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Juan Cuevas v. United States of America

February 22, 2013

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



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul A. Engelmayer, District Judge:

OPINION & ORDER

Petitioner Juan Cuevas, proceeding pro se, brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus (the "Petition") pursuant to Section 2255 of Title 28 of the United States Code. In support of his Petition, Cuevas raises the following arguments: (1) that the district court's questioning of him during his plea allocution was improper, see Pet. 21--22; Objections 3--6, 13; and (2) that Cuevas was prejudiced by ineffective assistance of counsel, see Pet. 1--20; Objections 11--22. For the reasons set forth below, the Court agrees with the August 16, 2012 Report and Recommendation of the Honorable Gabriel W. Gorenstein, United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 18. The Court therefore denies Cuevas's Petition.

I.Background and Facts*fn1

Cuevas is currently incarcerated at the Allenwood Federal Correctional Institution in White Deer, Pennsylvania. On October 4, 2002, he pled guilty before the Honorable Jed S.

Rakoff, United States District Judge, to a three-count indictment for: (1) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 812, 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A); (2) conspiracy to commit money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(A)(i), 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), 1957(a); and (3) money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and 1956(a)(2). Cuevas was initially sentenced to 390 months and a term of five years of supervised release on Count One of the Indictment, and to concurrent terms of 20 years each on Counts Two and Three. See Dkt. 147, No. 98 Cr. 1053.

Cuevas appealed that sentence, arguing that his plea had not been entered into voluntarily. See Dkt. 171, No. 98 Cr. 1053. In support of this claim, he argued that the extradition treaty between the United States and the Dominican Republic, under which he had been brought to the United States after his indictment, provided for a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years. Thus, Cuevas contended, his sentence was in violation of that treaty, and, because he had not been informed of the treaty at the time of his plea, his plea had not been entered into voluntarily. The Second Circuit remanded the case for the district court to determine "whether the United States and the Dominican Republic reached an agreement as to the sentence that could be imposed upon Cuevas." United States v. Cuevas, 112 F. App'x 806, 806--07 (2d Cir. 2004).

Subsequently, the district court held that Cuevas's sentence was lawful. See United States v. Cuevas, 402 F. Supp. 2d 504, 507--08 (S.D.N.Y. 2005). Judge Rakoff held that the United States had never agreed to the 30-year limitation, and had not even been aware of that condition until Cuevas and his co-defendant were in its custody. He also found that the Dominican Republic had not objected to Cuevas's sentence. Upon appeal once more, the Second Circuit affirmed Judge Rakoff's finding as to the treaty and rejected Cuevas's argument that his guilty plea had been involuntary. See United States v. Cuevas, 496 F.3d 256, 264 (2d Cir. 2007). Because Cuevas had been sentenced before United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), however, the Second Circuit remanded the case once again to Judge Rakoff, pursuant to United States v. Crosby, 397 F.3d 103 (2d Cir. 2005). See Cuevas, 496 F.3d at 256.

At the resentencing, Judge Rakoff reduced Cuevas's sentence to 360 months. See Dkt. 199, No. 98 Cr. 1053. Cuevas appealed once more, see Dkts. 200 & 201, No. 98 Cr. 1053, and the Second Circuit summarily affirmed the district court. See Mandate, Dkt. 207, No. 98 Cr. 1053.

II.Procedural History

On August 6, 2010, Cuevas filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Dkt. 1, which he later amended, Dkts. 5 & 6. On February 3, 2011, Judge Rakoff, to whom this case was then assigned, referred the case to Judge Gorenstein for a Report & Recommendation ("Report & Rec."). Dkt. 3. On September 30, 2011, the case was reassigned to this Court. Dkt. 7. Judge Gorenstein issued a Report & Recommendation on August 16, 2012. Dkt. 18. On September 26, 2012, Cuevas filed his objections to the Report & Recommendation ("Objections"). Dkt. 21. On December 17, 2012, the Court received from Cuevas a proposed "Supplemental Petition." Dkt. 23.

III.Applicable Legal Standards

A.Legal Framework

A petition under Section 2255 of Title 28 of the United States Code may be filed when:

[a] prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claim[s] the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess ...


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