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United States v. Scott

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

April 13, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JEREMY JACOBI SCOTT

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          KENNETH M. HOYT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Jeremy Jacobi Scott pled guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. This Court sentenced him to a 120 month term of imprisonment, five years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment. See Judgment (Dkt. No. 60). This case is before the Court on Scott's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence (Dkt. No. 65), and the government's motion to dismiss Scott's motion (Dkt. No. 79). Having carefully considered Scott's motion, the government's motion, Scott's response, all the arguments and authorities submitted by the parties, and the entire record, the Court is of the opinion that the government's motion should be granted, and Scott's motion should be denied.

         I. Background

         Scott was indicted for trafficking a minor to engage in commercial sex acts in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1), and (b)(1) and (2). Scott pled guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking pursuant to a written plea agreement containing appellate and postconviction waivers. Plea Agreement (Dkt. No. 42) at 3.

         II. Applicable Legal Standards

         Scott brings this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which provides for relief “for errors that occurred at trial or sentencing.” Jeffers v. Chandler, 253 F.3d 827, 830 (5th Cir. 2001). The motion contends that Scott received ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing because his counsel failed to argue disparity in Scott's sentence as compared to other individuals sentenced for similar crimes, and failed to argue misapplications of the sentencing guidelines.

         III. Analysis

         The plea agreement contains an express waiver of Scott's right to collaterally attack his sentence. “Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waives the right to contest his/her conviction or sentence by means of any post-conviction proceeding.” Plea Agreement (Dkt. No. 42) at 3. The government argues that Scott thus waived his right to attack his conviction and sentence. The right to challenge a conviction or sentence on appeal or in postconviction proceedings is waivable. See, e.g., United States v. Burns, 433 F.3d 442, 446 (5th Cir. 2005); United States v. Baymon, 312 F.3d 725, 727 (5th Cir. 2005). To determine if the waiver is valid and binding, this Court must determine whether the waiver was knowing and voluntary, and whether the plain language of the waiver applies to this proceeding. United States v. Bond, 414 F.3d 542, 544 (5thCir. 2005).

         Scott's motion and supporting briefs argue merely that counsel failed to sufficiently contest the sentence. Scott does not contend that the sentence is outside the range specified in the plea agreement. See Plea Agreement at 1-2 (specifying a statutory sentencing range of up to life imprisonment, a fine of up to $250, 000, and up to five years supervised release). The plea agreement expressly states that “Defendant . . . acknowledges that the Court has authority to impose any sentence up to and including the statutory maximum . . . and that the sentence to be imposed is within the sole discretion of the sentencing judge . . . .” Id. at 5. Thus, Scott was aware that his plea exposed him to a sentence of up to life imprisonment. The 120 month sentence he received is well within the range to which he agreed with his plea.

         Moreover, ineffective assistance of counsel can overcome the waiver “only when the claimed [ineffective] assistance directly affected the validity of that waiver or the plea itself.” United States v. White, 307 F.3d 336, 343 (5th Cir. 2002). Scott's complaints about counsel's performance pertain to the sentence that was ultimately imposed, but that sentence falls within the parameters discussed in the written plea agreement. Therefore, Scott cannot plausibly contend that he would not have pled guilty if he knew he would receive a sentence of 120 months, and the alleged ineffective assistance of counsel does not affect the validity of the waiver or the plea.

         Scott was aware of the effects of his plea agreement. His plea was thus knowing. Moreover, Scott has not shown that he was in any way coerced or threatened, or that the plea was in any way involuntary. He chose to plead guilty, and thus waived his right to bring this action.

         IV. Conclusion

         For the foregoing reasons, Scott has waived his right to bring this action. His motion is therefore denied, and the government's motion to dismiss is granted.

         V. Certificate ...


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