United States District Court, D. Delaware
Luke Gatlin. Pro se movant.
Elizabeth L. Van Pelt, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for respondent.
GREGORY M. SLEET, District Judge.
Movant Luke Gatlin ("Gatlin") filed a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (D.I. 83) The government filed an answer in opposition. (D.I. 91) For the reasons discussed, the court will deny Gatlin's § 2255 motion without holding an evidentiary hearing.
On February 9, 2006, at around 7:00p.m., Wilmington police detective Joseph Leary received a phone call from a known and reliable confidential informant who reported that a man walking near 30th and Market Streets, Wilmington Delaware had a gun in his front right coat pocket. The informant provided a detailed description of the individual (light skinned, black male, approximately 5'8", wearing a Chicago Cubs hat, black hooded jacket, and jeans), which matched Gatlin's appearance and attire. When the police arrived, they found a crowd of approximately fifteen and thirty people at the intersection of 30th and Market Streets, among whom was a man with a Cubs hat matching the description provided by the informant. The officers got out of their patrol car, and Detective Joshua Burch drew his gun and ordered the man down on the ground. Officer Brian Kananen handcuffed the man behind his back, patted the man down for weapons, and found a handgun in his right front coat pocket. At that point, Officer Kananen recognized the man as Gatlin, based on previous interactions with him in the Delaware probation system. Gatlin was arrested and brought into custody.
On March 28, 2006, the federal grand jury in the District of Delaware returned a one-count indictment charging Gatlin with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) & 924(e)(1). (D.I. 4)
On June 16, 2006, defense counsel filed a motion to suppress evidence and statements. (D.I. 14) The motion articulated the facts surrounding Gatlin's arrest and the discovery of a firearm on his person and argued that the officers who stopped Gatlin lacked reasonable suspicion that Gatlin was illegally carrying a concealed firearm. The motion contended that the police relied solely on a tip that Gatlin had a gun, but that the police had no information that either a crime was in progress or that Gatlin was prohibited from possession of the firearm. Id. Defense counsel also filed a motion to compel the disclosure of the government's confidential informant. (D.I. 13) The Honorable Kent A. Jordan denied both motions on July 13, 2006 after conducting an evidentiary hearing. (D.I. 20)
On September 13, 2006, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict for the sole count in the indictment. Defense counsel filed a motion to set aside the verdict pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c)(1), which Judge Jordan denied on November 6, 2006. (D.I. 45; D.I. 50) On June 3, 2009, the court sentenced Gatlin to the mandatory minimum 180 months of imprisonment and 60 months of supervised release. (D.I. 70)
Gatlin filed a direct appeal, contending that the court erred by: (1) denying his suppression motion; (2) failing to compel disclosure of the identity of the confidential informant; and (3) denying his motion for judgment of acquittal. See Gatlin, 613 F.3d at 376. The Third Circuit denied the arguments and affirmed Gatlin's conviction and sentence. Id. at 380. On September 13, 2010, Gatlin filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, which was denied. See Gatlin v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 534 (Nov. 1, 2010).
The sole claim in Gatlin's timely filed§ 2255 motion asserts that defense counsel provided ineffective assistance by "never argu[ing] a meritorious issue in support of [Gatlin's] Fourth Amendment violation. Had counsel argued this fact [Gatlin's] suppression motion would have been granted on appeal." (D.I. 83 at 4)
Gatlin has properly raised his ineffective assistance of counsel allegation in a § 2255 motion. See Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500 (2003). As a general rule, ineffective assistance of counsel claims are reviewed pursuant to the two-pronged standard established in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Under the first ("performance") prong of the Strickland standard, Gatlin must demonstrate that "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, " with reasonableness being judged under professional norms prevailing at the time counsel rendered assistance. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688. Under the second ("prejudice") prong of the Strickland standard, Gatlin must demonstrate a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's error, the outcome of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 694; United States v. Nahodil, 36 F.3d 323, ...