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Page v. United States

decided: June 28, 1972.

HOWARD PAGE, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



Van Dusen, James Rosen and Hunter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Rosen

Opinion OF THE COURT

JAMES ROSEN, Circuit Judge.

Appellant Howard Page was indicted with two codefendants for his participation in an armed robbery of a federally insured savings and loan association. The three-count indictment charged the defendants with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), (b) and (d) -- carrying maximum prison sentences of 20 years, 10 years and 25 years, respectively. All defendants pleaded guilty to the second count which carried a maximum sentence of $5000. fine and imprisonment for a 10 year period. Appellant received a 7 year sentence, while defendants Hagood and Dupree received 4 and 3 year sentences, respectively.

This appeal challenges the dismissal without a hearing of appellant's 28 U.S.C. § 2255 petition for correction and reduction of sentence. A section 2255 motion is addressed to the discretion of the trial judge in the first instance, and where the record affirmatively indicates that the claim for relief is without merit, a refusal to hold a hearing will not be deemed an abuse of such discretion. Brisco v. United States, 368 F.2d 214 (3d Cir.1966); Diamond v. United States, 432 F.2d 35, 37, 39 (9th Cir.1970); Smith v. United States, 431 F.2d 565 (5th Cir.1970); Poole v. United States, 438 F.2d 325, 326 (8th Cir.1971).

The sentence received by Page was within the statutory limits. We note that appellant had initially entered a plea of not guilty, but later retracted this plea and substituted a plea of guilty.*fn1 Judge Shaw made an exhaustive inquiry to insure that Page's plea was voluntarily and intelligently made. Nothing is present in the record to support the allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel at the sentencing stage. See Moore v. United States, 432 F.2d 730, 736 (3d Cir.1970).*fn2 Appellant was given the right to speak in his own behalf. F.R.Crim.P. Rule 32(a). He had raised "substantially similar" grounds for reduction of sentence in a prior § 2255 petition which was dismissed on March 19, 1970. Despite this prior adjudication, the court entertained Page's successive motion, noting however that "the sentencing court shall not be required to entertain a second or successive motion for similar relief on behalf of the same prisoner." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See also Langston v. United States, 310 F. Supp. 147 (W.D.Pa.1970).

Appellant was not denied due process because Judge Coolahan presided at Page's sentencing and also entertained the § 2255 motion. See Odom v. United States, 455 F.2d 159 (9th Cir. 1972).

Finally, we reject appellant's disparity argument, i.e. the sentences of seven, four and three years imposed were so greatly disparate as to be completely arbitrary and shocking. Sentencing is primarily the responsibility of a trial judge. In Rodriquez v. United States, 394 F.2d 825 (5th Cir.1968), the court offered these observations on appellate review of sentences imposed on co-defendants:

"The question of appellate review of sentencing has recently received much advocacy as a needed reform to prevent unjustifiable disparities in the sentences meted to co-defendants. The arguments pro and con for such a review have almost universally been left to the legislative branch of government. Appellate courts have generally refused to disturb the trial court's discretion in this matter unless the punishment is so disproportionate to the offense committed and to the sentences received by co-defendants 'as to be completely arbitrary and shocking to the sense of justice and thus to constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.'"

Cf. United States v. Harbolt, 455 F.2d 970 (5th Cir. 1972). A sentence within the statutory limits is not cruel and unusual punishment. United States v. Wallace, 269 F.2d 394 (3d Cir.1959); Martin v. United States, 327 F. Supp. 126 (W.D.Pa.1971). Absent a showing of illegality or abuse of discretion, a sentence imposed within the statutory maximum will not be disturbed on appeal. United States v. Fessler, 453 F.2d 953 (3d Cir.1972). The record in this case reveals neither an abuse of discretion or illegality in either the manner or length of sentence.

The order of the district court will ...


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