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Gadsden v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

March 29, 2018

DAVID GADSDEN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is petitioner David Gadsden's (“Gadsden”) pro se motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence by a person in federal custody. Doc. No. 1.[1]

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On May 5, 2014, Gadsden pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. Doc. No. 9-3. Gadsden's offense involved opening or causing others to open bank accounts with minimum deposits and using bad checks from those accounts to buy things from various businesses. Doc. No. 10-1 at 4. Law enforcement agents identified nearly 200 members of the conspiracy. Id. Following a sentencing hearing on November 6, 2014, the district court sentenced Gadsden to 120 months in prison. Doc. No. 9-7.

         Gadsden appealed, arguing that (1) the district court's loss-amount calculation was not supported by sufficient evidence and (2) the district court erred in imposing a sophisticated-means enhancement to his sentence. See Doc. No. 9-9. On October 5, 2015, the Eleventh Circuit rejected Gadsden's claims for relief and affirmed his conviction and sentence in an unpublished opinion. United States v. Gadsden, 628 Fed.Appx. 639 (11th Cir. 2015). Gadsden did not seek certiorari review in the United States Supreme Court.

         On December 14, 2015, Gadsden filed this § 2255 motion arguing that his lawyers rendered ineffective assistance of counsel in the following ways:

1. Trial counsel failed to object to the district court's loss-amount calculation on the ground it was not supported by sufficient evidence and admitted that the loss amount was “definitely above $400, 000.”
2. Trial counsel failed to maintain an objection to the number of victims attributed to Gadsden in determining his sentence, and appellate counsel failed to raise the issue on appeal.
3. Trial counsel failed to request a role reduction to Gadsden's offense level based on his minimal or minor participation in the offense, and appellate counsel failed to raise the issue on appeal.

Doc. No. 1 at 6-7; Doc. No. 2 at 4-19.

         The government filed a response arguing that Gadsden's claims are without merit and should be rejected as grounds for relief. Doc. No. 9.

         After considering the parties' submissions, the record, and the applicable law, the court finds that Gadsden's § 2255 motion should be denied without an evidentiary hearing. Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings in the United States District Courts.

         II. DISCUSSION

         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 may have 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 is 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 ...


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