United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CHARLES S. COODY, Magistrate Judge.
Federal inmate Antwoin Harbison ("Harbison") is before the court on a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
On December 14, 2011, a jury found Harbison guilty of conspiring to lease, rent, use, and maintain a residence for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, and using crack cocaine and cocaine hydrochloride, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 856(a)(1) and 846; conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; and possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Following a sentencing hearing on March 28, 2012, the district court sentenced Harbison to 180 months in prison.
Harbison appealed, arguing that the original search warrant issued for his residence violated the Fourth Amendment's particularity requirement and that the denial of his motion for mistrial based upon an alleged violation of Fed.R.Crim.P. 16(a)(1)(A) constituted reversible error. Harbison also challenged the imposition of four sentencing enhancements, namely: (1) U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1), for possession of a firearm; (2) § 2D1.1(b)(12), for maintaining a premises for the purpose of manufacturing drugs; (3) § 3B1.1(c), for assuming a leadership role in respect to his offenses; and (4) §§ 2D1.1(e)(1) and 3A1.1(b)(1), for committing a sexual offense against, and distributing crack cocaine to, a vulnerable victim. On July 10, 2013, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Harbison's convictions and sentence. United States v. Harbison, 523 Fed.App'x 569 (11th Cir. 2013). Harbison did not seek certiorari review in the United States Supreme Court.
On August 12, 2013, Harbison filed this § 2255 motion raising three claims that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to argue successfully against the this court's imposition of the sentencing enhancements in (1) U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1), for possession of a firearm; (2) U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(c), for assuming a leadership role in respect to his offenses; and (3) U.S.S.G. §§ 2D1.1(e)(1) and 3A1.1(b)(1), for committing a sexual offense against, and distributing crack cocaine to, a vulnerable victim. Doc. No. 1 at 4; Doc. No. 2 at 4-8.
The Government maintains that all of Harbison's claims of ineffective assistance counsel are without merit and should be rejected as grounds for relief. Based on the court's consideration of the parties' submissions and the record, the court concludes that Harbison's § 2255 motion should be denied.
A. General Standard of Review
Because collateral review is not a substitute for direct appeal, the grounds for collateral attack on final judgments under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 are limited. A prisoner is entitled to relief under § 2255 if the court imposed a sentence that (1) violated the Constitution or laws of the United States, (2) exceeded its jurisdiction, (3) exceeded the maximum authorized by law, or (4) is otherwise subject to collateral attack. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255; United States v. Phillips, 225 F.3d 1198, 1199 (11th Cir. 2000); United States v. Walker, 198 F.3d 811, 813 n.5 (11th Cir. 1999). "Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for transgressions of constitutional rights and for that narrow compass of other injury that could not have been raised in direct appeal and would, if condoned, result in a complete miscarriage of justice.'" Lynn v. United States, 365 F.3d 1225, 1232 (11th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).
B. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel must be evaluated against the two-part test announced in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). First, a petitioner must show that "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Id. at 689. Second, the petitioner must show that "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at 694. See Chandler v. United States, 218 F.3d 1305, 1313 (11th Cir. 2000).
Scrutiny of counsel's performance is "highly deferential, " and the court indulges a "strong presumption" that counsel's performance was reasonable. Chandler, 218 F.3d at 1314 (internal quotation marks omitted). The court will "avoid second-guessing counsel's performance: It does not follow that any counsel who takes an approach [the court] would not have chosen is guilty of rendering ineffective assistance." Id. (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). "Given the strong presumption in favor of competence, the petitioner's burden of persuasion - though the presumption is not insurmountable - is a heavy one." Id.
As noted, under the prejudice component of Strickland, a petitioner must show that "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different" Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. A "reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id. The prejudice prong does not focus only on the outcome; rather, to establish prejudice, the petitioner must show that counsel's deficient representation rendered the result of the trial fundamentally unfair or unreliable. See Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U.S. 364, 369 (1993) ("[A]n analysis focusing solely on mere outcome determination, without attention to whether the result of the proceeding was fundamentally unfair or unreliable, is ...