Tyrone Barnes, #62842-054, Federal Medical Center-Devens, Unit GB, Ayer, MA, Petitioner (Pro Se).
Amy Lester, Telemachus Kasulis, Assistant United States Attorneys, New York, NY, for Respondent.
Benjamin Heinrich, Esq., Benjamin Heinrich, P.C., Bronx, NY, Petitioner's Former Counsel.
OPINION AND ORDER
SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.
On July 21, 2011, pro se petitioner Tyrone Barnes ("Barnes" or "petitioner") was sentenced to 210 months of imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin (Count One) and possession with intent to distribute heroin (Count Two). Barnes appealed his sentence to the Second Circuit which affirmed this Court's judgment on June 11, 2012. Barnes now moves to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, section 2255 ("section 2255"). In his Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody (the "Motion"), Barnes alleges that his trial attorney: (1) misjudged Barnes' sentencing exposure, first leading him to reject pleading guilty prior to trial and, then, convincing him to plead guilty mid-trial without the benefit of a plea agreement; (2) failed in the filing, preparation, and investigation of the suppression hearing in the criminal case; and (3) suffered from financial difficulties that adversely affected his ability to represent Barnes. For the reasons set forth below, Barnes' section 2255 Motion is denied.
A. Offense Conduct and Procedural History
1. The Charges
Indictment 09 CR 1053 (SAS) (the "Indictment") was filed in two counts. Count One charged Barnes with conspiring to distribute, and to possess with the intent to distribute, at least one kilogram of heroin in violation of Title 21, United States Code, section 846. Count Two charged Barnes with distributing, and possessing with the intent to distribute, a quantity of heroin in violation of Title 21, United States Code, sections 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C).
2. The Suppression Hearing
On March 3, 2010, this Court held a hearing on Barnes' motion to suppress a quantity of heroin seized from his car on October 14, 2009. At the suppression hearing, Barnes was represented by Benjamin Heinrich. In his affirmation filed in support of Barnes' motion to suppress, Heinrich argued that the police officers who stopped Barnes' car and arrested him lacked probable cause to do so. Heinrich further argued that the warrantless search of Barnes' car, which resulted in the seizure of heroin, was conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
At the hearing, the Government called two New York City Police Department ("NYPD'") officers who stopped Barnes' car and arrested him. The testimony of the police officers established that they had stopped Barnes' car after learning from another individual that it had been involved in a car accident a few moments earlier. The officers arrested Barnes because of his involvement in the hit-and-run accident. Prior to the hearing, the Government produced the 3500 material for the two police officers, which included an NYPD accident report completed by one of the officers.
At the hearing, Heinrich cross-examined both officers extensively on their reasons for stopping Barnes and placing him under arrest. The Court heard oral argument from Heinrich and the Government on the legal and factual issues that were the subject of the hearing. After hearing the evidence and the parties' arguments, I denied Barnes' motion to suppress, finding that the officers had probable cause to arrest Barnes which, in turn, validated the search of Barnes' car.
3. The Trial and Guilty Plea
The evidence at trial - which ended when Barnes pled guilty after only three witnesses testified against him - proved conclusively that Barnes possessed a quantity of heroin on October 14, 2009, when he was involved in a minor traffic accident with a livery cab in the Bronx, New York. The Government's proof consisted of (1) the testimony of the livery cab driver; (2) the testimony of the two police officers who testified at the suppression hearing; (3) heroin that the officers seized from Barnes' car; (4) two gravity knives recovered from Barnes; and (5) nearly $500 in cash recovered from Barnes.
On October 14, 2009, Barnes was stopped in the Bronx by two NYPD officers shortly after he had a traffic accident involving a livery cab. As Barnes got out of his car and approached the officers, one officer noticed that he had a gravity knife in his pocket. The officers then arrested Barnes and discovered two packages of heroin in the front seat of his car. Following Barnes' arrest, the officers found a second gravity knife as well as $470 in cash in his possession. While the officers were transporting Barnes to the police precinct, he boasted that this was a small arrest. Had the officers arrested him the day before, they would have seized one-hundred "bundles" of heroin from him.
The trial concluded on June 9, 2010, when Barnes indicated that he wished to plead guilty. Barnes pled guilty to both counts of the Indictment without a plea agreement. Prior to trial, however, the Government provided Barnes with a Pimentel letter,  setting forth the Government's position regarding the application ...