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United States v. Wampler

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

March 27, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSHUA WAMPLER, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion Under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255 To Vacate, Set Aside, Or Correct Sentence By a Person in Federal Custody, filed by Joshua Wampler on January 7, 2014 (DE #649). For the reasons set forth below, the section 2255 motion is DENIED. The Clerk is ORDERED to DISMISS this case WITH PREJUDICE. Furthermore, this Court declines to issue a certificate of appealability.

         BACKGROUND

         On September 17, 2009, a Superseding Indictment was filed against Joshua Wampler (“Wampler”) and six other defendants. Wampler was charged in Counts One and Eight of the nine count Superseding Indictment. Count One charged Wampler and others with conspiring to distribute heroin, and Count Eight charged Wampler with substantive heroin distribution in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846.

         On March 23, 2010, Wampler entered into a plea agreement with the Government, and the agreement was filed with this Court. In it, Wampler agreed to plead guilty to Count One of the Superseding Indictment. The Government and Wampler also reached certain agreements that were not binding on the Court. Specifically, they agreed that if Wampler continued to accept responsibility for his criminal conduct, he should receive a two point, and if eligible, an additional one point reduction in his Guideline offense level. They also agreed that the Government would recommend a sentence equal to the minimum of the applicable guideline range. Wampler agreed that his attorney had “done all that anyone could do to counsel and assist [him], ” that he was offering his guilty plea “freely and voluntarily and of [his] own accord, ” that “no promises [had] been made to [him] other than those contained in [the] agreement, ” and that he had not been “threatened in any way by anyone to cause [him] to plead guilty in accordance with [the] agreement.” (DE #180, ¶¶ 11-12.)

         This Court held a change of plea hearing on March 24, 2010. During that Rule 11 hearing, [1] Wampler was placed under oath and was advised that any false statements could later be used against him. When asked whether he had ever been treated for any mental illness or addiction to drugs of any kind, Wampler responded only that he had been in rehabilitation for drug use in the past but that nothing about those treatments would “in any way prohibit [him] or give [him] a problem with being about to proceed” with the plea hearing. (DE #330, pp. 7-8.) The Court specifically questioned Wampler about medications:

Q. Mr. Wampler, are you presently under the influence of any drug or medication or alcoholic beverage of any kind?
A. No narcotics. I take Depakote.
Q. And does that cause you to become sleepy or drowsy?
A. No, sir.
Q. Does that in any way prohibit you from being able to proceed with today's hearing?
A. No, sir.

(Id. at 8-9.) Wampler confirmed that he wished to plead guilty to Count One, that he was doing so knowingly and voluntarily, and that no one had made any promises, assurances, or threats to him regarding his choice to plead guilty. The Court explained the penalties that Wampler was facing, and Wampler confirmed that he understood those penalties. Wampler also acknowledged that he understood that the Court would not make a determination as to an appropriate sentence until after the Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) was prepared by the probation department and the parties had had an opportunity to challenge the PSR. The Court went over the general impact of the sentencing guidelines and each of the non-binding recommendations in detail. With regard to acceptance of responsibility, the Court and Wampler had the following exchange:

Q. Another factor, and a very, very important factor, it's whether or not you have accepted responsibility for the commission of the crime to which you're pleading guilty. That's an important factor, Mr. Wampler, because depending upon the circumstances, you can either get a minus two or a minus three points. The lower the number of point[s], the smaller the guideline range, that's in your favor. Do you understand that? A. Yes, Your Honor.
Q. Now, you may ask me, ‘How do I show acceptance of responsibility?' Very simple. One, by continuing to admit all of your involvement in the crime including relevant conduct. Do you understand that? A. Yes, Your Honor.
Q. Two, by not giving me different stories about what occurred; three, by not being involved in any more crimes or any further crimes; and, four, by not attempting to withdraw your plea of guilty. Do you understand that? A. Yes, Your Honor.
. . .
Q. Okay. Let's go back to these nonbinding recommendations. [The] [f]irst nonbinding recommendation that you and the Government are going to make is that you should get the maximum deduction of points for acceptance of responsibility. Do you understand that?
A. Yes, Your Honor.
Q. Now, the Government is going to make this recommendation, Mr. Wampler, as long as you continue to demonstrate acceptance of responsibility. You start lying, you start giving different stories about what occurred, you start being involved in any other crimes, or you start attempting to withdraw your plea of guilty, they don't have to make the recommendation. And if they don't make the recommendation for those reasons, not only will they not make the recommendation, you will not be allowed to withdraw your plea of guilty or your plea agreement. Do you understand that?
A. Yes, Your Honor.
Q. Mr. Wampler, even if you, your attorney, and the Government all recommend that you get acceptance of responsibility, who makes the final decision?
A. You do, Your Honor.
Q. That's right. And I may agree with all of you. I may not. I will have the final say. Do you understand that?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Are you in agreement with that?
A. Yes, sir.

(Id. at 18-20.)

         The Court also discussed the appellate waiver in detail with Wampler as follows:

Q. Okay. Let's go on to subparagraph D. That talks about appeals, Mr. Wampler. Do you understand that in all criminal cases, a defendant has a right to appeal his conviction and/or sentence in a case? Do you understand that?
A. Yes, Your Honor.
Q. In this case, you have acknowledged that I have the jurisdiction and authority to sentence you up to the maximum provided for by the statute. Do you understand that?
A. Yes, Your Honor.
Q. And I told you that before when I said you were facing up to life in prison, a fine of up to $4 million, or a combination of both of those, up to life supervised release, and a $100 special assessment. Do you understand that?
A. Yes, Your Honor.
Q. Mr. Wampler, basically what you're doing in this paragraph is you're giving up all of your rights to an appeal, either the manner in which you were found guilty or any ...

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