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Hines v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Waco Division

April 10, 2017

STACEY B. HINES
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Crim. No. W-15-CR-026(1)

          ORDER

          ROBERT PITMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are Movant Stacey Bernard Hines's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (#31) and the Government's response (#38). Hines is proceeding pro se.

         Background

         On February 10, 2015, Hines was charged in a two-count indictment with conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and aiding and abetting theft of government property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641 and 18 U.S.C. § 2. On April 9, 2015, Hines pleaded guilty to both counts pursuant to a plea agreement. In the plea agreement, Hines agreed to waive his appellate rights, including his right to file a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Hines also agreed to pay restitution in an amount to be determined by the United States Probation Office. On June 17, 2015, Hines was sentenced to 46 months of imprisonment, three years supervised release, $200 in special assessment fees, and $2, 638, 736.34 in restitution. Hines did not appeal. On May 27, 2016, Hines filed the instant motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence, in which he alleges three grounds for relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to: (1) engage in adequate plea bargaining; (2) argue about restitution and valuation discrepancies at sentencing; and (3) preserve the right to appeal. For the following reasons, the Court denies Hines's motion.[1]

         Analysis

         I. Legal Standard

         Generally, there are four grounds upon which a defendant may move to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence: (1) the imposition of a sentence in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the United States; (2) a lack of jurisdiction of the District Court that imposed the sentence; (3) the imposition of a sentence in excess of the maximum authorized by law; and (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255; United States v. Placente, 81 F.3d 555, 558 (5th Cir. 1996).

         Section 2255 is an extraordinary measure; it cannot be used for errors that are not constitutional or jurisdictional if those errors could have been raised on direct appeal. United States v. Stumpf, 900 F.2d 842, 845 (5th Cir. 1990). If the error is not of constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude, the movant must show the error could not have been raised on direct appeal and would, if condoned, “result in a complete miscarriage of justice.” United States v. Smith, 32 F.3d 194, 196 (5th Cir. 1994). In addition, a defendant who raises a constitutional or jurisdictional issue for the first time on collateral review must show both “cause” for his procedural default, and “actual prejudice” resulting from the error. Placente, 81 F.3d at 558. A defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel does give rise to a constitutional issue and is cognizable pursuant to Section 2255. United States v. Walker, 68 F.3d 931, 934 (5th Cir. 1996).

         III.28 U.S.C. § 2255 and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Section 2255 reads, in part:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

         Hines claims ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to (1) engage in adequate plea bargaining; (2) resolve valuation discrepancies regarding restitution; and (3) preserve the right to appeal. The legal requirements of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim are well known:

A convicted defendant's claim that counsel's assistance was so defective as to require reversal of a conviction or death sentence has two components. First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the “counsel” guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. This requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable. Unless a defendant makes both showings, it cannot be said that the conviction or death sentence resulted from a breakdown in the adversary process that renders the result unreliable.

Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984).

         With respect to the first, “deficient performance, ” prong of the test, the Strickland court went on to say:

Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential. It is all too tempting for a defendant to second-guess counsel's assistance after conviction or adverse sentence, and it is all too easy for a court, examining counsel's defense after it has proved unsuccessful, to conclude that a particular act or omission of counsel was unreasonable.

Id. at 689. Indeed, “[b]ecause of the difficulties inherent in making the evaluation, a court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable ...


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