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United States v. Copeland

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

December 12, 2016




         The Defendant, Deangelo Copeland, pled guilty to two counts of a two-count Indictment. Count 1 charged Armed Bank Robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d) and 18 U.S.C. § 2; Count 2 charged Carrying and Using a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). This matter is before the Court on a Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody [ECF No. 139], filed by the Defendant, pro se, on April 22, 2016. The Defendant argues that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance in connection with the § 924(c) offense and supervised release. He also maintains that his conviction under § 924(c) violates due process in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). The Defendant requests an evidentiary hearing. The Government argues that the Defendant waived his right to collaterally attack his sentence as part of the Plea Agreement that he voluntarily entered with the Government, and that his Motion is untimely. Additionally, the Government maintains that, even after the Johnson decision, armed bank robbery is still a crime of violence. The Defendant, now represented by counsel, has filed a reply brief.

         For the reasons set forth in this Opinion and Order, the Court denies the Defendant's Motion. In addition, the Court declines to issue a certificate of appealability.


         A written Plea Agreement between the Government and the Defendant was filed with the Court on November 13, 2013. According to the Plea Agreement, the Defendant agreed to enter a plea of guilty to Counts 1 and 2 of the Indictment. The Agreement contained a waiver of appellate rights:

I understand that the law gives a convicted person the right to appeal the conviction and the sentence imposed, I also understand that no one can predict the precise sentence that will be imposed, and that the Court has jurisdiction and authority to impose any sentence within the statutory maximum set for my offense as set forth in this plea agreement. With this understanding and in consideration of the government's entry into this plea agreement, I expressly waive my right to appeal or to contest my conviction and all components of my sentence, or the manner in which my conviction or my sentence was determined or imposed, to any Court on any ground, including any claim of ineffective assistance of counsel unless the claimed ineffective assistance of counsel relates directly to the negotiation of this plea agreement, including any appeal under Title 18, United States Code, Section § 3742 or any post-conviction proceeding, including but not limited to, a proceeding under Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255.

(Plea Agreement ¶ 8.e., ECF No. 71.) In paragraph 12, the Defendant declared that he was offering his “plea of guilty freely and voluntarily and of [his] own accord, ” that “no promises ha[d] been made to [him] other than those contained in this [plea] agreement, ” and he was not “threatened in any way by anyone to cause [him] to plead guilty in accordance with this agreement.”

         The Court referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Roger Cosbey to conduct a plea hearing to determine whether the Defendant was competent to enter a plea, the Defendant knowingly and voluntarily wished to enter a guilty plea, the Defendant understood the charges against him, and there existed a factual basis for the charges. On December 9, 2013, the Magistrate Judge conducted a change of plea hearing. After the hearing, the Magistrate Judge issued Findings and Recommendation [ECF No. 84], finding that the Defendant understood the nature of the charges against him, understood the rights he was giving up by pleading guilty, understood the possible sentences he could receive, was pleading guilty knowingly and voluntarily, was competent to plead guilty, understood his answers could be used against him later in a prosecution for perjury or false statement, and that there was a factual basis for the plea. The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court accept the Defendant's plea of guilty. No party filed objections to the Findings and Recommendation, and the Court, on December 27, accepted the recommended disposition, adjudged the Defendant guilty of Counts 1 and 2 of the Indictment, and set the matter for sentencing.

         On March 26, 2014, the Court conducted a sentencing hearing. The Court sentenced the Defendant to 51 months of imprisonment for Count 1, and imposed a 60-month consecutive sentence for Count 2. The Court also imposed two years of supervised release.


         The Defendant was sentenced in March 2014. He filed his Motion to Vacate in April 2016. A one-year statute of limitations applies to all federal habeas petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). However, to the extent the Defendant raises a claim under the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson, which is retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review, Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257, 1265 (2016) (“Johnson is . . . a substantive decision and so has retroactive effect . . . in cases on collateral review.”); Price v. United States, 795 F.3d 731, 734 (7th Cir. 2015) (Johnson announced a new substantive rule which applies retroactively on collateral review), the claim is timely. Because the Court concludes that the Defendant is not entitled to relief in any event, it decides the case on that basis rather than on the potential untimeliness of the claims.

         A plea agreement is a type of contract subject to contract law principles tempered by limits that the Constitution places on the criminal process. United States v. Bownes, 405 F.3d 634, 636 (7th Cir. 2005). Courts “enforce a plea agreement's appellate waiver if its terms are clear and unambiguous and the record shows that the defendant knowingly and voluntarily entered into the agreement.” United States v. Linder, 530 F.3d 556, 561 (7th Cir. 2008) (quotation marks and citation omitted). “A defendant may validly waive both his right to a direct appeal and his right to collateral review under § 2255 as a part of his plea agreement.” Keller v. United States, 657 F.3d 675, 681 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Jones v. United States, 167 F.3d 1142, 1144-45 (7th Cir. 1999)).

         Here, the Defendant's waivers of his right to appeal and his right to collaterally attack his conviction and sentence, “including but not limited to, a proceeding under Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255” (Plea Agreement ¶ 8.e), are express and unambiguous. The waiver cites to the precise provision of the United States Code the Defendant is attempting to use to challenge his conviction and sentence. The Seventh Circuit has “generally upheld and enforced these waivers, with limited exceptions for cases in which the plea agreement was involuntary, the district court ‘relied on a constitutionally impermissible factor (such as race), ' the ‘sentence exceeded the statutory maximum, ' or the defendant claims ‘ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with the negotiation of [the plea] agreement.'” Keller, 657 F.3d at 681 (quoting Jones, 167 F.3d at 1144-45).

         The Defendant does not allege that the Court relied on impermissible factors, such as his race, in selecting his sentence, or that he was sentenced in excess of the statutory maximum for the offenses of conviction. Nor does he suggest that the Plea Agreement was involuntary. During his plea colloquy with the Magistrate Judge, the Defendant confirmed that he ...

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