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Siraj v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. New York

August 30, 2013

Shahawar Matin SIRAJ, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent

Decided August 29, 2013.

Page 368

For Shahawar Matin Siraj, Petitioner: Robert J. Boyle, Robert J. Boyle, Esq., New York, NY.

For United States of America, Respondent: Marshall L. Miller, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorneys Office, Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, NY.

Page 369

OPINION AND ORDER

NINA GERSHON, United States District Judge.

Petitioner Shahawar Matin Siraj, through counsel, moves to vacate his conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Following a jury trial, petitioner was convicted of four conspiracy counts related to a scheme to commit a terrorist attack at the 34th Street-Herald Square subway station in Manhattan. This court sentenced Siraj to 30 years' imprisonment for his role in the conspiracy. Siraj's conviction was affirmed by opinion, in United States v. Siraj, 533 F.3d 99 (2d Cir. 2008), and summary order, United States v. Siraj, No. 07-0224-cr, 2008 WL 2675826 (2d Cir. July 9, 2008). The Supreme Court denied Siraj's petition for a writ of certiorari.

Page 370

Siraj v. United States, 555 U.S. 1200, 129 S.Ct. 1384, 173 L.Ed.2d 637 (2009).

Siraj now presents a single claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, alleging that his trial counsel failed to properly advise him during plea negotiations in two respects. Principally, Siraj asserts that he was not adequately advised that the defense of withdrawal from the conspiracy, a defense he believed was sound, was not a viable defense; had he been so advised, he says that he would have favorably considered a plea of guilty. Secondly, he argues that his lawyers' advice that the defense of entrapment had a " 50/50" chance of success at trial was an overestimate; once again, he says that he would have favorably considered pleading guilty to the charges had he known that this defense was less likely to succeed. Since the undisputed facts conclusively show that Siraj is entitled to no relief, the petition is denied without a hearing.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

A prisoner held in federal custody may " move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). To obtain relief under section 2255, a petitioner must establish that the sentenced imposed was, among other grounds, " in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States." Id. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to effective assistance of counsel at all " critical stages of a criminal proceeding," United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 226, 87 S.Ct. 1926, 18 L.Ed.2d 1149 (1967), including during the plea-bargaining process, see, e.g., Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 373, 130 S.Ct. 1473, 1486, 176 L.Ed.2d 284 (2010). While a criminal defendant " has no right to be offered a plea . . . nor a federal right that the judge accept it," Missouri v. Frye, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 1399, 1410, 182 L.Ed.2d 379 (2012), " [i]f a plea bargain has been offered, a defendant has the right to effective assistance of counsel in considering whether to accept it," Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 1376, 1387, 182 L.Ed.2d 398 (2012). See also Gonzalez v. United States, 722 F.3d 118, 2013 WL 3455501, at * 11-12 (2d Cir. 2013).

Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in the plea context, like other ineffectiveness claims, are governed by the familiar standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). See Frye, 132 S.Ct. at 1405 (citing Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 106 S.Ct. 366, 88 L.Ed.2d 203 (1985)). To succeed on such a claim, a petitioner must first " show that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness," that is, that " counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the 'counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-88. To provide constitutionally adequate representation during plea negotiations, a lawyer must generally advise the client of any offer that the government extends, Frye, 132 S.Ct. at 1408 (citing Pham v. United States, 317 F.3d 178, 183 (2d Cir. 2003)); outline " the strengths and weaknesses of the case against him," Purdy v. United States, 208 F.3d 41, 45 (2d Cir. 2000); and provide an estimate of the defendant's sentencing exposure at trial, id. ...


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