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Evans v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

August 24, 2017

CHARLES A. EVANS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Charles A. Evans is a federal prisoner at the United States Penitentiary, McCreary, Kentucky. Following a plea of guilty in March 2015, Evans was convicted of distributing heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). I sentenced Evans to 12 years of prison and three years of supervised release. United States v. Evans, No. 14-cr-108-1, Dkt. 53 (W.D. Wis. May 29, 2015).

         Evans, now pro se, seeks to vacate the conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. Dkt. 1. I directed the government to respond. I've reviewed the parties submissions, and I conclude that Evans fails to establish that he was prejudiced by his counsel's performance or that he is otherwise entitled to relief. I will deny his motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Evans and Tiana Williams sold heroin in Beloit, Wisconsin, in 2014, often out of Williams's apartment. In August 2014, Evans tried to collect a $3, 500 debt from one of his regular drug customers, J.J. When J.J. didn't pay, Evans beat him and broke his jaw. J.J. told his probation officer about this, leading to Evans's detention in jail on a probation hold. While in jail, Evans called Williams asking her to convince J.J. to change his story.

         In October 2014, Evans and Williams were charged in a six-count indictment. Evans pleaded guilty to one count of distributing heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); the remaining counts were dismissed.

         On May 22, 2015, I sentenced Evans. As part of the plea agreement, Evans acknowledged that the distribution involved between 100 and 400 grams of heroin, yielding a base offense level of 24. I applied a two-level enhancement for maintaining a drug house under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 2D1.1(b)(12) over Evans's counsel's objection. I applied a two-level enhancement for using violence under § 2D 1.1 (b)(2). Evans's counsel had initially objected to this enhancement, but he later withdrew his objection. And I applied a two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice under § 3C1.1 over Evans's counsel's objection. Evans's counsel asked that I nevertheless apply a two-level downward adjustment for accepting responsibility under § 3E1.1; I declined to do so. These adjustments yielded a total offense level of 30 which, paired with Evans's criminal history category of VI, resulted in a guidelines range of 168 to 210 months of imprisonment. After considering the factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), I sentenced Evans to a below-guidelines sentence of 144 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

         Evans appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which affirmed his conviction and sentence. United States v. Evans, No. 15-2287 (7th Cir. June 20, 2016).

         ANALYSIS

         A motion for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 invokes "an extraordinary remedy because it asks the district court essentially to reopen the criminal process to a person who already has had an opportunity for full process." Almonacid v. United States, 476 F.3d 518, 520 (7th Cir. 2007). To prevail, Evans must show that his "sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

         Evans asserts three ineffective-assistance claims, none of which were raised on direct appeal. Ordinarily, issues that were not raised on direct appeal may not be litigated in a § 2255 motion, but this rule does not apply to allegations of ineffective counsel. Vinyard v. United States, 804 F.3d 1218, 1227 (7th Cir. 2015). This is primarily because the trial record is rarely developed with an eye toward litigating such a claim and the record does not reflect actions that take place outside the courtroom. Id. So Evans did not procedurally default on the claims he presents here.

         To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment, Evans must demonstrate that his counsel's performance was constitutionally deficient and that it caused him actual prejudice. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). To be constitutionally deficient, counsel's performance must have been objectively unreasonable. Id. Actual prejudice requires "a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at 694.

         A. Suppression

         Evans first contends that he received ineffective assistance because his counsel failed to move to suppress evidence. He claims that co-defendant Williams successfully moved to suppress certain evidence that was "illegally seized" and that he told his counsel that he wished to file a similar motion, but his counsel refused. Dkt. 1, at 4. To prevail on this claim, Evans must show that the motion to suppress would have been meritorious. See Long v. United States,847 F.3d 916, 920 (7th Cir. 2017). But Evans has offered no reason why a motion to suppress would have succeeded-he does not even identify the basis for such a motion. ...


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