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United States v. Carranza-Hurtado

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

July 25, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
ELOY CARRANZA-HURTADO, Defendant/Movant.

ORDER DENYING MOVANT CARRANZA-HURTADO'S MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT A SENTENCE UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255 AND DENIAL OF CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

RONALD M. WHYTE, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Eloy Carranza-Hurtado ("Movant") seeks relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 from his conviction and sentence for illegal entry into the United States following deportation pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1326. Movant moves to set aside his plea agreement in order to either accept a new plea agreement or be resentenced. He argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that the court committed several errors. Specifically, movant claims in his "ground 1" that his counsel failed to conduct a thorough investigation into the facts of the case, interrogate witnesses, submit a memorandum urging suppression of frivolous evidence and advise him of his substantive rights and potential defenses. Movant complains in his "ground 2" that his counsel failed to file a notice of appeal, move for a speedy trial, move for Brady material and advise him honestly about the length of the sentence counsel he would receive for his offense. In "ground 3" movant submits that the court failed to properly advise him of his rights and thus his plea was neither knowing nor voluntary. In "grounds 4 and 5" movant alleges that the court relied upon unsupported facts when it treated his prior offense as a drug trafficking offense or one constituting an aggravated felony. In "ground 6" movant asserts that the court erroneously failed to treat his prior felony offense as an element of his current offense. In "grounds 7-9" movant complains that the court failed to depart or impose a lesser sentence based on cultural assimilation, his alien status or the fact that a sentence of the length he received was greater than necessary to effectuate the goals of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). For the reasons explained below, the court denies the motion.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Movant, a citizen and native of Mexico, previously served a sentence in the District for New Mexico for conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine. Dkt. No. 1 at 2-3. Following completion of his sentence, on or about November 30, 2001, movant was deported from the United States to Mexico. Dkt. No. 11 at ¶ 2.

On May 7, 2010, movant was detained in Santa Cruz County, California. Dkt. No. 1 at 1. A fingerprint analysis on May 14, 2010 confirmed movant's previous incarceration in the District for New Mexico. Id. at 2-3.

On July 12, 2010, movant entered a guilty plea to a charge of illegal entry into the United States in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326. Dkt. No. 10 at ¶ 1. Movant acknowledged that he was an alien who had been deported from the United States and had later been found in the United States without obtaining authorization to re-enter. Id. at ¶ 1. As part of his plea agreement, movant waived the right to appeal any aspect of his sentence, or to collaterally attack the sentence, except for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. at ¶¶ 4-5; Transcript 16:23-17:10. Movant also affirmed through interpreters that he knew what the charges were against him, knew any possible defenses and that his plea was voluntary. Id. at ¶¶ 16-17.

Following acceptance of his plea, this court sentenced movant to twenty-seven months in prison with a three year term of supervised release to follow if not deported. Id. at 2-3. Movant appealed the decision on February 8, 2011. After the Ninth Circuit's denial of the appeal on May 9, 2011 as untimely, Dkt. No. 17, movant moved this court to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Dkt. No. 19.

III. ANALYSIS

Pursuant to Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings "[t]he judge who receives the motion must promptly examine it. If it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the records from the prior proceedings that the movant is not entitled to relief the judge must dismiss the action and direct the clerk to notify the moving party." Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings.

The court finds that movant is not entitled to any relief. Movant has failed to show that he was denied effective assistance of counsel or that the plea agreement or waiver contained therein is invalid.

A. Movant Was Not Denied Effective Assistance Of Counsel

Defendants have a Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. Missouri v. Frye, 132 S.Ct. 1399, 1404 (2012). The right to effective assistance of counsel extends to the plea bargaining process. Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S.Ct. 1376, 1384 (2012). The benchmark for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is "whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686 (1984). "The two-part Strickland v. Washington test applies to challenges to guilty pleas based on ineffective assistance of counsel." Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 58 (1985). In the context of the plea process, the prejudice prong of Strickland requires the defendant show that the outcome of the plea process would have been different with competent advice. Lafler, 132 S.Ct. at 1384. "An error by counsel, even if professionally unreasonable, does not warrant setting aside judgment in a criminal proceeding if the error had no effect on the judgment." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 691. Under the performance prong of Strickland, the defendant is required to show that "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Hill, 474 U.S. at 57. However, the "court must indulge a strong presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action might be considered sound trial strategy.'" Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101 (1955)).

Movant has failed to fulfill the prejudice prong of the Strickland test. He has failed to allege, let alone prove, that the outcome of the plea process would have been different had defense counsel performed as he allegedly should have. Movant has not identified any witnesses counsel should have contacted, any evidence that could have been uncovered by an investigation, any Brady material that was not disclosed by the government or any available defense to the charge. Movant has not alleged that he would have gone to trial if trial counsel had performed differently, nor has he alleged that curing any of defense counsel's alleged failings would have resulted in a more lenient ...


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