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Mathuren v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 31, 2017

CHRISTOPHER MATHUREN, Plaintiff/Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant/Respondent.

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          GREGORY B. WORMUTH United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter comes before me on Petitioner's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody. Doc. 1.[1] Upon review of the Motion and the United States' Response (doc. 4), I conclude that there is no need for an evidentiary hearing and recommend denial of the Motion.

         I. Background

         On July 22, 2014, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant upon the Petitioner's truck. Doc. 4 at 1. The officers located approximately 30.3 grams of methamphetamine and several small plastic baggies concealed in a fake Arizona Iced Tea can behind the driver's seat. Id. Officers found two portable scales, one in a satchel inside the truck and one in the driver's side door. Officers also found a Glock, Model 30, .45 caliber pistol, concealed between the driver's seat and the center seat; a Romarm/Cugir, Model SAR-1, 7.62x39 mm caliber rifle, wrapped in a sheet behind the driver's seat; approximately ten (10) rounds of Federal brand .45 caliber cartridges; and 4) thirty-seven rounds of Wolf brand 7.62x39 mm caliber cartridges. Id. at 1-2.

         On October 7, 2014 an Indictment was filed against Petitioner, charging the following crimes: Count 1 - Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924 (a)(2); Count 2 - Possession with Intent to Distribute a Mixture and Substance Containing Methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C); and Count 3 - Using, Carrying and Possessing a Firearm During and in Relation to and in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Cr. Doc. 2. Approximately two months later, a Superseding Indictment was filed against the Petitioner including Counts 4 and 5 for the additional crimes of illegally possessing firearms at the time of his arrest on or about October 28, 2014, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924 (a)(2). Cr. Doc. 16.

         On October 29, 2014, the Court appointed Chief Federal Public Defender, Stephen P. McCue as Petitioner's counsel. Cr. Doc. 7. On November 20, 2014, Petitioner's counsel filed a Motion to Suppress. Cr. Doc. 12. On February 3, 2015, Petitioner's counsel filed a Motion to Withdraw as Attorney. Cr. Doc. 22. The Motion to Withdraw was based on a breakdown in communication due to Petitioner's dissatisfaction with and refusal to speak to defense counsel. Id. On February 4, 2015, the United States filed a response in opposition to the Motion to Withdraw. Cr. Doc. 23. The Court heard the Motion to Withdraw on February 4, 2015 and denied it on February 12, 2015. Cr. Docs. 25, 26. On February 23, 2015, Petitioner's counsel filed a second Motion to Suppress. Cr. Doc. 27. On March 26, 2015, the United States responded to both motions to suppress. Cr. Docs. 34, 35.

         On June 17, 2015, Petitioner entered into a plea agreement pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C). Cr. Doc. 47. In the Agreement, Counts 1, 4, and 5 were dropped, and Petitioner pleaded guilty to Counts 2 and 3. Id. at 2. Petitioner acknowledged his understanding in the Agreement that he faced a potential term of imprisonment of no more than 20 years under Count 2. Id. With respect to Count 3, he acknowledged he faced a minimum term of imprisonment of five years. Id. at 3. The Agreement further acknowledged that it was an 11(c)(1)(C) agreement stipulating a specific term of imprisonment of 120 months, and that if the Court rejected the terms of the Agreement, the Petitioner had the right to withdraw his plea. Id. at 3, 5-6.

         Petitioner agreed to certain additional terms in the Agreement. First, he agreed not to seek “a downward departure or variance from the specific sentence of 10 years or 120 months of imprisonment.” Cr. Doc. 47 at 6-7. Second, he acknowledged that any violation of this term gave the United States the right to treat the Agreement as null and void and to proceed to trial on all charges in the Superseding Indictment. Id. at 7. Petitioner further agreed to waive his appellate and collateral attack rights. Id. Petitioner's waiver states in relevant part:

Defendant knowingly waives the right to appeal the Defendant's conviction(s) and any sentence, including any fine, imposed in conformity with this Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement. In addition, the Defendant agrees to waive any collateral attack to the Defendant's conviction(s) and any sentence, including any fine, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241, 2255, or any other extraordinary writ, except on the issue of defense counsel's ineffective assistance.

Id.

         On September 25, 2015, the United States Probation Office disclosed its Presentence Report (PSR). See doc. 4-1. The PSR concluded that, after adjustments for acceptance of responsibility, the Petitioner's base offense level was 29. PSR ¶ 34. Petitioner was classified as a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, making his criminal history category a VI. PSR ¶ 48. The PSR noted that ordinarily, under the Guidelines, Petitioner's offense level of 29 and criminal history category of VI would result in a sentencing range of 151 months to 188 months. PSR ¶ 90. However, based on his career offender status and his corresponding conviction under 18 U.S.C.A. § 924(c), the guideline range became 262 months to 327 months. Id. The PSR concluded that if the Petitioner were convicted at trial of all counts in the Superseding Indictment, he would face penalties of 360 months to life imprisonment. PSR ¶ 91.

         On October 1, 2015, the Court accepted the 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement and sentenced Petitioner pursuant to its terms. See Cr. Doc. 52. He received sixty months (60) imprisonment for Count 2 and a consecutive term of sixty months (60) imprisonment for Count 3. Id. The Court entered its Judgment on October 6, 2015. Cr. Doc. 55. On September 30, 2016, Petitioner filed the Motion at issue here. Doc. 1.

         II. Petitioner's Claims

         Construing his filings liberally, the Court finds the following claims: (1) the trial court erred when it denied the motion to withdraw by Petitioner's counsel; (2) Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel due to a conflict of interest; (3) Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel prior to his guilty plea; (4) Petitioner ...


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