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United States v. Toro

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

April 28, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
JAIME ARANA DEL TORO, Defendant/Petitioner.

          ORDER DENYING § 2255 MOTION AS TO FOURTH GROUND FOR RELIEF Re: Dkt. No. 1 (16-CV-02538-LHK) Re: Dkt. No. 423 (12-CR-00670-LHK) [1]

          LUCY H. KOH United States District Judge

         Petitioner Jaime Toro (“Petitioner”) has filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct his Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 423 (“Mot.”). Petitioner is currently serving a 120 month statutory mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for his July 8, 2015 conviction for possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

         Petitioner's § 2255 Motion seeks relief on the following four grounds: (1) Petitioner's sentence was too severe “for mere transportation” of methamphetamine; (2) Petitioner's “limited English” prevented him from “fully understanding” the “implications” of Petitioner's plea agreement; (3) Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective because counsel did not provide him advice on the extent of Petitioner's rights, the rights Petitioner was giving up, and Petitioner's eligibility for potential benefits (such as the Fast Track Program for Deportable Aliens); and (4) Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective because counsel did not file an appeal. Id. at 5. On September 8, 2016, the Court denied Petitioner's Motion with respect to Petitioner's first, second, and third asserted grounds for relief. ECF No. 439 (“Prior Order”). In the instant order, the Court addresses Petitioner's fourth asserted ground for relief. Having considered the parties' briefing, the relevant law, and the record in this case, Petitioner's Motion with respect to Petitioner's fourth ground for relief is DENIED.

         I.FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Charges Against Defendant and Guilty Plea

         On December 4, 2013, a federal grand jury returned an indictment which charged Petitioner with (1) conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 & 846; and (2) possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. ECF No. 117 at 7.

         On April 8, 2015, Petitioner pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. ECF No. 314 (“Plea Agmt.”). Petitioner's guilty plea was pursuant to a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) binding plea agreement with the Government. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C) (a “plea agreement may specify that an attorney for the government will agree . . . that a specific sentence or sentencing range is the appropriate disposition of the case, ” which “binds the court once the court accepts the plea agreement”). Petitioner and the Government agreed to the following recommended sentence: “120 months of imprisonment, five years of supervised release (with conditions to be fixed by the Court), and a $100 special assessment.” Plea Agmt. at 5. Petitioner's sentence of 120 months of imprisonment is the statutory mandatory minimum for possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(viii). The statutory mandatory minimum applied to Petitioner because Petitioner pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute 327.65 grams of methamphetamine, over six times the quantity that triggers the 120 month statutory mandatory minimum sentence. Plea Agmt. at 3.

         B. Terms of Plea Agreement and Change of Plea Hearing

         Pertinent excerpts of Petitioner's plea agreement are reproduced below:

         2. I agree that I am guilty of the offense of which I am pleading guilty, and I agree that the following facts are true:

a. The following is a summary of evidence that I possessed methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it.
b. On September 5, 2013, at approximately 6:56 p.m., I called Efrain Canchola and asked if he had something there. I asked how it was, and Canchola said it was clean, white and transparent. I asked Canchola to make two packages of 112 and one package of 224. I said I was going to come pick them up right now. Canchola asked how long. I said 10 minutes at most.
c. Law enforcement officers monitored the court authorized pole camera at Canchola's residence . . . and at approximately 7:02 p.m., they observed me walk into the residence. Approximately seven minutes later, I departed the residence. Canchola delivered the methamphetamine to me when I was at his residence. I intended to distribute the methamphetamine to others.
d. Later that evening, a Contra Costa deputy stopped my car . . . and seized three cellophane wrapped sandwich baggies that contained methamphetamine.
e. The DEA laboratory determined that the substance seized from this car was a mixture weighing approximately 331.3 grams (net weight) that contained d-methamphetamine hydrochloride with a purity of 98.9 percent. The amount of actual (pure) methamphetamine was approximately 327.65 grams.
f. On September 12, 2013, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Canchola's residence . . . [and] Canchola was arrested at the scene.
g. Law enforcement officers found approximately two pounds of methamphetamine in a drawer in a bedroom. The agents also seized from the residence a ledger, and the last three entries next to the name “Jamie” [sic] match the quantities (in grams) of the order for drugs I gave Canchola on September 5, 2013.
h. I stipulate and agree that the total weight of actual (pure) methamphetamine attributable to me for the purpose of determining relevant conduct is approximately 327.65 grams.

         3. I agree to give up all rights that I would have if I chose to proceed to trial, including the rights to a jury trial with the assistance of an attorney; to confront and cross-examine government witnesses; to remain silent or testify; to move to suppress evidence or raise any other Fourth or Fifth Amendment claims; to any further discovery from the government; and to pursue any affirmative defenses and present evidence. I waive any defense based on venue, and I agree that this prosecution may be brought in the Northern District of California.

         4. I agree to give up my right to appeal my conviction, the judgment, and any orders of the Court. I also agree to waive any right I have to appeal any aspect of my sentence, including any orders relating to forfeiture and/or restitution.

         5. I agree not to file any collateral attack on my conviction or sentence, including a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 or 28 U.S.C. § 2241, except that I reserve my right to claim that my counsel was ineffective in connection with the negotiation of this Agreement or the entry of my guilty plea. I also agree not to seek relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582.

         * * *

         18. I confirm that I have had adequate time to discuss this case, the evidence, and the Agreement with my attorney and that my attorney has provided me with all the legal advice that I requested.

         19. I confirm that while I considered signing this Agreement, and at the time I signed it, I was not under the influence of any alcohol, drug, or medicine that would impair my ability to understand the Agreement.

         20. I confirm that my decision to enter a guilty plea is made knowing the charges that have been brought against me, any possible defenses, and the benefits and possible detriments of proceeding to trial. I also confirm that my decision to plead guilty is made voluntarily, and no one coerced or threatened me to enter into this Agreement.

         21. I confirm that I read this entire Agreement with the assistance of a Spanish language interpreter and in the presence of my attorney.

         Plea Agmt. at 3-7. The agreement was signed by a certified Spanish language interpreter, who stated that he had translated the plea agreement into Spanish for Petitioner. Id. at 8.

         Petitioner pled guilty at a change of plea hearing on April 8, 2015. ECF No. 313 at 1. A certified Spanish language interpreter interpreted the hearing for Petitioner. Nonetheless, Petitioner chose to respond to numerous questions in English without the assistance of an interpreter. An excerpt of the change of plea colloquy is reproduced below.

         The Court: All right. Ms. Sakamoto, would you please swear in Mr. Del Toro.

         The Clerk: Yes, Judge. Sir, would you please raise your right hand.

         (Jaime Arana Del Toro, Defendant, was sworn)

         Petitioner: Yes.

         The Clerk: Thank you, sir.

         (All statements attributed to Petitioner were through the Spanish interpreter unless otherwise noted.)

         The Court: Mr. Del Toro, I have some questions to ask you. If you need me to repeat or explain anything, would you please tell me?

         Petitioner: (in English) Okay.

         The Court: If you need to speak with your attorney before answering any question, would you please do so?

         Petitioner: (in English) Okay.

         The Court: You've taken the oath, which is a promise to tell the truth. If you make an untrue statement during today's proceedings, the Government can use that statement to prosecute you for perjury. Do you understand that?

         Petitioner: (in English) Yes.

         The Court: What is your true name?

         Petitioner: (in English) ...


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