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United States v. Stansall

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

October 26, 2016



          John M. Gerrard United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court upon initial review of the pro se motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (filing 56) filed by the defendant, Michael S. Stansall. The motion was timely filed less than 1 year after the defendant's conviction became final. See § 2255(f). The Court's initial review is governed by Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts, which provides:

The judge who receives the motion must promptly examine it. If it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief, the judge must dismiss the motion and direct the clerk to notify the moving party. If the motion is not dismissed, the judge must order the United States attorney to file an answer, motion, or other response within a fixed time, or to take other action the judge may order.

         A § 2255 movant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing unless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the movant is entitled to no relief. § 2255(b); Sinisterra v. United States, 600 F.3d 900, 906 (8th Cir. 2010). Accordingly, a motion to vacate under § 2255 may be summarily dismissed without a hearing if (1) the movant's allegations, accepted as true, would not entitle the movant to relief, or (2) the allegations cannot be accepted as true because they are contradicted by the record, inherently incredible, or conclusions rather than statements of fact. Engelen v. United States, 68 F.3d 238, 240 (8th Cir. 1995); see also Sinisterra, 600 F.3d at 906.


         The defendant pled guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, of one count of knowingly transporting a minor in interstate commerce intending to engage in unlawful sexual activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a). Filing 16 at 1; filing 37 at 1; filing 38. The plea agreement stipulated, pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C), that the defendant would receive a sentence of 120 months' imprisonment. Filing 38 at 3. The plea agreement also set forth the factual basis for the plea, and stipulated that by signing it, the defendant was certifying that he had read the agreement and fully understood it. Filing 38 at 2, 7. The defendant signed the agreement. Filing 38 at 7.

         At his change of plea hearing, the defendant testified, under oath, that he had read the plea agreement and that his counsel had explained it to him. Filing 42 at 5. He was asked if he was satisfied with his counsel, and he said he was. Filing 42 at 7. And the factual basis for the plea was again provided. Because the factual basis for the plea is important to the defendant's postconviction arguments, the Court will set it forth in detail. The government explained that:

If the case were to proceed to trial, evidence, including the following, would be introduced:
That on or about June 7th of 2013, here in the District of Nebraska, a 13-year-old female with the initials J.M. met the Defendant, Mr. Stansall, who at that time was age 22, and three other persons in North Platte, Nebraska. And that the 13-year-old female traveled with the Defendant and three other persons via automobile to a residence in a rural area near Wray, Colorado.
Evidence would further show that the Defendant and the 13-year-old female remained at the rural Colorado residence overnight, and that at some time after dinner the female began to feel ill and had a headache. She went to bed, and at some time during the night she awoke and observed the Defendant sitting on a couch where she had been sleeping. He was dressed in his underwear shorts with an erection, rubbing the girl's inner thigh with his hand. She went back to sleep and awoke the following morning and discovered the Defendant lying behind her on the couch spooning her. Both were fully clothed -- or were clothed. I believe both had undergarments on. When the 13-year-old female got up, she did not feel well, had a soreness in her abdomen and vaginal area.
During interviews with the 13-year-old female with law enforcement after she returned to Nebraska, she told the law enforcement officer she has no memory of having sexual intercourse with the Defendant Stansall. However, after the Defendant and the girl awoke, the Defendant asked her how she liked the sex they had had the previous evening, and when the girl told the Defendant she hadn't -- had no memory and didn't remember having sex the previous night, the Defendant told her how funny it was, because if anyone asked her if they had engaged in sexual relations, she would not be able to answer or have any recollection.
Evidence would further show that the 13-year-old female and the Defendant were located in Wray, Colorado, during the, I believe, morning hours of June 8th of 2013. The 13-year-old was taken to the Bridge of Hope facility in North Platte, Nebraska, where an examination was performed and found bruising and tearing, which the examining nurse and attending physician stated were consistent with the 13-year-old having engaged in sexual intercourse within the previous 48 to 72 hours. No semen was located. No DNA sample was taken.

Filing 42 at 17-18.

         The defendant's counsel agreed that if the case went to trial, that evidence would go before the jury. Filing 42 at 19. The defendant was asked if the factual basis was true. Filing 42 at 19. The defendant said that he had "memory problems" and that "[f]rom the evidence" he believed he had committed the crime, but did not remember it. Filing 42 at 19-21. The defendant said that he wanted the Court to accept his plea. Filing 42 at 22. And the Court did so. Filing 43.

         The stipulated 120-month sentence was, in fact, the mandatory minimum. § 2423(a). The presentence report, and the Court, found the defendant's Guidelines sentencing range to be 130-162 months. Filing 50 at 23; filing 54 at 1. But the Court accepted the parties' plea agreement, filing 54 at 4, and sentenced the defendant to a term of 120 months' imprisonment, filing 53 at 2.


         The defendant claims that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective. Specifically, he claims that his counsel was ineffective in (1) misinforming him that there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction, (2) coercing him to plead guilty, (3) failing to inform him that he could withdraw his plea, (4) not ...

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