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United States v. Sanchez

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 12, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RAFAEL SANCHEZ, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         INTRODUCTION

         Presently before the court is Defendant Rafael Sanchez's motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 199). Based on the following, the defendant's motion shall be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         On March 24, 2015, a grand jury in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania returned a forty-three count, second, superseding indictment against the defendant in the instant matter. (Doc. 126). The defendant was named in count 1, conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims, counts 2 through 11, false, fictitious and fraudulent claims, counts 12 through 31, theft of public money, counts 32 through 41, aggravated identity theft, count 42, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and count 43, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States. (Doc. 126). The charges involved a stolen-identity, tax-fraud scheme.

         On March 30, 2015, the defendant pled not guilty to the second superseding indictment. (Doc. 133). Then, on May 5, 2015, the defendant changed his plea to guilty. (Doc. 156). Accordingly, on September 8, 2015, the court sentenced the defendant to a term of ninety-four months in prison, three years of supervised release, and payment of $694, 237.09 in restitution. (Doc. 173).

         On December 26, 2017, the defendant filed the instant motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 199). In his motion, the defendant raises six grounds of ineffectiveness of counsel. The defendant argues his counsel was ineffective by: (1) failing to advise the defendant that mandatory deportation would accompany his guilty plea; (2) failing to object to the denial of a two-point offense level reduction for acceptance of responsibility; (3) misleading the defendant during the signing of his plea agreement; (4) failing to object to the calculation of the final sentencing guidelines; (5) failing to argue for a downward departure based on immigration status; and (6) failing to investigate the defendant's relevant conduct for the overt acts. (Doc. 199). On May 18, 2018, the government filed its brief in opposition to the defendant's motion. (Doc. 209). Then, on October 12, 2018, the defendant filed a traverse. (Doc. 217). The defendant's motion is ripe for the court's disposition.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a federal prisoner “may move the court which imposed [their] sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.” The purpose of this statute is to allow “a prisoner in custody under sentence of a federal court to move that court to correct an erroneous sentence.” United States v. Biberfeld, 957 F.3d 98, 102 (3d Cir. 1992). In order to obtain § 2255 relief, the United States Supreme Court has concluded that a plaintiff must demonstrate one of four grounds: “(1) ‘that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States;' (2) ‘that the court was without jurisdiction to impose the sentence;' (3) ‘that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law;' or (4) that the sentence ‘is otherwise subject to collateral attack.'” Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 427 (1962) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255).

         Where a defendant has pled guilty, the potential claims that he may raise on the basis that his “sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution” are limited. 28 U.S.C. § 2255. “By entering a guilty plea, a defendant waives constitutional rights that inhere in a criminal trial, including the right to trial by jury, the protection against self-incrimination, and the right to confront one's accusers.” Florida v. Nixon, 543 U.S. 175, 187 (2004) (citing Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 243 (1969)).

         Here defendant asserts ineffectiveness of counsel for failure to raise certain issues, which is potentially a violation of the Constitution's Sixth Amendment right to counsel. A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel based on a guilty plea is analyzed under the two-part test developed by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 58 (1985). The defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient and that the deficient performance was prejudicial. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. In the context of a guilty plea, a defendant may only claim that counsel was ineffective if it rendered the plea involuntary or unintelligent. Hill, 474 U.S. at 56.

         DISCUSSION

         As noted, defendant's motion raises six issues. We will address the issues in turn.

         I. ...


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