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United States v. Gregg

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division

April 23, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
GEORGIA MICHELLE GREGG, Defendant/Movant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          NELVA GONZALES RAMOS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant/Movant Georgia Michelle Gregg filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (D.E. 132), to which the Government responded (D.E. 167) and Movant replied (D.E. 203). The Court subsequently granted Movant leave to file an amended § 2255 motion (D.E. 192), which raised several new claims not contained in her original § 2255 motion. The Government responded to Movant's amended 2255 motion (D.E. 215), and Movant replied (D.E. 219). For the reasons stated herein, Movant's amended § 2255 motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2013, Movant's sister and codefendant, Jada Gregg-Warren ("Gregg-Warren"), pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin and was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment. While Gregg-Warren was in custody, Movant took care of Gregg-Warren's two children, T.R. and J.R. However, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) removed T.R. and J.R. from Movant's home after she gave birth to a baby that tested positive for methamphetamine. On November 6, 2014, the 407th Judicial District Court of Bexar County, Texas, terminated Gregg- Warren's parental rights to T.R. and J.R. and appointed DFPS as permanent managing conservators. DFPS placed the children under the care of Gregg-Warren's half-brother and his wife, the Davises. However, after the Davises decided not to adopt T.R. and J.R. in 2015, DFPS began searching for new foster parents for the children.

         Giving rise to the current criminal case, on August 20, 2015, Movant and Gregg-Warren entered the Davises' home in the middle of the night, took the children, and drove to the U.S.-Mexico border. The two sisters parted ways, and Gregg-Warren and the children got into another car with Gregg-Warren's husband and codefendant, Ivan Francisco Alvarez-Benavente ("Alvarez"). Gregg-Warren and Alvarez took the children to Mexico, where Alvarez's family lived. Between October 18, 2015, and December 9, 2015, the sisters' father and codefendant, Thomas Gregg, wired money to Gregg-Warren and Alvarez in Torreon, Mexico. In December 2015, Mexican Federal Police entered Alvarez's home, arrested Gregg-Warren, and recovered the children. Gregg-Warren and the children were returned to the U.S., and Movant and Alvarez were subsequently arrested in March 2016.

         On March 23, 2016, Movant was charged with two counts of kidnapping, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1201 and 2. On July 6, 2016, she pled guilty to one count of kidnapping pursuant to a plea agreement. The Presentence Investigation Report (PSR, D.E. 105) calculated Movant's base offense level at 32, and 2 levels were added under U.S.S.G. § 2A4.1(b)(4) because the victims were not released within 30 days. After credit for acceptance of responsibility, Movant's total offense level was 31. With a Criminal History Category of I, her advisory Guideline range was 108-135 months' imprisonment. At sentencing, the Court adopted the PSR without change and sentenced Movant to 108 months, the lowest end of the Guideline range.

         Judgment was entered November 3, 2016. Movant did not appeal. She filed a § 225 5 motion on May 30, 2017, and an amended § 2255 motion on December 27, 2017.

         II. MOVANT'S ALLEGATIONS

         Movant's original § 2255 motion raised the following claims:

         A. Trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to:

1. prepare and present an aggressive defense;
2. explain Movant's appellate rights;
3. effectively investigate or communicate with Movant concerning her case;
4. fully represent Movant's interests;
5. advocate for appropriate departures; and
6. object to inconsistencies and falsities;
B. Movant should have qualified for "minor role";
C. Movant received a harsher sentence than her more culpable codefendants; and
D. The Court exhibited "prejudice and bias" when it used the conduct of Movant's codefendants to enhance her sentence.

         Movant's amended § 2255 motion repeats claims B, C, and D above concerning minor role, sentencing disparity, and judicial prejudice and bias. Her amended § 2255 motion also raises the following claims:

         A. Trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to:

1. prepare and file certain motions;
2. file a direct appeal;
3. adequately communicate with ...

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