United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER
Donetta W. Ambrose Senior Judge
action, Defendant pleaded guilty to two Counts, one each of
conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in violation
of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and conspiracy to engage in money
laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C.§ 1965(h). On August
15, 2014, the Court sentenced him to a term of 120 months
imprisonment at each Count, to run concurrently, followed by
a term of supervised release. On August 11, 2015, Defendant
filed a Motion to Vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. The Court issued a Miller notice, notifying
Defendant that he must make an election by December 7, 2015.
Defendant sought and received leave to withdraw his Motion to
Vacate, and to submit a new Motion. He filed the new Motion
on December 7, 2015. Thereafter, he sought and received an
opportunity to submit additional materials. The Motion has
been fully briefed and is ripe for review. 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).
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.
Government first challenges the timeliness of Defendant's
Motion. Defendant filed a Motion to Vacate on 8/11/15. He
withdrew his first Motion, pursuant to Miller notice, and
elected to file a new Motion on December 7, 2015, within the
deadline set by the Court. He then supplemented that Motion
on February 24, 2016. The Government acknowledges that the
initial Section 2255 Motion was timely filed. I will consider
Defendant's substitute Motion, and the supplement
Government next contends that Defendant, in his plea
agreement, waived his right to file a Motion to Vacate.
Circuit, generally speaking, waivers of the right to
collateral attack are valid if entered into knowingly and
voluntarily. United States v. Khattak, 273 F.3d 557,
558 (3d Cir. 2001); United States v. Goodson, 544
F.3d 529, 536 (3d Cir. 2008). Claims challenging the
voluntariness of a collateral attack waiver, or the
effectiveness of counsel with respect to the waiver itself,
may survive the waiver. United States v. Whitaker,
2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23884, at **5-6 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 18,
2005). Similarly, courts will consider an ineffectiveness
claim that relates directly to the negotiation of the waiver
itself. United States v. Fagan, No. 2-75, 2004 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 22456, at **9-11 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 4, 2004). In
other words, unless the negotiation of the waiver itself was
tainted, the waiver may be upheld. Id.
context, it is worthwhile to note the Supreme Court's
observation 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).
Otherwise stated, "absent clear and convincing evidence
to the contrary, a court must presume the veracity of a
defendant's statements made while under oath in open
court." Morris v. United States, No. 04-1570,
2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31295, at *14 (D. Del. Apr. 16, 2008).