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Jenkins v. United States

United States District Court, Second Circuit

December 31, 2013

LEILA JENKINS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

Leila Jenkins, Petitioner/Defendant Pro Se.

Andrew D. Goldstein, United States Attorney Office, SDNY, Counsel for Respondent.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

WILLIAM H. PAULEY III, District Judge.

Petitioner pro se Leila Jenkins moves to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Jenkins claims (1) her guilty plea was not voluntary, (2) newly discovered evidence demonstrates her innocence, (3) the government failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, and (4) her counsel was ineffective. For the following reasons, Jenkins's motion seeking habeas relief is denied.

BACKGROUND

On November 9, 2011, Jenkins pled guilty to passport fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1542. At that time, she allocuted as follows: "In November 2009, I submitted an application for a U.S. passport. That application included some false identification information. I know I shouldn't have submitted it, and I'm very sorry and remorseful that I did, and I would like to take full total and complete responsibility for that action." (Tr. of Plea Allocution, dated Nov. 9, 2011 ("Plea Tr."), at 10.) Prior to her allocution, Magistrate Judge Francis advised Jenkins that if she pled to making false statements in connection with a passport application, she would be subject to a term of imprisonment of up to ten years and a maximum term of three years of supervised release. (Plea Tr. at 4.)

During the plea proceedings, the Government described the elements of a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1542: "[T]he first element is that the defendant made a false statement in an application for a United States passport. The second element is that the defendant made that statement intending to get a U.S. passport for her own use. And, third, that the defendant acted knowingly and willfully." (Plea Tr. at 9-10.) In a colloquy with Magistrate Judge Francis, Jenkins acknowledged her understanding that the Government would have to prove each of those elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict her. (Plea Tr. at 9-10.)

Following her plea, this Court expedited Jenkins's sentencing. At sentencing on January 4, 2012, this Court adopted without objection the findings of the Presentence Investigation Report that Jenkins had falsely stated on a passport application that the Government had never issued a passport to her, and that she had submitted a false Social Security number, a forged Social Security card, a false permanent address, and a forged birth certificate. (PSR ¶ 2.) This Court determined that the appropriate Guidelines range was six to twelve months' imprisonment. (Tr. of Sentencing Hr'g, dated Jan. 4, 2012 ("Sentencing Tr.") at 11.) Jenkins addressed the Court and reaffirmed her responsibility for her actions: "I continue to take full responsibility for what I've done.... For me to be in this position today of being guilty of a crime from the State Department is a horrible place for me to be.... I have so much remorse." (Sentencing Tr. at 10-11).

This Court sentenced Jenkins to time served-approximately 4.5 months' imprisonment-plus three years of supervised release, a non-Guidelines sentence. (Sentencing Tr. at 15.) Jenkins did not appeal.

Because Jenkins is proceeding pro se, this Court has an obligation to "read [her] supporting papers liberally, and... interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Burgos v. Hopkins , 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994).

DISCUSSION

"A motion under § 2255 is not a substitute for an appeal." Rosario v. United States , 164 F.3d 729, 732 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted). It is a "collateral attack on a final judgment[, ]" and relief is therefore only available when there has been "a constitutional error, a lack of jurisdiction in the sentencing court, or an error of law or fact that constitutes a fundamental defect which inherently results in complete miscarriage of justice." Graziano v. United States , 83 F.3d 587, 589-90 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[C]laims that could have been brought on direct appeal [cannot] be[] raised on collateral review absent cause and prejudice." Yick Man Mui v. United States , 614 F.3d 50, 54 (2d Cir. 2010); see also Rosario , 164 F.3d at 732 ("Where a criminal defendant has procedurally forfeited [her] claim by failing to raise it on direct review, the claim may be raised in a § 2255 motion only if the defendant can demonstrate either: (1) cause for failing to raise the issue, and prejudice resulting therefrom, or actual innocence." (internal citations and quotation marks omitted)). Moreover, cause is not just any logical explanation for failure but "something external to the petitioner." Coleman v. Thompson , 501 U.S. 722, 753 (1991).

I. Involuntariness of Jenkins's Plea

Jenkins argues that her plea was "not made voluntarily" because she was not informed that she would not be allowed to travel outside the United States during her three-year term of supervised release or that she would lose her right to vote. She also claims that she only admitted to submitting a passport with false information, not that she knew the information was false. (Jenkins ...


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