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United States v. Good

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

May 18, 2017

JACOB GOOD, Defendant.


          Joseph F. Bataillon Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on the defendant's motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Filing No. 64.

         The defendant was convicted, after a guilty plea, of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a methamphetamine mixture in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B), and use of a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Filing No. 62, Judgment. The drug distribution conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, with a maximum of forty years, and the weapons charges carries a mandatory minimum consecutive sentence of five years.

         In his § 2255 motion, the defendant alleges his conviction was obtained pursuant to an unconstitutional search and seizure. He also alleges ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to challenge the search. He states that law enforcement officers searched a lockbox without a warrant or permission to search.

         The record shows that, in a binding plea agreement under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), the defendant agreed to a sentence of 120 months. Filing No. 33, Plea Agreement at 4. In the plea agreement, he further stated he “knowingly and expressly waive[d] any and all rights to appeal [his] conviction and sentence” and his right to contest the conviction and sentence in any post-conviction proceeding, except for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. at 5. The plea agreement also set out the following factual basis for the plea:

On December 19, 2015, officers arrived at a QuikTrip gas station at 1311 Fort Crook Road North. Officers made contact with Good who was with another individual identified as Melissa Halbert. Officers learned that Good had two active misdemeanor warrants out of Douglas County. Officers arrested Good. After Officers arrested Good, a canine was deployed around his vehicle, a red Honda Civic. The canine alerted to the vehicle. Officers searched the car and found a safe. Inside the safe, officers located a Ziploc baggie containing 117 grams of methamphetamine. The substance in the baggie field tested positive for methamphetamine. Officers also found a digital scale and small baggies in the safe.
In addition, Officers found a loaded Ruger .357 Magnum revolver in the Honda Civic between the driver's seat and the center console. In a post-Miranda interview with officers, Good admitted to selling methamphetamine. Good also confirmed he knew the gun was in the car and that he had it for protection.

Filing No. 33, Plea Agreement at 2. The record shows that no motion to suppress was filed.

         On September 15, 2016, on a government motion for a downward departure for substantial assistance, Good was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 72 months- 12 months on the drug trafficking count and 60 months, consecutive, on the weapons charge. Id. At sentencing, the court accepted and adopted the guilty plea and the plea agreement. Filing No. 59, text minutes. The defendant did not appeal and he filed this motion to vacate on February 16, 2017. Filing No. 64, Motion to Vacate.

         Under the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts (“2255 Rules”), the court must perform an initial review of the defendant's § 2255 motion. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Rule 4(b). The rules provide that 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 court must dismiss the motion. Id.

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), there is a one-year statute of limitations on motions by prisoners seeking to modify, vacate or correct their federal sentences. Johnson v. United States, 544 U.S. 295, 299 (2005). Generally, that year begins to run from “the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1). When a defendant does not file an appeal, his conviction becomes final when the period in which to file an appeal expires. Anjulo- Lopez v. United States, 541 F.3d 814, 816 (8th Cir. 2008).In a criminal case, a notice of appeal must be filed within 14 days of the entry of judgment. Fed. R. App. P. 4(b)(1)(A)(I).

         “A petitioner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on a section 2255 motion unless the motion and the files and the records of the case conclusively show that he is entitled to no relief.” Anjulo-Lopez, 541 F.3d at 817 (internal quotation marks omitted). However, an evidentiary hearing need not be held if the movant's “allegations cannot be accepted as true because they are contradicted by the record, inherently incredible or conclusions rather than statements of fact.” Delgado v. United States, 162 F.3d 981, 983 (8th Cir. 1998).

         The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has long recognized that a defendant may waive his or her right to appeal, and has also acknowledged that a defendant may waive his or her right to post-conviction relief. DeRoo v. United States, 223 F.3d 919, 923 (8th Cir. 2000). Such a waiver, however, has its limitations. Id.“A defendant's plea agreement waiver of the right to seek section 2255 post-conviction relief does not waive defendant's right to argue, pursuant to that section, that the decision to enter into the plea was not knowing and voluntary because it was the result of ineffective assistance of counsel.” Id. at 924; see Jones v. United States, 167 F.3d 1142, 1145 (7th Cir. 1999) (“Justice dictates that a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with the negotiation of a cooperation agreement cannot be barred by the agreement itself-the very product of the alleged ineffectiveness.”). Even in circumstances where the defendant signed a written plea agreement waiving his right to file for post-conviction relief, he may nevertheless petition the court for post-conviction relief based on the ineffective assistance of counsel, but only “when the defendant's claims of ineffective assistance relate to the negotiation of, and entry into, the plea agreement and waiver.” DeRoo, 223 F.3d at 924. The chief virtues of a plea agreement of speed, economy, and finality “are promoted by waivers of collateral appeal rights as much as by waivers of direct appeal rights. Waivers preserve the finality of judgments and sentences, and are of value to the accused to gain concessions from the government.” Id. at 923.However, “the decision to be bound by the provisions of the plea agreement, including the waiver provisions, must be knowing and voluntary.” Id.

         “The general rule is that a valid guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional defects.” United States v. Beck,250 F.3d 1163, 1166 (8th Cir. 2001); see also Smith v. United States,876 F.2d 655, 657 (8th Cir. 1989) (stating a defendant waives all challenges to his prosecution except those related to the district court's jurisdiction by pleading guilty, including claims related to searches and seizures). An unconditional guilty plea precludes a ...

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