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Martinez v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 11, 2019




         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Petitioner's Motion Under § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody [Doc. 1], [1] filed on September 18, 2018. The United States responded on August 8, 2019. [Doc. 6]. Petitioner replied on September 10, 2019. [Doc. 10]. The Honorable Kenneth J. Gonzales, United States District Judge, referred this matter to me for analysis and a recommended disposition. [Doc. 9]. I have considered the briefing, the relevant portions of the record in this case and the criminal case, and the relevant law. Being otherwise fully advised in the premises, I recommend that Petitioner's Motion be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In February of 2016, the Lea County Drug Task Force (“LCDTF”) received information from a confidential source indicating that Petitioner sold “large quantities of” methamphetamine from his recreational vehicle (“RV”) in Hobbs, New Mexico. [Doc. 7] at 3 (Presentence Report). On February 19, 2016, LCDTF agents executed a search warrant for the RV, finding 270.5 grams of a substance testing positive for methamphetamine, in addition to two digital scales and two firearms. Id.

         At the direction of LCDTF agents, on or about December 19, 2016, the confidential source called Petitioner to arrange for a sale of methamphetamine valued at $600. [Doc. 6-3] at 5. During this call, Petitioner told the confidential source that “he was currently staying at the Black Gold Casino [hotel] and had just gotten a room there.” [Doc. 6-3] at 6. They agreed to meet at a Walmart parking lot to complete the deal. Id. at 5.

         Agents drove to the hotel and observed Petitioner get into his car in the hotel parking lot. Id. at 6. They followed him to the Walmart parking lot and, as Petitioner attempted to complete the sale of drugs to the confidential source, detained him. Id. A search revealed that he had a .22 caliber North American Arms pistol in his front left pants pocket and 67 grams of methamphetamine. [Doc. 6-3] at 6; [Doc. 7] at 4. When searching him, they also found both two keys for Room 522 at the hotel and breakfast vouchers for the hotel. [Doc. 6-4] at 7; [Doc. 7] at 4. The agents then obtained a search warrant for Room 522 at the Black Gold Casino hotel, finding an additional 564 grams of a substance testing positive for methamphetamine in the hotel room's safe. [Doc. 7] at 4. Petitioner claims that the methamphetamine in Room 522 belonged to a woman named Anita or Annette, not him. Id.; [Doc. 1] at 17.

         Police arrested Petitioner on January 5, 2017. [Doc. 7] at 1. The government charged him with possession with an intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine and aiding and abetting, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Id.


         On June 22, 2017, the Honorable Carmen Garza, Chief United States Magistrate Judge, held a change-of-plea hearing. [Doc. 6-1]. Petitioner stated that he discussed the terms of the plea agreement with his lawyer, Dennis Candelaria. Id. at 6. When Judge Garza asked him if he was “satisfied with [Candelaria's] advice and his representation, ” Petitioner replied, “Yes, ma'am.” Id. Petitioner pleaded guilty to each of his charges. [CR Doc. 27]. In the plea agreement, the United States asserted that Petitioner was entitled to a one-level base-offense-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility. Id. at 4-5. The United States requested that the Court increase his base offense level by two levels for possessing a firearm. Id. at 5. By pleading guilty, Petitioner waived his right to appeal the conviction and sentence, including his right to bring any collateral attack but for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. at 6. The United States agreed not to bring additional criminal charges arising out of the execution of the search warrants at Petitioner's RV and the hotel room. See id.

         After the change-of-plea hearing, the United States Probation Office (“USPO”) prepared the Presentence Report, which calculated Petitioner's base offense level at 30. [Doc. 7] at 5. The USPO arrived at this base offense level by including all 901.5 grams of methamphetamine associated with Petitioner as relevant conduct: the 270.5 grams found in his RV, the 67 grams found on his person when detained, and the 564 grams found in the hotel room. See Id. Petitioner received a two-level enhancement of his base offense level for possessing a firearm and a two-level enhancement of his base offense level for maintaining a place-the RV-for the purpose of distributing a controlled substance. Id. Petitioner also received a three-level reduction of his base offense level for acceptance of responsibility. Id. In total, Petitioner received a base offense level of 31, which, coupled with his criminal history, yielded a guideline range of 135-168 months in prison. Id. at 5, 14.

         In response to the Presentence Report, Petitioner moved for an additional two-level reduction of his base offense level on the ground that he played only a minor role in the offense because he acted as a “go-between” when moving drugs from the woman named Anita or Annette at the hotel to the buyer. [CR Doc. 31] at 2-3. The United States conceded this reduction. [CR Doc. 34] at 2. This reduction decreased Petitioner's base offense level to 29, yielding a guideline range of 108-135 months in prison. [Doc. 6-2] at 3-4. Petitioner also moved for a variance based on family circumstances. [CR Doc. 31] at 3-5. The Court rejected his request for a variance and imposed a sentence of 108 months' incarceration (the low end of the guideline range) and a supervised release period of four years. [CR Docs. 35, 36].

         Petitioner appealed on November 3, 2017, but the Tenth Circuit enforced the waiver of appeal in his plea agreement, dismissing his appeal on December 27, 2017. United States v. Moises Eufelio Martinez, Jr., No. 17-2191, [Doc. 01019921245]. He filed the instant Motion to Vacate on September 18, 2018. [Doc. 1]. He requests that the Court vacate his sentence and resentence him to a term of 70 months in prison. Id. at 12, 19.


         A district court may grant relief under § 2255 if it determines “that there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b) (2018). Pro se pleadings are interpreted liberally but must comply with the basic requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and a district court cannot rewrite a habeas ...

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