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Pronin v. United States

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 31, 2017

DMITRY PRONIN, Movant/Defendant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent/Plaintiff. Cr. Act. No. 11-33-LPS

          Dmitry Pronin. Pro se Movant.

          Edmond Falgowski, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S.D.J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Dmitry Pronin ("Movant") filed a timely Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, asserting three claims for relief. (D.I. 27) The United States ("Government") filed an Answer in Opposition. (D.I. 33) In a Memorandum Opinion dated September 30, 2016, the Court denied Claim Two of Movant's § 2255 Motion. The Court reserved ruling on Claim One, which alleges ineffective assistance of counsel, in order to provide the Government an opportunity to supplement its Response. (D.I. 42; D.I. 43) The Government filed a Supplemental Response with respect to Claim One (D.I. 46), and Movant filed a Reply (D.I. 50). For the reasons discussed, the Court will deny Claim One of Movant's § 2255 Motion without holding an evidentiary hearing.

         II. BACKGROUND

         In April 2011, Movant was indicted on the following three counts: (1) armed bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2114(a) and (d); (2) carrying, using, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii); and (3) possession of a firearm by an illegal alien, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5)(A) and (B). (D.I. 1) These charges arose from Movant's commission of an armed robbery at the Wilmington Savings Fund Society ("WSFS") branch, located in the Pike Creek Shopping Center, Wilmington, Delaware. (D.I. 23 at 17)

         On June 20, 2011, Movant entered a guilty plea to Counts One and Two of the Indictment. (D.I 14) In exchange for Movant's guilty plea, the Government agreed that a two-level reduction in offense level for acceptance of responsibility was appropriate. (D.I. 14 at ¶ 3) Further, if Movant's offense level was determined to be 16 or greater, the Government agreed to recommend an additional one point reduction for acceptance of responsibility. Id.

         The United States Probation Office prepared a Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR"), which calculated a total advisory range of 114 to 121 months. (D.I. 33 at 7) Movant requested a variance for "a sentence at or slighdy below the bottom of the advisor}' guideline range of 114 to 121 months." (D.I. 17 at 1) After thoroughly reviewing the PSR and the written submissions by the parties, and after hearing from the parties during the sentencing hearing, the Court denied Movant's motion for a variance and sentenced Movant to a total term of 120 months of imprisonment. (D.I. 20)

         Movant filed a pro se notice of appeal on October 7, 2011. (D.I. 21) On October 19, 2011, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit appointed the Federal Public Defender's Office for the District of Delaware to represent Movant during his appeal. See United States v. Pronin, C.A. No. 11-3789, Order (3d Cir. Oct. 19, 2011). On January 31, 2012, the Assistant Public Defender representing Movant ("appellate counsel") filed a Motion for Voluntary Dismissal of Movant's Appeal Pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 42(b). (D.I. 33-1 at A11-A15) On February 15, 2012, the Third Circuit issued an Order granting that motion and dismissing Movant's appeal. See United States v. Pronin, C.A. No. 11-3789, Order (3d Cir. Feb. 15 2012).

         In January 2013, Movant filed the instant § 2255 Motion. The Government filed an Answer in Opposition. (D.I. 33) Movant subsequendy filed a combined Motion to Expand the Record and to Appoint Counsel (D.I. 35), a Supplemental Motion (D.I. 38), a second Motion to Appoint Counsel (D.I. 39), and a Motion for a Certificate of Appealability (D.I. 40). On September 30, 2016, the Court granted the Motion to Expand the Record, denied the Motion to Appoint Counsel, denied the Motion for a Certificate of Appealability, and denied Claim Two of the § 2255 Motion. However, the Court reserved ruling on Claim One in order to provide the Government with an opportunity to supplement its Response to address the assertions in Movant's Supplemental Motion. (D.I. 42; D.I. 43) The Government filed its Supplemental Response (D.I. 46), and Movant filed a Reply to that Response (D.I. 50)

         III. DISCUSSION

         In the sole remaining Claim pending before the Court, Movant contends that defense counsel failed to "properly investigate" and present his "medical situation" during sentencing, because defense counsel failed to act on Movant's request that defense counsel should obtain medical documentation from the attorney who had previously represented Movant in Baltimore County, Maryland. (D.I. 27 at 4, 16-21) According to Movant, the Court may have granted a downward departure due to his medical/psychological condition if defense counsel had presented the pertinent information during the sentencing hearing.

         In order to prevail on the remaining Claim in the Petition, Movant must satisfy the two-pronged standard established in Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668 (1984). Under the first Strickland prong, a 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 Strickland prong, a 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 a guilty plea, a movant satisfies Strickland's prejudice prong by demonstrating that, but for counsel's error, there is a reasonable probability that he would have insisted on proceeding to trial instead of pleading guilty. See Hill v. Unckhart,474 U.S. 52, 58 (1985). When, as here, a movant contends that counsel provided ineffective assistance during sentencing, the prejudice prong is satisfied by demonstrating a "reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the result of the sentencing proceeding would have been different than what occurred." United States v. Polk,577 F.3d 515, 520 (3d Cir. 2009). A court can choose to address the prejudice prong before the ...


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