United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION & ORDER
WILLIAM H. PAULEY III, United States District Judge
pro se Christopher Rollins brings this habeas
petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255 to vacate his
conviction and sentence of 151 months of imprisonment. He
claims his Sixth Amendment rights were violated due to the
ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. For the
following reasons, Rollins' petition for habeas relief is
March 15, 2013 Rollins was indicted on three counts: (1)
conspiracy to distribute narcotics in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 846, (2) participation in a Hobbs Act robbery
conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951-52, and (3)
carrying a firearm in relation to a Hobbs Act robbery
conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i)
and (2). The charges stemmed from Rollins' participation
in a scheme to rob a shipment of drugs. (See
Government's Opposition to Petitioner's § 2255
Motion (“Opp.”), ECF No. 8, Ex. A ¶¶
pled guilty to Count Two of the indictment on April 8, 2014.
(See Opp., Ex. B.) The plea agreement contained a
waiver of Rollins' right to appeal or otherwise challenge
his sentence and stipulated that “the defendant will
not file a direct appeal; nor bring a collateral challenge,
including but not limited to an application under Title 28,
United States Code, Section 2255 and/or Section 2241; nor
seek a sentence modification pursuant to Title 18, United
States Code, Section 3582(c), of any sentence within or below
the Stipulated Guidelines Range of 151 to 188 months'
imprisonment.” (Opp., Ex. B at 6.) On September 11,
2014 this Court sentenced Rollins to 151 months'
imprisonment and three years of supervised release. One year
later, Rollins filed this habeas petition, alleging
ineffective assistance of counsel. (See Memorandum
of Facts and Law in Support of Motion to Vacate Sentence
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (“Mot. Br.”),
ECF No. 2.)
Sixth Amendment protects the right to effective assistance of
counsel, and § 2255 provides an avenue of relief for
violations of that right. See Morales v. United
States, 635 F.3d 39, 42-43 (2d Cir. 2011). To prevail on
an ineffective-assistance claim, a petitioner must show that:
(1) his attorney's representation fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness; and (2) there is a reasonable
probability that, but for the deficiency in representation,
the result of the proceeding would have been different.
Lynch v. Dolce, 789 F.3d 303, 311 (2d Cir. 2015),
citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
687-88, 693-94 (1984).
petitioner is proceeding pro se, courts must read
the petition and supplemental submissions liberally,
interpreting them to raise the strongest arguments they
suggest. See McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280
(2d Cir. 1999); see also Green v. United States, 260
F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001) (applying same principle to
pro se motions filed pursuant to § 2255).
However, self-serving, conclusory allegations are
insufficient to establish ineffective assistance of counsel.
See United States v. Torres, 129 F.3d 710, 715-17
(2d Cir. 1997).
considering the merits of Rollins' ineffective-assistance
claim, this Court must address the effect of the waiver of
his right to collaterally attack his sentence in the plea
agreement. This analysis consists of two questions: is the
waiver valid and, if so, does it act as a procedural bar to
the instant petition? See Garcia-Santos v. United
States, 273 F.3d 506, 508 (2d Cir. 2001).
criminal defendant may waive the right to appeal and
collaterally attack his sentence under § 2255. See
United States v. Riggi, 649 F.3d 136, 140 (2d Cir.
1999). Such waivers are valid and enforceable so long as the
defendant enters into the plea agreement knowingly and
voluntarily. See Garcia-Santos, 282 F.3d at 508
(waiving right to direct appeal), citing United States v.
Pipitone, 67 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 1995) (waiving right
to collateral attack under § 2255). “The standard
. . . remains whether the plea represents a voluntary and
intelligent choice among the alternative courses of action
open to the defendant.” Parke v. Raley, 506
U.S. 20, 28-29 (1992). Courts give considerable weight to a
defendant's statements of knowledge and understanding at
the plea allocution, particularly when “during the plea
hearing, the defendant's attention was drawn to the
waiver.” Abrams v. United States, No.
11-CV-672, 2012 WL 4086765, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 17, 2012);
see also United States v. Applebaum, No. 94-CR-209,
1995 WL 723348, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 7, 1995) (“[A]
defendant's statements at a plea allocution carry a
strong presumption of veracity . . . [and] are conclusive
absent credible reason justifying departure from their
Rollins signed the plea agreement containing the waiver and
affirmed his knowledge and understanding of the waiver
provision on the record after substantial discussion with
this Court. See Garcia-Santos, 273 F.3d at 508
(finding that defendant's waiver “was entered into
knowingly and voluntarily, and with awareness of his waiver
of appeal and collateral attack” where defendant
“signed the plea agreement . . . [and] stated to the
magistrate judge that he had read and understood the
agreement”); see also Plea Allocution
Transcript (“Tr.”), No. 13-CR-362, ECF No. 43 at
14:17-22) (“THE COURT: Do you understand that under the
terms of this plea agreement that you are giving up or
waiving your right to appeal or otherwise challenge your
sentence if this court sentences you within or below the
stipulated guidelines range of 151 to 188 months of
imprisonment? THE DEFENDANT: Yes.”). At no point during
the five months between the plea allocution and sentencing
did Rollins seek to withdraw his guilty plea or claim that he
made it involuntarily or by mistake. Accordingly, Rollins
executed a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to
collateral attack under § 2255.