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Antwone Chapman v. United States of America

August 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court



Petitioner, Antwone Chapman, moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence and conviction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons discussed below, this Court finds a hearing on this motion unnecessary and denies Chapman's motion.*fn1


On October 23, 2009, before United States Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott, Chapman entered into an agreement with the Government in which he agreed to plea guilty to Count Three of Indictment 09-CR-86S, which charged him with possessing 50 grams or more of cocaine base with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Pursuant to Rule 20(a)(1)-(2) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Chapman also agreed to plea guilty to Count 1 of Indictment CR NO. 6-09-557,*fn2 which was filed in the District of South Carolina. That Count charged him with (1) participating in conspiracy to make a false statement in connection with the acquisition of firearms and (2) illegally transporting firearms in commerce, both in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.

The parties further agreed, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), that, if the plea were accepted by this Court, Chapman would be sentenced to a 180-month term of imprisonment. (Plea Agreement, ¶ 18; Docket No. 4); see Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C) ("[T]he plea agreement may specify that an attorney for the government will . . . agree that a specific sentence or sentencing range is the appropriate disposition of the case . . . (such a recommendation or request binds the court once the court accepts the plea agreement)") (parenthesis in original). According to the Government, the 15-year sentence potentially saved Chapman eight years from his sentence, as the Government agreed to refrain from filing a 21 U.S.C. § 851 Information (which would have increased his exposure by 10 years) if Chapman took the plea.*fn3

At his plea hearing, Chapman indicated that he understood the agreement:

THE COURT: You understand that there is a combination of these terms, but they are to run consecutively. It's a 120-month term related to the charge that emanates from this District, and a 60-month term that relates to the charges in South Carolina? THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: To run one after the other. Do you understand that?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes. (Plea Hr'g Tr., at 29-30; Docket No. 7.)

He also indicated that he was not coerced into taking the plea:

THE COURT: Has anyone threatened you, again, pressured you or promised you anything to get you to plead guilty here?

THE DEFENDANT: No, Your Honor. (Id., at 16.)

Judge Scott, convinced that Chapman's plea was satisfactory, recommended that this Court accept the plea. (Docket No. 10.)

At some point thereafter, however, Chapman grew uneasy about the plea agreement, and this Court convened the parties on January 19, 2010 to discuss Chapman's concerns. At that proceeding, Chapman indicated that he was unhappy with his retained attorney, Thomas Eoannou, for being unresponsive to his calls, sending Eoannou's partner-Jeremy Schwartz-to court proceedings, and providing Chapman with insufficient time to consider the plea. (1/19/10 Hr'g Tr., at 5-8; Docket No. 34) Chapman also indicated that he signed the plea agreement hastily:

THE DEFENDANT: Even when I signed that plea, I didn't think about it, because it happened so fast, I wanted to say like I wanted to plea to like unknown charges. There was a lot of things that was on my mind I couldn't think of at that time. So I just -- like it was kind of unfair to me, that's all. (Id., at 9.)

This Court held a second proceeding regarding Chapman's concerns the next month, on February 9, 2010. There, considering Chapman's frustrations with his attorneys, this Court appointed another attorney to help him resolve any lingering doubts about the plea agreement-in essence, to get a "second opinion." That exchange went as follows:

THE COURT: So you will get the benefit of being able to work with another attorney to clear up any issues that you think you have with that plea agreement, and that meeting with that attorney will be with out the presence of Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Bruce, so that you'll have free opportunity to at least address what your concerns are. And I'll get a report back here, and then -- at least that's my plan right now, to see how we will proceed after that. Fair enough?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir. (2/9/10 Hr'g Tr., at 6; Docket No. 37)

Chapman and his newly assigned attorney, Robert Convissar, reported back to this Court on March 16, 2010. Convissar informed this Court that, after reviewing all the materials and having a two-and-a-half-hour discussion with him, Chapman was satisfied with the agreement. This Court inquired further and Chapman affirmed that position:

THE COURT: So you're comfortable with where you stand now, Mr. Chapman?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, your Honor.

THE COURT: All right. And it was of assistance to you to have Mr. Convissar get together and try to address what your concerns were?

THE DEFENDANT: Very much. It was a very - a blessing. Thank you. (3/16/12 Hr'g Tr., at 5; Docket No. 21.)

On July 20, 2010, this Court accepted Judge Scott's Report and Recommendation and Chapman's Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea; in accordance with the plea, this Court sentenced Chapman to a term of imprisonment of 180 months. (See Judgment; Docket No. 27.) Shortly thereafter, Chapman filed a timely notice of appeal. (Docket No. 28.) But on January 20, 2011, the Second Circuit dismissed the appeal for failure to pay the filing fee. (Docket No. 31.) Chapman filed the present motion on July 18, 2011; the Government moved to dismiss it two months later on September 27, 2011. (Docket No. 35.)

On November 10, 2011, however, Chapman filed a letter with this Court (dated October 19, 2011), stating that he wanted to "withdraw my [2255] complaint with the understanding that I[']m working on getting my prior conviction vacated." (Chapman Letter; Docket No. 44.) He continued, "Overall[,] I would like to withdraw as of now[;] if that's not an option[,] then [I'm] asking the court for an extension on my response [to the Government's motion to dismiss]." (Id.)

On November 21, 2011, considering the applicable statute of limitations and Chapman's pro se status, this Court granted his letter-motion insofar as he sought an extension of time to reply to the Government's motion to dismiss. (Docket ...

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