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Strautmanis v. United States

December 8, 2009

VINCENT STRAUTMANIS, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, U.S.D.J.

Opinion & Order

Petitioner Vincent Strautmanis ("Petitioner"), acting pro se, brings this petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("Section 2255"), asking the Court to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence on the grounds that: (1) his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance; (2) his guilty plea was unlawfully coerced; and (3) the Government failed to produce certain discovery material.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Petitioner's habeas corpus petition.

I. Background

On February 3, 2004, a grand jury in the Southern District of New York indicted Petitioner and three co-defendants on a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344. The indictment charged that in August 2001, Petitioner, who was a registered agent of Weatherly Securities Corporation., opened an account at Weatherly Securities in the fictitious name of Alan Winston (the "Winston Account"). According to the indictment, one of Petitioner's co-conspirators who worked at JP Morgan Chase Bank then transferred approximately $950,000 from JP Morgan to the Winston Account. Two weeks later, Petitioner transferred the money into two different accounts in Jamaica, which were controlled by another co-conspirator. That co-conspirator then issued a $50,000 check to Petitioner.

On March 31, 2005, Petitioner pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. At his plea hearing, Petitioner stated that in 2001 he had become acquainted socially with an individual named Robert Cassens. At Cassens' request and direction, Petitioner had prepared a letter on the letterhead of Wall Street Capital Partners, LP, a company Petitioner owned, stating that Petitioner had known Alan Winston for three years, and that Winston had a substantial account with the company. In fact, Petitioner explained at his hearing, he did not know anyone named Alan Winston. Petitioner stated that Cassens used the letter to create false credit for Winston.

Petitioner explained that he then opened the Winston Account, and that several days later, $950,000 was wired into the Account and then wired in two installments to accounts in Winston's name in Jamaica. Several weeks later, Petitioner received $50,000 from Cassens. A year later, Cassens told Petitioner that the United States Attorney's office was questioning him about the transfer, and that Cassens was trying to protect Petitioner. Petitioner stated that he participated with Cassens in trying to concoct a story to conceal their activities. At his plea hearing, Petitioner stated that he knew his conduct was wrong and that it was undertaken to assist Cassens in illegal activities. He also admitted that at the time he received money from Cassens, he knew that it had been obtained improperly, and that he later learned the money was stolen from JP Morgan.

In his plea agreement, Petitioner agreed not to ask the Court for a sentence outside of the stipulated Sentencing Guidelines range of thirty-seven to forty-six months.

On September 21, 2005, this Court sentenced Petitioner to twelve months and one day in prison. Petitioner did not appeal.

In December 2005, Petitioner sent a letter to the Court suggesting that his guilty plea may not have been voluntary. In the letter, Petitioner stated that he had pled guilty only because his lawyer had told him that he would likely be found guilty and could receive an eight-year sentence. Petitioner also claimed that an "original" version of the letter he wrote for Cassens existed, which the Government had not produced. Petitioner indicated that the original letter was less incriminating than the version produced. In addition, Petitioner asserted that the Government had failed to produce certain audio tapes to him until forty-eight hours before his plea bargaining deadline, and that the Assistant U.S. Attorney had pressured him to plead guilty by telling him that if he did not plead, the Government would file additional charges against him, which could result in an eight-year sentence.

On December 29, 2005, the Court held a hearing to address Petitioner's letter. At the hearing, Petitioner stated that he had not appealed his sentence because he had not heard the Court's instructions at sentencing about his right to appeal. Petitioner asserted that he was hard-of-hearing and that his counsel had not informed him of his appeal rights. The Court informed Petitioner that because his deadline to appeal had passed, he could challenge his sentence only through a habeas corpus petition pursuant to Section 2255.

On April 3, 2006, Petitioner filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Petitioner requests that the Court vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence on the grounds that: (1) his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance; (2) his guilty plea was unlawfully coerced; and (3) the Government failed to produce certain discovery material.

II. Analysis

A. Section 2255's Requirement of an ...


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