United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Texarkana Division
W. SCHROEDER III, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael Wayne Thomas, a federal prisoner proceeding pro
se, brought this Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct
Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The Court
referred this matter to the Honorable Caroline M. Craven,
United States Magistrate Judge, at Texarkana, Texas, for
consideration pursuant to applicable laws and orders of this
Court. After appointing counsel and conducting an evidentiary
hearing in this matter, the Magistrate Judge submitted a
Report and Recommendation recommending denying the motion.
Docket No. 18. Movant filed objections to the Report. Docket
No. 19. The Court reviews objected-to portions of the Report
de novo. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).
primary dispute in Movant's objections concerns the
Magistrate Judge's factual findings. As the Magistrate
Judge noted in her Report, the Movant previously pleaded
guilty and signed a written plea agreement. Docket No. 18 at
11. Movant also testified, when entering the plea, that the
statements made in the factual basis of the plea agreement
were correct. Id. The factual basis included
statements regarding Movant's participation in the
offense and the events surrounding his arrest. Id.
At the evidentiary hearing, Movant presented the Magistrate
Judge with testimony that conflicted with the factual
findings of the plea agreement and Movant's testimony
during the change of plea hearing. Movant contends that the
factual basis and his testimony at the change of plea hearing
were not correct and were the result of his trial
counsel's ineffective assistance. Id. at 12. The
Report contains a detailed summary of the events, the
changing testimony and Movant's trial counsel's
considered the entire record, the Magistrate Judge found
Movant's statements “made at the time of the
underlying criminal proceedings more compelling than his
current inconsistent and contradictory assertions made in
relation to the collateral attack on his conviction.”
Id. at 14. In particular, the Magistrate Judge
placed emphasis on sworn testimony made in court.
raises a number of objections to the Report that all center
around the Magistrate Judge's determination that
Movant's admissions and testimony during the plea process
are reliable. Docket No. 19. The Court addresses each
specific objection below.
objects that the Report's factual background is clearly
erroneous because it accepts as true the factual basis of the
plea agreement and Movant's previous testimony while
ignoring his testimony at the habeas evidentiary hearing.
Docket No. 19 at 2-3.
case, there was no pretrial hearing or trial from which a
general factual background could be obtained. The factual
background in the Report includes the statements and
testimony Movant previously proffered that are not favorable
to his current position and in conflict with his current
testimony. Such statements are consistent with the
prospective evidence that would have been offered at a
suppression hearing or at trial in the case had Movant
proceeded, facts of which trial counsel had been made aware
and had to consider when advising Movant and formulating a
trial strategy. The government had also disclosed its version
of the facts in its response to the Movant's motion to
suppress evidence, and counsel reasonably could have
anticipated any hearing to reveal testimony consistent with
the Government's position regarding such facts.
the circumstances of this case, Movant has failed to show
that the Report's factual background was clearly
erroneous. Accordingly, Movant's objections are
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel - Change of Plea
objects to the Magistrate Judge's factual conclusion that
Movant was aware of his rights and voluntarily entered a plea
of guilty. Docket No. 19 at 3. Movant concedes that
“[t]his in and of itself may be correct, ” but
argues it is clearly erroneous based on Movant's
testimony at the habeas evidentiary hearing. Id.
Movant fails to provide any specific reason or argument as to
why the Magistrate Judge erred in reaching such conclusion.
Magistrate Judge's conclusion is supported by the record
in this case. As explained in more detail below, the
Magistrate Judge found that trial counsel's version of
the events was more credible than Movant's current
self-serving statements to the contrary. The Magistrate Judge
was in the best position to judge the credibility of the
witnesses as she conducted the hearing and observed the
witnesses. Further, when viewing the Magistrate Judge's
findings in light of ...