United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER
Donetta W. Ambrose, Senior Judge
matter, Defendant was convicted, at two separate dockets, on
five firearm charges - at one docket, CR No. 12-09
(“12-09”), the conviction arose from a guilty
plea; at the other, CR No. 12-18 (“12-18”), from
a jury verdict. He was sentenced on September 25, 2014. On
August 19, 2015, the Court of Appeals affirmed his
convictions in both cases. United States v. Ollie,
624 F. App'x 807 (3d Cir. 2015). Defendant's petition
for writ of certiorari was denied on January 11, 2016.
Ollie v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 848 (2016). On
June 21, 2016, Defendant filed counseled Motions at both
dockets pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, challenging his
sentence pursuant to Johnson v. United States, 135
S.Ct. 2551 (2015). The Motions were stayed pending the
Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United
States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). Following the resolution
of Beckles, the stays were lifted and both counseled
Motions were voluntarily dismissed by Notices filed on March
16, 2017 at both dockets. Counsel then moved for and was
granted permission to withdraw from both cases.
before the Court are Defendant's pro se Section
2255 Motions, which were docketed soon after the voluntary
dismissal of his counseled requests for relief, and which
raise issues other than Johnson. In particular,
Defendant challenges the effectiveness of trial and appellate
counsel in various respects throughout these proceedings. In
support of his Motions, Defendant has filed multiple and
voluminous supplements, most recently on July 25, 2017 at
both docket numbers. For the following reasons,
Defendant's Motions will be denied, and no certificates
of appealability shall issue.
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).
Moreover, conclusory allegations in a § 2255 petition
"may be disposed of without further investigation by the
District Court." United States v. Thomas, 221
F.3d 430, 437 (3d Cir. 2000). A district court must
"accept the truth of the movant's factual
allegations unless they are clearly frivolous on the basis of
the existing record." United States v. Booth,
432 F.3d 542, 545-46 (3d Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).
However, vague and conclusory allegations contained in a
Section 2255 petition may be disposed of without a hearing.
Johnson v. United States, 294 Fed.Appx. 709 (3d
Cir.2008). I further note that pro se pleadings are
to be construed liberally, and I have so construed
Defendant's submissions. See United States v.
Otero, 502 F.3d 331, 334 (3d Cir. 2007). In this case, a
hearing is unnecessary, and the Motions will be disposed of
on the record.
Motions implicate the standards applicable to claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel. In order to demonstrate
ineffective assistance, 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 v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). 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 United
States v. Gray, 878 F.2d 702, 709-13 (3d Cir.1989). 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 844.
Court's review of ineffective assistance claims must be
"'highly deferential, '" and must
"'indulge a strong presumption' that, under the
circumstances, counsel's challenged actions 'might be
considered sound … strategy.'" Buehl v.
Vaughn, 166 F.3d 163, 169 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689). Moreover,
“[d]ecisions in trial strategy are to be afforded
appropriate deference; it is not the Court's role to
second-guess such decisions, absent a fundamental
defect.” United States v. Pawlowski, No.
9-209, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66607, at *5 (W.D. Pa. May 15,
2014). Therefore, 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." Gray, 878 F.2d at
threshold matter, the Government challenges the timeliness of
Defendant's pro se Motions to Vacate. As
recounted supra, Defendant was sentenced on
September 25, 2014. On August 19, 2015, the Court of Appeals
affirmed Defendant's convictions. United States v.
Ollie, 624 F. App'x 807 (3d Cir. 2015).
Defendant's petition for writ of certiorari was denied on
January 11, 2016. Ollie v. United States, 136 S.Ct.
848 (2016). Defendant's counseled Section 2255 Motions
were then filed on June 21, 2016; each Motion raised only a
claim pursuant to Johnson. Subsequently, the Motions
were stayed pending the Supreme Court's decision in
Beckles. On March ...