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Shane Albert Richards v. United States of America

September 1, 2011

SHANE ALBERT RICHARDS, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harold Baer, Jr., District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Pro se petitioner, Shane Albert Richards ("Petitioner"), brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus to vacate, set aside, or correct his federal criminal sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Petitioner is currently serving a term of 30 months in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons at Fort Dix, New Jersey, having pled guilty to one count of illegal re-entry into the United States following a conviction for an aggravated felony in violation of 8 U.S.C. §§ 1326 (a) & (b)(2). Upon release from imprisonment, Petitioner will be on supervised release for a term of 3 years. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.

I.Background

Petitioner was convicted on September 29, 1995 in the Superior Court of California, San Bernadino County, for the possession of marijuana for sale in violation of California Health and Safety Code § 11359. As a result of his conviction, Petitioner was removed from the United States on August 27, 1996 under the Immigration and Nationality Act (the "INA"), which dictates the deportation of an alien convicted of an aggravated felony. 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii).

On June 3, 2009 Defendant was indicted in the District Court of the Southern District of New York for unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly entering the United States as an alien, without the consent of the proper authorities, in violation of 8 U.S.C. §§ 1326(a) & (b)(2). Petitioner was convicted and sentenced in this Court on December 18, 2009, and appealed to the Second Circuit, which granted the Government's motion for summary affirmance on March 16, 2011. Petitioner filed this motion on February 18, 2011, requesting that his immigration status be restored to prior to May 14, 1996, at which time he was an alien who had overstayed his siX month authorization to remain in the United States, and that his conviction under § 1326(b)(2) be overturned.

II.Discussion

In a § 2255 motion, a petitioner must show that his or her sentence: "(1) was imposed in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the United States; or (2) was entered by a court without jurisdiction to impose the sentence; or (3) exceeded the maximum detention authorized by law; or (4) is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

Petitioner asserts (1) ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, (2) that his conviction and sentencing violated the double jeopardy rule of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, (3) that his deportation proceedings violated the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, (4) that the underlying conviction leading to his deportation was not aggravated, and therefore did not merit his removal, and (5) that because he was married to a U.S. citizen, he was eligible to adjust his immigration status and should not have been deported.

The Government responds (1) that Petitioner's guilty plea before this Court waived any non-jurisdictional defects in his conviction, (2) that Petitioner has alleged no facts to support his claim for ineffective assistance of counsel, (3) that Petitioner has failed to show any basis for challenging his underlying deportation proceeding, such that he cannot satisfy the mandates of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(d) limiting collateral attacks on underlying deportation orders, and (4) that there is nothing to suggest that Petitioner's aggravated felony conviction was unlawful or improper.

A. Effect of Petitioner's Guilty Plea

The Government correctly cites Supreme Court and Second Circuit precedent barring a defendant from bringing claims that challenge an underlying proceeding once he has pled guilty to the charge or charges against him. 06/01/2011 Mem. in Opp'n to Pet'r's Mot. to Vacate ("Opp'n Mem.") at 5; see Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 267 (1973) (establishing that when a defendant "has solemnly admitted in open court that he is in fact guilty of the offense with which he is charged, he may not thereafter raise independent claims relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea"); see also United States v. Perez, 330 Fed. Appx. 297, 299 (2d Cir. 2009) (holding that "[e]ven if [the defendant's] challenge to his conviction had substantive merit, he would be barred from bringing it now").

Although Petitioner is prohibited from contesting the underlying proceedings leading to his re-entry charge, he can challenge "whether [his] guilty plea had been intelligently and voluntarily made with the advice of competent counsel." United States v. Coffin, 76 F.3d 494, 497-98 (2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Tollett, 411 U.S. at 267); see also United States v. Blocker, 269 Fed. Appx. 117, 120 (2d Cir. 2008) (establishing that defendant's guilty plea "waived any constitutional challenges to the . . . charge that he may have had prior to entering into the plea, barring a challenge to the voluntary or intelligent nature of the plea itself"). Unless Petitioner can show that he pled guilty as a result of ineffective assistance of counsel, as he claims in this motion, he cannot dispute the constitutionality of his aggravated felony conviction and deportation and overturn his illegal re-entry conviction. For the reasons stated below, Petitioner cannot state a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel. Therefore, he is barred from bringing his remaining claims, which are also discussed and dismissed on independent grounds.

B.Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Petitioner brings a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel against Joseph Grob, his attorney before this Court. Although Petitioner does not make this allegation against Gerald Cobb, his California attorney, the Court ...


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