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Lebron v. United States

April 18, 2007

JUAN LEBRON, PETITIONER
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shirley Wohl Kram, U.S.D.J.

OPINION AND ORDER

On February 4, 2004, the petitioner pro se, Juan Lebron ("Lebron"), pleaded guilty to one count of felony possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). The Court sentenced Lebron to the statutory minimum of 180 months' imprisonment on May 5, 2004. Although Lebron did not appeal from his conviction and sentence, he filed a petition for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which was received by the Court on June 30, 2006. In the petition, Lebron claims that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective and that his guilty plea was not competent, knowing, and voluntary. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Lebron's petition in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 7, 2003, a grand jury sitting in the Southern District of New York indicted Lebron on one count of possessing a firearm after being convicted of three separate crimes punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year. The indictment arose out of an altercation involving Lebron and another man. During a consensual search of Lebron's home, police officers recovered a loaded firearm, which Lebron admitted he had brandished during the altercation. After Lebron was placed under arrest, the other party involved in the altercation identified him as the culprit. During a subsequent police interview conducted that same day, Lebron again confirmed that he had brandished a firearm.

After Lebron's indictment, his counsel, Isabelle Kirshner ("Kirshner"), raised concerns regarding her client's competence to stand trial. Upon Kirshner's application, the Court appointed Dr. Sanford Drob ("Dr. Drob") to conduct a competency evaluation on June 19, 2003. Dr. Drob's report, which concluded that Lebron was competent to stand trial and that his state of mind was not impaired at the time he committed the offense in question, was submitted to the Court on November 19, 2003. (Tr. 2, Nov. 19, 2003.) Less than three months later, on February 4, 2004, Lebron pleaded guilty to the charged offense.

During Lebron's allocution, the Court conducted a thorough inquiry into: (1) his competence; (2) his understanding of the charges against him, the consequences of pleading guilty, and his rights; and (3) the voluntariness of his plea. The Court also reviewed the provisions of the plea agreement into which Lebron had entered (the "Plea Agreement"), whereby he waived his rights to appeal and collaterally attack a sentence at or below the fifteen-year statutory minimum. (Tr. 12, Feb. 4, 2004.) Moreover, at the Court's request, Lebron described his offense conduct. (Tr. 13, Feb. 4, 2004.) The Court then accepted Lebron's guilty plea. (Tr. 14, Feb. 4, 2004.)

On May 5, 2004, the Court sentenced Lebron to the statutory minimum of 180 months' imprisonment. (Tr. 4, May 5, 2004.) Now before the Court is Lebron's petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, seeking to vacate his conviction and sentence.

II. DISCUSSION

In his petition, Lebron raises two principal challenges to his conviction and sentence. First, he claims that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a notice of appeal, as he had requested. Second, he argues that his guilty plea was not made competently, knowingly, and voluntarily. Since Lebron is proceeding pro se, the Court must grant his papers a "liberal construction," reading them "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Green v. United States, 260 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001) (citations and quotation marks omitted). As set forth in the following sections, however, Lebron's § 2255 petition does not withstand scrutiny even when liberally construed. To the contrary, Lebron's petition is time barred because it was not filed within one year of the date his conviction became final. Moreover, Lebron's substantive claims are in any event meritless. Therefore, his petition is denied without a hearing.

A. Lebron's Petition Is Time Barred

Motions for relief under § 2255 must comply with that statute's one-year period of limitations. See Moshier v. United States, 402 F.3d 116, 118-19 (2d Cir. 2005); accord McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (procedural rules that apply to civil litigation cannot be interpreted "so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel"). The one-year limitations period runs from the latest of:

(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;

(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action;

(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or

(4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through ...


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