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United States v. Taylor

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LLOYD IRVIN TAYLOR, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO VACATE UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [DOC. NO. 133]

          HON. MICHAEL M. ANELLO, United States District Judge

         On June 30, 2014, a jury found Defendant Lloyd Irvin Taylor guilty of three counts of making a false statement on a United States passport application, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 1542; one count of engaging in a corrupt endeavor to obstruct and impede the due administration of the Internal Revenue laws, in violation of Title 26, section 7212(a); two counts of tax evasion, in violation of Title 26, section 7201; seven counts of making a false statement to a federally insured financial institution, in violation of Title 18, section 1014; and five counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, section 1028A. See Doc. No. 98. On November 17, 2014, the Court sentenced Defendant to a 57 month term of imprisonment, five years of supervised release, and restitution in the amount of $2, 241, 691.08, to the victim, the Internal Revenue Service. See Doc. No. 113.

         Defendant now collaterally challenges his conviction and sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Doc. Nos. 133, 138, 140. Defendant raises multiple claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The government has filed a response, to which Defendant replied. See Doc. Nos. 144, 145. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion.

         Discussion[1]

         1. Legal Standard

         If a defendant in a federal criminal case collaterally challenges his conviction or sentence, he must do so pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Tripati v. Henman, 843 F.2d 1160, 1162 (9th Cir. 1988). Under section 2255, a court may grant relief to a defendant who challenges the imposition or length of his incarceration on the ground that: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence; (3) the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). A defendant must allege specific facts that, if true, entitle him to relief. See United States v. Howard, 381 F.3d 873, 877 (9th Cir. 2004); United States v. Rodrigues, 347 F.3d 818, 824 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).

         The Court is not required to hold an evidentiary hearing when the issues can be conclusively decided on the basis of the existing record. 28 U.S.C. § 2255; see United States v. Schaflander, 743 F.2d 714, 717 (9th Cir. 1984) (citing United States v. Hearst, 638 F.2d 1190, 1194 (9th Cir.1980)). The Court declines to hold an evidentiary hearing in this case because the motion, on its face, conclusively demonstrates that Defendant is not entitled to relief.

         2. Analysis

         Defendant raises eight separate claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. To prevail on such a claim, a defendant must show both that his counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and that the deficiency in his counsel's performance prejudiced him. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984). There is a “strong presumption” that counsel's conduct was reasonable. Id. at 689. To establish deficient performance, a defendant must demonstrate that counsel did more than just commit an error, but rather that counsel performed outside the “wide range of professionally competent assistance.” Id. at 690. With respect to prejudice, a defendant must demonstrate a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 694. A “reasonable probability” means “[t]he likelihood of a different result must be substantial, not just conceivable.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 112 (2011).

         a) Claim One: Dismissal of Count 4

         Defendant argues in his first claim that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to move for dismissal of Count 4 of the Superseding Indictment. Defendant was charged in Count 4 with corruptly obstructing and impeding and endeavoring to obstruct and impede the administration of the Internal Revenue Code, in violation of Title 26, Section 7212(a), which provides in pertinent part:

Whoever corruptly . . . obstructs or impedes, or endeavors to obstruct or impede, the due administration of this title, shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not more than $5, 000, or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both . . .

26 U.S.C. § 7212(a). Defendant contends that his trial counsel should have moved to dismiss the charge because the statute is unconstitutionally vague as applied to him, as the words “obstructs or impedes” did not place Defendant on notice that his charged acts were prohibited.

         The Superseding Indictment charged Defendant with (a) opening and maintaining financial accounts in the names of stolen identities; (b) opening and maintaining financial accounts in the names of non-existent churches; (c) paying for personal expenses with funds from these nominee financial accounts; and (d) converting his funds to gold coins and other precious metals. Each of these acts results in a misrepresentation of the state of Defendant's finances to the IRS, and by necessary implication, obstructs and impedes the IRS from administering the internal revenue laws applicable to Defendant. Thus, Defendant had notice that his conduct was unlawful. Moreover, every circuit to consider a vagueness challenge to Section 7212(a) has found the statute constitutional. See United States v. Reeves, 752 F.2d 995 (5th Cir. 1985); United States v. Bostian, 59 F.3d 474 (4th Cir. 1994); United States v. Hanson, 2 F.3d 942 (9th Cir. 1993); United States v. Mitchell, 985 F.2d 1275 (4th Cir. 1993); United States v. Yagow, 953 F.2d 423 (8th Cir. 1992); United States v. Popkin, 943 F.2d 1535 (11th Cir. ...


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