United States District Court, D. Delaware
Yusef Reynolds. Pro se Movant.
Edward McAndrew, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for respondent.
RICHARD G. ANDREWS, District Judge.
Pending before the Court is Movant Yusef Reynold's ("Movant") prose Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (D.I. 35) The Government filed an Answer in Opposition and a Supplemental Answer in Opposition. (D.I. 40; D.I. 43) For the reasons that follow, Movant's § 2255 Motion is denied.
On February 16, 2012, a federal grand jury returned a five count indictment charging Movant with: (1) child sex trafficking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a); (2) transportation of a minor with intent to engage in prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a); (3) production of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a); (4) possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B); and (5) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). On July 18, 2012, Movant pled guilty to Count 1 of the Indictment, charging him with child sex trafficking, and a single-count criminal Information, charging him with unlawful possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). (D.I. 22) The Court sentenced Movant to a mandatory minimum term of 120 months of incarceration on the child sex trafficking conviction, along with a concurrent 120 month term on the firearm possession conviction. The Court also sentenced Movant to a mandatory minimum term of five years of supervised release. (D.I. 31)
Movant's timely filed§ 2255 Motion asserts the following three ineffective assistance of counsel claims: (1) counsel failed to file a direct appeal; (2) counsel failed to object to unspecified statements the Government made during the sentencing hearing that adversely impacted his sentence; and (3) counsel failed to "thoroughly'' research his case, which also adversely impacted his sentence.
Paragraph 9 of Movant's Plea Agreement contains the following express waiver of Movant's right to file a direct appeal and/or a collateral attack on his conviction and sentence:
The defendant knows that he has, and voluntarily and expressly agrees to waive, the right to file any appeal, any collateral attack, or any other writ or motion in this criminal case after sentencing-including but not limited to, an appeal under Title 18, United States Code, Section 3742 or Title 28, United States Code Section 1291 or a motion under Title 28, United States Code Section 2255 - except that the defendant reserves his right to appeal based on the following grounds: (1) the government appeals from the sentence; (2) the defendant's sentence exceeds the statutory maximum for the offense set forth in the United States Code; (3) the sentence unreasonably exceeds the Sentencing Guidelines range determined by the District Court in applying the United States Sentencing Guidelines; or (4) the defendant's counsel was constitutionally ineffective.
(D.I. 22)(emphasis added) Because this appellate/collateral review waiver expressly exempts ineffective assistance of counsel claims, the Court can consider all three ineffective assistance of counsel allegations presented in the instant§ 2255 Motion. See United States v. Phillips, 396 F.Appx. 831, 835 n.4 (3d Cir. 201 O)(noting that the appellant could pursue his ineffective assistance of counsel claim in a collateral proceeding because the relevant appellate waiver expressly exempted ineffective assistance claims).
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, Movant 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, Movant 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, 326 (3d Cir. 1994). In the context of this Motion, Movant will only be able to satisfy Strickland's prejudice prong by demonstrating a reasonable probability that, but for defense counsel's alleged errors, he would have received a sentence lower than the mandatory minimum 120 month sentence that was imposed.
Finally, although not insurmountable, the Strickland standard is highly demanding and leads to a strong presumption that counsel's representation was ...