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United States v. Roibal-Bradley

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 25, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JUANITA ROIBAL-BRADLEY, Defendant.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          JERRY H RITTER, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Ms. Roibal-Bradley’s Motion Under 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">28 U.S.C. § 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">255 to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence [CV Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1] filed on November 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18, Motion for Home Confinement and Motion for Furlough to Attend Court Hearings [CV Doc. 3], filed November 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">20, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18, and Motion to Appoint Counsel [CV Doc. 6], filed November 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">27, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18. On November 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18, United States District Judge James O. Browning referred the matter for recommended findings and final disposition to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry H. Ritter. [CV Doc. 4]. Having reviewed the parties’ submissions and controlling law, I present these proposed findings and recommend, after consideration of the parties’ objections if any, that the Court deny Ms. Roibal-Bradley’s Motions.[1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" name= "FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" id="FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On September 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Plaintiff with: one count of Social Security fraud, in violation of 42');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 U.S.C. § 408(a)(4)(1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1) (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15); twelve counts of wire fraud, in violation of 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18 U.S.C. § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">134');">343 (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2008) and ten counts of money laundering, in violation of 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18 U.S.C. § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1957 (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2). [CR Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1].

         Attorney Jason Bowles entered his appearance on behalf of Ms. Roibal-Bradley on September 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15. [CR Doc. 5]. On February 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, Ms. Roibal-Bradley pleaded guilty to one count of failure to disclose an event affecting the continued right to Social Security benefits payments and twelve counts of wire fraud. [CV Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">29');">p. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">29]. The Court accepted the Plea Agreement on September 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, and sentenced Ms. Roibal-Bradley to 37 months imprisonment as to each count of conviction, to run concurrently. [CR Doc. 55].

         On October 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, Ms. Roibal-Bradley filed a Motion to Withdraw Plea Due to Mental Incapacity [CR Doc. 59].[2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2" name="FN2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2" id="FN2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2] Also on October 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, attorney Jason Bowles moved to withdraw as counsel, stating that he did not believe Ms. Roibal-Bradley could prevail on the Motion, which she requested he file. [CR Doc. 60]. On November 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, Mr. Bowles was permitted to withdraw [CR Doc. 74] and attorney Barrett Porter was appointed as counsel for Ms. Roibal-Bradley. [CR Doc. 75]. After conferring with Mr. Porter, Ms. Roibal-Bradley withdrew her Motion to Withdraw Plea Due to Mental Incapacity [CR Doc. 59] and her Amendment [CR Doc. 61');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1] to the same. [CR Doc. 87].

         On December 5, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, the Court held a restitution hearing on the United States’ recommendation that Ms. Roibal-Bradley be ordered to pay restitution for fees incurred in the retrieval of the funds she fraudulently obtained [CR Doc. 93] and accepted the recommendation as to restitution. On March 8, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, the Court entered judgment, sentencing Roibal-Bradley to concurrent 37-month terms of imprisonment and ordering that Ms. Roibal-Bradley pay restitution to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and to the fraud victims. [CR Doc. 95].[3]

         Ms. Roibal-Bradley now challenges her confinement under 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">28 U.S.C. § 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">255, asserting that she received ineffective assistance of counsel at various stages of her plea negotiations, sentencing, and disciplinary proceedings before the state bar. [CV Doc. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13-35]. Ms. Roibal-Bradley has also filed a Motion for Home Confinement and for Furlough to Attend Court Hearings [Doc. 3], and a Motion for Appointment of Counsel [Doc. 6].

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Standard of Review Under 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">28 U.S.C. § 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">255

          Section 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">255 provides that prisoners in federal custody may challenge their sentences if: (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the United States Constitution or federal law; (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2) the sentencing court had no jurisdiction to impose the sentence; (3) the sentence exceeded the maximum authorized sentence; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral review. § 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">255(a).

         In this case, Ms. Roibal-Bradley claims her sentence was imposed in violation of the United States Constitution based on what she characterizes as five “counts” of ineffective assistance of counsel. [CV Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p6');">p. 6-7, 9-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1; CV Doc. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13-35; CV Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13, pp. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13]. If the Court finds that the sentence infringed Ms. Roibal-Bradley’s constitutional rights and is subject to collateral review, the Court must vacate the sentence and discharge, resentence, or correct the sentence as the Court believes appropriate. § 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">255(b).

         B. Standards for Claims of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

          In order to prove ineffective assistance of counsel, Ms. Roibal-Bradley must establish that her “counsel’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1984).

         First, Ms. Roibal-Bradley must demonstrate that her counsel’s performance was deficient, which “requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel’ guaranteed ... by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. at 687. “Judicial scrutiny of counsel’s performance must be highly deferential.” Id. at 689. Accordingly, the Court “must indulge a strong presumption that counsel’s conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Id. Ms. Roibal-Bradley must “overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action might be considered sound trial strategy.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Second, Ms. Roibal-Bradley must show that her counsel’s errors prejudiced her. Id. In other words, Ms. Roibal-Bradley “must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Id. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Id. at 69');">694. “It is not enough for [a petitioner] to show that the errors had some conceivable effect on the outcome of the proceeding.” Id. at 69');">693. “The likelihood of a different result must be substantial, not just conceivable.” Harrington v. Richter, 62');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 U.S. 86');">562');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 U.S. 86, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1).

         In the context of plea agreements, Ms. Roibal-Bradley must show that the outcome of the plea process would have been different, i.e. that she would have received a more favorable sentence. See Missouri v. Frye, 66 U.S. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">134');">34');">566 U.S. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">134');">34, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">148 (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2) (holding that where plea offer has lapsed or been rejected due to ineffective assistance, defendant must show the end result would have been more favorable); Lafler v. Cooper, 66 U.S. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">156');">566 U.S. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">156, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">163 (2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2) (“In the context of pleas, a defendant must show the outcome of the plea process would have been different with competent advice.”).

         ANALYSIS

         A. Ms. Roibal-Bradley Has Not Demonstrated That She is Entitled to Relief Under 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">28 U.S.C. § 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">22');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">255

         1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1. Assistance of Counsel During Pre-Indictment Plea Negotiations

         In support of her claim that she received ineffective assistance of counsel during pre-indictment plea negotiations, Ms. Roibal-Bradley claims that Mr. Bowles: failed to advise her regarding the potential sentencing range based on the pre-indictment plea offer [CV Doc. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13]; failed to explain the favorable aspects of the pre-indictment plea offer “as compared to a later plea offer which is typically stiffer” [CV Doc. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14]; advised her not to take the pre-indictment plea and claimed he could obtain a better offer [CV Doc. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13]; and allowed the pre-indictment plea offer to lapse without properly advising Ms. Roibal-Bradley as to the potential sentencing and favorable aspects of the offer [CV Doc. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14]. Ms. Roibal-Bradley claims that these errors resulted in prejudice because she would have accepted the first plea offer and received a lesser sentence had she been “properly advised.” [CV Doc. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14].

         Mr. Bowles, by affidavit, states that he met with Ms. Roibal-Bradley numerous times and advised her on multiple occasions regarding the pre-indictment plea offer, including the sentencing guideline range, the offense level and potential adjustments, and the likelihood that a post-indictment plea offer would not be as beneficial to Ms. Roibal-Bradley. [CV Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2]. Mr. Bowles further states that he requested that the government allow Ms. Roibal-Bradley to plead to a misdemeanor charge, which the government refused to do, and that Ms. Roibal-Bradley rejected the pre-indictment plea offer because she did not wish to plead to a felony charge. [CV Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2].

         This account is supported by emails exchanged between Ms. Roibal-Bradley and Mr. Bowles. In writing to Mr. Bowles, Ms. Roibal-Bradley expressed her concerns about pleading to multiple felony offenses but stated that she would be willing to plead to a misdemeanor charge. [CV Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17]. Mr. Bowles advised Ms. Roibal-Bradley that in his opinion, it was extremely unlikely that a misdemeanor plea would be offered and suggested that they seek a pretrial diversion instead of an indictment. [CV Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17].

         Based on Mr. Bowles affidavit, the relevant portions of which are supported by his correspondence with Ms. Roibal-Bradley, I conclude that Ms. Roibal-Bradley has failed to satisfy the Strickland “reasonableness” test relative to Mr. Bowles representation during the pre-indictment plea negotiations. However, even if Ms. Roibal-Bradley could show that Mr. Bowles’ representation during the pre-indictment plea negotiations was so deficient that it fell below the objective standard of reasonableness, she is not entitled to habeas relief because she cannot demonstrate that she would have received a lesser sentence had she taken the pre-indictment plea offer.

         a. The Plea Agreement

          The plea agreement that Ms. Roibal-Bradley ultimately made with the government required her to plead guilty to one count of failure to disclose an event affecting a continued right to SSA Benefits Payments, 42');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 U.S.C. § 408(a)(4) as charged in count one of the indictment, and twelve counts of wire fraud, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18 U.S.C. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">134');">343, as charged in counts 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2 - 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13 of the indictment. [CV Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">29');">p. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">29; CR Doc. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-4]. Recognizing that at least 6 offense level enhancements were appropriate based on the offense conduct, [CR Doc. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">29, pp. 6-8], the parties agreed that “a specific sentence of no more than 39 months” was the appropriate sentence and the Court would be bound by that limit if it accepted the Plea Agreement. [CR Doc. 2');">2');">2');">2');">2');">2' ...


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