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Gonzalez v. United States

July 6, 2007

WILLIAM GONZALEZ, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gerard E. Lynch, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

On May 5, 2005, this Court sentenced William Gonzalez to 120 months in prison on his plea of guilty to charges of conspiring to import narcotics into the United States. He now moves pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate his sentence, arguing (1) that the Court "failed to advise [him of] his right to jury-trial determinations on drug amount beyond a reasonable doubt before application of a mandatory minimum sentence," (2) that his attorney was ineffective by "failing to object" to the Court's failure so to advise him, and (3) that trial counsel was ineffective by "failing to object/dispute drug amount responsibility . . . and/or [dispute whether defendant was] reasonably capable of providing" the alleged quantities of narcotics. (Pet. ¶ 12, A-C.)

The motion will be summarily dismissed pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts, because "the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255; see also Cephas v. Nash, 328 F.3d 98, 103 (2d Cir. 2003) (noting propriety of such dismissals).

I. Adequacy of Guilty Plea Allocution

The transcript of Gonzalez's guilty plea allocution conclusively refutes his first claim. The Court explicitly advised defendant that he had a right to plead not guilty to the charges against him, and that if he did plead not guilty, he would be entitled "to a speedy and public trial by jury on those charges," at which the government would be required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the unanimous satisfaction of the jury. (9/14/04 Tr. 8.)

The Court then informed Gonzalez of the charges against him. After describing the charges in a general way, the Court proceeded to inform him about "the elements of those offenses. That means that these are the things the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt if you went to trial." (Id. 10-11, emphasis added.) After defining the nature of conspiracy, the objects of the charged conspiracy, and the requirement of knowing and intentional membership, the Court went on to note that "the government would have to prove," with respect to Count One, "that the purpose of the criminal conspiracy was to import . . . one kilogram or more of heroin and five kilograms or more of cocaine," with respect to Count Two, "that the object of the agreement was to distribute within the United States one kilogram or more of heroin and five kilograms or more of cocaine," and with respect to Count Three, "that the purpose of the agreement was to distribute within the United States some quantity of the drug known as MDMA or Ecstasy." (Id. 11.) Gonzalez stated that he understood the Court's explanation. (Id. 12.)

The Court further advised defendant of the mandatory minimum terms that applied: "the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment on Counts One and Two is 10 years and there is a mandatory minimum term of supervised release of five years on those two counts. On Count Three . . . there is a mandatory minimum supervised release term of three years." (Id. 14.) The Court explained that, where mandatory minimum sentences existed, "even if I wanted to, I would not be allowed to sentence you to less than the minimum." (Id.) Defendant stated that he understood the mandatory minimum punishments in his case. (Id.)

Thus, the Court straightforwardly advised Gonzalez that the mandatory minimum sentences applied only if he was convicted of the offenses charged, that the offenses charged required as an element particular quantities and types of narcotics, and that the defendant was entitled to a jury trial at which all elements would have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of the jury. Accordingly, the record "conclusively show[s] that the prisoner is entitled to no relief" on the first ground of his petition, 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

II. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel at Guilty Plea

Since the defendant was fully advised, there was nothing for defense counsel to object to, and petitioner's second ground is therefore equally without merit.

III. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel at Sentencing

Gonzalez's third ground is that he received ineffective assistance from his attorney at sentencing, because counsel "failed to object/dispute drug amount responsibility and the application of the mandatory minimum of 10 years under US v. Martinez and/or not reasonably capable of providing under USSG § 2D1.1(12)." (Pet. ¶ 12C.) Although the argument is not entirely clear, Gonzalez seems to raise two contentions.

First, the reference to "US v. Martinez" appears to invoke United States v. Martinez, 987 F.2d 920 (2d Cir. 1993), in which the Second Circuit held that, when "an individual is charged with a wide-ranging conspiracy in which he only played a small part," id. at 924, the mandatory minimum sentences under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) only applies to the extent the Court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that he "knew or reasonably should have known" about that quantum of narcotics. Id. at 926. Second, the reference to "USSG § 2D1.1(12)" appears to invoke Application Note 12 to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1, which provides that, where an offense involves agreement to sell a controlled substance, "the agreed-upon quantity of the controlled substance shall be used to determine the offense level" (with exceptions not pertinent here) unless "the defendant establishes that [he] . . . was not reasonably capable of providing . . . the agreed-upon quantity of the controlled substance."

Since, on the facts before the Court at the time of sentencing, neither of these rules could have benefitted Gonzalez, counsel's failure to raise these particular ...


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