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Spiller v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 28, 2017

Gilbert Spiller, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
United States of America, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued April 5, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 C 7821 - Charles P. Kocoras, Judge.

          Before Wood, Chief Judge, and Flaum and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          Flaum, Circuit Judge.

         Gilbert Spiller pled guilty to drug and firearm charges. He later filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, arguing that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective during the plea-bargaining process. The district court denied Spiller's petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. We affirm.

         I. Background

         On July 13 and 21, 2011, Gilbert Spiller sold a total of 121 grams of crack cocaine for $5, 000 to an undercover confidential informant. Spiller later sold a loaded .40 caliber handgun for $500 to the same informant, whom Spiller knew to be a felon who planned to use the gun to protect his drug operation from rival gang members. The government proceeded to charge Spiller with two counts of distributing a controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) ("Counts One and Two"), and one count of selling a firearm to a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(1) ("Count Three"). The government also filed a notice, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, that it would seek an enhanced mandatory minimum sentence based on Spiller's three prior drug felonies.

         On July 30, 2012, the government sent Spiller's counsel a proposed plea agreement, under which Spiller would plead guilty to Count One and acknowledge that the conduct underlying Counts Two and Three was relevant for sentencing purposes, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 1B1.3. Under the proposed agreement, Spiller would also stipulate to the government's Guidelines calculation, including a "career offender" enhancement pursuant to § 4B1.1.

         Defense counsel responded to the government's proposal on August 8 with the following inquiry:

Mr. Spiller has asked a great question and one that I cannot seem to answer for him: what exactly does he gain if he proceeds by plea agreement, as opposed to a blind plea.[1] Is the government withdrawing the 851? Can you tell me one concession the government makes in the draft plea you sent over? I want to make sure I am not missing something.

         That same day the government responded, in relevant part:

The government is not withdrawing the 851 notice. You ask a good question, and I admit that the plea agreement does not offer a whole lot beyond a blind plea. There are a few minor benefits: we would dismiss two counts so he would save himself $200 in special assessments. He also gets the recognition in the plea agreement that, as things currently stand, he is entitled to acceptance of responsibility ....

         Spiller rejected the government's proposed plea agreement and, instead, executed a blind plea. In relevant part, Spiller pled guilty to all three counts and "expressly re-serve[d] the right to disagree with the government's guidelines calculation."

         At Spiller's sentencing hearing on February 27, 2013, the parties did not dispute that Spiller's Guidelines range was 262 to 327 months' imprisonment-accounting for Spiller's conduct, his status as a career offender, and his acceptance of responsibility. While the government sought a sentence within the Guidelines range, however, defense counsel sought the 120-month mandatory minimum, highlighting the well-known crack-cocaine disparity and Spiller's troubled upbringing. Ultimately the district ...


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