion because in making its decision, the Court mistakenly relied on untrue fraudulent statements made by the prosecutor concerning the plea deal, and even if the statements were correct, a jurist would have reason to debate the validity of the plea agreement given the language in the plea agreement that "[t]his letter sets forth the full and complete terms and conditions of the agreement between Douglas E. Melter and the United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and there are no other agreements, promises, terms or conditions, express or implied." Id. at 8-9 (citing ECF 65-1 at 17). The allegedly untrue fraudulent statement at issue is the prosecution's statement that he told defense counsel if Petitioner did not plead guilty to all three counts of the indictment, the government would withdraw the plea offer and seek to file a superseding indictment charging Petitioner with attempting to buy a child, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 221 A(b), the penalty for which is a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years to life. See ECF 60 at 16.

         On June 27, 2017, the Court issued a text order that denied Petitioner's Rule 60(b) Motion, holding:

The basis of the Motion is that this Court did not give consideration to the impact, if any, of the decision of the Supreme Court in Buck v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 759 (2017). That decision was delivered by the Supreme Court during the pendency of the Petitioner's appeal in this case to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The judgment of that Court was entered after the Supreme Court decision referenced by Petitioner, and was therefore presumably available for consideration by that Court. Thus, any request for reconsideration based on that Supreme Court case is more properly addressed to the Court of Appeals.

         ECF 66. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a pro se motion to reopen Petitioner's Rule 60(b) Motion [ECF 67], which the ...


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