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Campbell v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 12, 2018

JAKEITH TERRELL CAMPBELL, #12788-003, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SONJA F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Petitioner Jakeith Terrell Campbell's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 164), and the Government's Response in Opposition. (Doc. 173). This action was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Rule 8(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Cases and is now ready for consideration.[1]Having carefully reviewed the record, the undersigned finds that no evidentiary hearing is necessary for the disposition of this matter.[2] Upon consideration, the undersigned hereby recommends that Campbell's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 be DENIED, that this action be DISMISSED, and that judgment be entered in favor of Respondent, the United States of America, and against Petitioner, Jakeith Terrell Campbell. The undersigned also recommends that should Campbell file a certificate of appealability, it should be denied as he is not entitled to appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Campbell was charged, along with several other defendants, in a multiple-count indictment that included various drug and firearm charges. (Doc. 1). Campbell entered a counseled written plea agreement wherein he agreed to enter a guilty plea to Count 1, conspiracy to unlawfully possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine; and to Counts 4 and 7, both of which charged using, carrying and possessing a firearm in furtherance of, and in connection with, a drug trafficking felony. (Doc. 80 at 1). The plea agreement included a waiver which provides that “the defendant knowingly and voluntarily waives the right to file any direct appeal or any collateral attack, including a motion to vacate, set aside or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255” except in cases of 1) “a sentence imposed in excess of the statutory maximum”, 2) “a sentence which constitutes an upward departure or variance from the advisory guideline range” or 3) a claim of “ineffective assistance of counsel”.[3] (Id. at 10-11).

         During the change of plea hearing conducted on December 18, 2012, Campbell testified, under oath, that he possessed an eighth grade education, and could not read well, but his attorney had read the plea agreement to him, and had discussed it with him. (Doc. 17 at 2-3) . Campbell also testified that he received a copy of the indictment, understood the charges against him, discussed the charges with his attorney, and was fully satisfied with his attorney's advice and representation. (Id. at 2-3) . Additionally, Campbell testified that he had not recently been treated for any mental illnesses, and was not currently under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication. (Id.).

         Judge Granade explained to Campbell the rights he would be waiving by pleading guilty, and he confirmed he understood those rights. (Id. at 7). Among the rights explained, Judge Granade reviewed the right to trial by jury, the presumption of innocence, the Government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to present and cross-examine witnesses, and the right to remain silent. (Id.). Campbell also confirmed that no one had threatened, pressured, or promised him anything to plead guilty, nor had anyone promised that he would receive a specific sentence. (Id. at 6-7).

         Judge Granade also discussed with Campbell the potential penalties he faced if he entered a guilty plea. (Id. at 7-8). Campbell acknowledged that he understood the potential penalties he faced, and further understood that the Court could reject the Government's sentencing recommendation and impose a more severe sentence than anticipated. (Id. at 6). Campbell also confirmed that he and his counsel had discussed the applicable sentencing guidelines and how they might affect his sentence, and that he understood the applicable guideline range would not be calculated until the probation office had prepared a presentence investigation report (“PSR”). (Id. at 9). He further acknowledged that the guideline range could be different than the estimate initially given him by counsel, and that while the Court was required to consider the guidelines when determining a sentence, the guidelines are advisory and do not control the sentence to be imposed. (Id.).

         Additionally, Judge Granade discussed with Campbell the appeal waiver contained in the plea agreement, and that Campbell was giving up his right to appeal his conviction and sentence except for the three limited circumstances contained in the plea agreement. (Id. at 10). Campbell confirmed that he understood the terms of the appeal waiver. (Id. at 11-12). Campbell was also advised of the elements the Government would have to prove in order to convict him, and he acknowledged signing the factual resume attached to his plea agreement, and agreed that the Government could prove the facts set forth in the factual resume. Campbell then pleaded guilty. (Id. at 11-13). The Court accepted the plea, and found that Campbell was “fully competent and capable of entering an informed plea”, “aware of the nature of the charge and the consequences of the plea”, and that the plea was “a knowing and voluntary plea supported by an independent basis in fact containing each of the essential elements of the offense.” (Id. at 13).

         Prior to sentencing, the Government made a motion for downward departure under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e). (Doc. 154). Specifically, the Government recommended a departure from the low end of the calculated guidelines range as to Count One, namely 80 months, based on useful information Campbell had provided. (Id.). Campbell's sentencing was held on November 14, 2013. (Doc. 172). In light of Campbell's cooperation, the Court granted Campbell a departure from the guideline range for Count one, and sentenced Campbell to fifty (50) months. (Doc. 155 at 2). Campbell was sentenced to a consecutive sixty (60) month sentence on Count Four, and three hundred (300) months on Count Seven, for a total sentence of four hundred and one (401) months' imprisonment. (Id.). Campbell did not file an appeal.[4]

         Campbell filed a motion to extend the time to appeal, which the Court construed as a § 2255 federal habeas petition after providing proper notice to Campbell. (Docs. 160, 161). Subsequent thereto, Campbell filed the pending amended habeas petition and brief, and the Government filed a response in opposition. (Docs. 162, 164, 173).

         II. DISCUSSION

         The undersigned observes, as a preliminary matter, that Campbell's amended petition is not the model of clarity. Based on a liberal reading of Campbell's amended petition and brief, he appears to assert the following claims:

1) His guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary because of his low intellect and because he was not competent at the time of his guilty plea;
2) The District Court erred in failing to conduct a competency hearing on its own motion;
3) He is actually innocent of the gun offenses;
4) His trial counsel was ineffective because he did not seek a competency hearing before permitting Campbell to enter a guilty plea, he did not conduct a proper investigation of the fingerprints on the firearm, he did not file proper motions, and he did not explain to Campbell the consequences of his guilty plea. (Doc. 164-1 at 2, 5, 6-11).

         "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). A § 2255 motion may not be a substitute for a direct appeal. Id. at 1232 (citing United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165, 102 S.Ct. 1584, 1593, 71 L.Ed.2d 816 (1982)). The "fundamental miscarriage of justice" exception recognized in Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 496, 106 S.Ct. 2639, 91 L.Ed.2d 397 (1986), provides that it must be shown that the alleged constitutional violation "has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent . . ." Murray, 477 U.S. at 496.

         A. Campbell's Guilty Plea Was Knowing and Voluntary.

         Once a guilty plea becomes final, unless the record demonstrates the sentencing court lacked the power to enter the conviction or impose the sentence, a petitioner may only challenge the knowing, voluntary nature of the plea. United States v. Broce, 488 U.S. 563, 569, 109 S.Ct. 757, 102 L.Ed.2d 927 (1989). In conducting its analysis, the Court starts with the proposition that a trial court may not accept a guilty plea without an affirmative showing on the record that the plea was intelligent and voluntary. Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 242-43, 89 S.Ct. 1709, 23 L.Ed.2d 274 (1969). For a guilty plea to be made knowingly and voluntarily, the court accepting the guilty plea must "specifically address three 'core principles,' ensuring that a defendant (1) enters his guilty plea free from coercion, (2) understands the nature of the charges, and (3) understands the consequences of his plea."[5] United States v. Moriarty, 429 F.3d 1012, 1019 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citations omitted). In addition, "a defendant who seeks reversal of his conviction after a guilty plea . . . must show a reasonable probability that, but for the error [under Rule 11 of the court accepting the guilty plea], he would not have entered the plea.” Id. at 1020 (quoting United States v. Dominguez Benitez, 542 U.S. 74, 83, 124 S.Ct. 2333, 159 L.Ed.2d 157 (2004)).

         There is a strong presumption that statements made during the plea colloquy are true. United States v. Medlock, 12 F.3d 185, 187 (11th Cir. 1994). The defendant bears a “heavy burden” to show that his statements under oath were false. United States v. Rogers, 848 F.2d 166, 168 (11th Cir. 1988). The representations of a defendant as well as any findings by a judge accepting a plea constitute a formidable barrier in any subsequent collateral proceeding. Thompson v. Wainwright, 787 F.2d 1447, 1460 (11th Cir. 1986).

         As noted supra, Campbell claims that because of his limited eighth grade education, reading difficulties, and low intelligence, he was not competent to enter the guilty plea; thus, his plea was not knowing and voluntary. However, the transcript from the guilty plea hearing belies Campbell's claim. (Doc. 171). At the guilty plea hearing, Campbell denied that he had received any recent mental health treatment, and further denied that he was under the influence of any medication, alcohol, or drugs. He testified, without hesitation, that he had received a copy of the charges against him, that he had discussed them with his attorney, that he understood the charges, and that he was fully satisfied with the representation and advice he had received from his counsel. The hearing transcript further reflects that Judge Granade informed Campbell of the charges to which he was pleading guilty, as well as the penalties that might be imposed in the event of his conviction.

         Upon questioning from the Court, Campbell advised that he had completed the eighth grade, and that because he had difficulty reading, his attorney had read the plea agreement and factual resume to him. Campbell testified that he understood the charges to which he was pleading and the penalties that could be imposed if he was convicted, and he acknowledged that the Government could prove the facts set forth in the factual resume to support his conviction.

         The hearing transcript also reflects that Judge Granade provided Campbell a detailed explanation of the rights he would forfeit by pleading guilty, and he confirmed that he understood his decision to plead guilty would result in a waiver of these rights. Campbell also testified that no one had made him any promises other than those contained in the plea agreement, and his decision to plead guilty was not the result of force, threats, or pressure, but that he was pleading guilty of his own free will because he was guilty.

         Based on the thorough plea colloquy, during which Judge Granade was able to make firsthand observations of Campbell's responses, demeanor and behavior, she concluded that he was fully competent and capable of entering an informed plea, that he was aware of the nature of the charges and the consequences of the plea and that his plea of guilty was a knowing and voluntary plea supported by an independent basis in fact containing each of the essential elements of the offenses. (Doc. 171 at 13). Accordingly, Campbell's plea was accepted and he was adjudged guilty of Counts 1, 4 and 7.

         Against this backdrop, Campbell has proffered nothing aside from his conclusory assertions in support of his claim that he was not competent and, therefore, his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary. Independent review of the thorough Rule 11 plea colloquy confirms that Campbell's guilty plea was free from coercion, and that he understood the nature of the charges, and the consequences of his plea. See United States v. Stitzer, 785 F.2d 1506, 1514 n.4 (11th Cir. 1986) (noting that "if the Rule 11 plea-taking procedure is careful and detailed, the defendant will not later be heard to contend that he swore falsely."). Simply put, the record is devoid of any evidence that suggests that any condition, mental or otherwise, impaired Campbell's ability to participate in the guilty plea hearing. Accordingly, this claim is without merit.

         B. No Competency ...


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