United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY DISCUSSING MOTION FOR RELIEF PURSUANT TO 28
U.S.C. § 2255 AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF
WALTON PRATT, United States District Court Judge
reasons explained in this Entry, the motion of Jesus Mendiola
(“Mr. Mendiola”) for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255, dkt. , must be denied and
the action dismissed with prejudice. In addition, the Court
finds that a certificate of appealability should not
Scope of a § 2255 Motion
motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is the presumptive
means by which a federal prisoner can challenge his
conviction or sentence. See Davis v. United States,
417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974). A court may grant relief from a
federal conviction or sentence pursuant to § 2255
“upon the ground that the 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). The scope of relief
available under § 2255 is narrow, limited to “an
error of law that is jurisdictional, constitutional, or
constitutes a fundamental defect which inherently results in
a complete miscarriage of justice.” Borre v. United
States, 940 F.2d 215, 217 (7th Cir. 1991) (internal
October 30, 2003, Jesus Mendiola pleaded guilty to one count
of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1),
841(b)(1)(A)(ii), and 846. United States v. Mendiola,
No.1:03-cr-0056-LJM-KPF-1, Crim. Dkt. 27. In exchange for
Mr. his guilty plea, the government agreed to not file a
second information under 21 U.S.C. § 851 alleging Mr.
Mendiola's two prior drug felonies. Id. If
convicted under the second information, Mr. Mendiola would
have received a sentence of mandatory life imprisonment.
pleading guilty to the original charges, Mr. Mendiola was
sentenced to 270 months' imprisonment, with ten years of
supervised release. Crim. Dkt. 33. Mr. Mendiola appealed his
sentence based on United States v. Booker, 543 U.S.
220 (2005). United States v. Mendiola, 163 Fed.Appx.
408, 409 (7th Cir. 2006). The Seventh Circuit affirmed
because the district court would have imposed the same
sentence in light of Booker. Id.
support of his motion for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2255, Mr. Mendiola raises three arguments. First, he argues
that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his
attorney encouraged him to plead guilty, abandoned potential
defenses and did not object to errors in his pre-sentence
report. Second, he argues that he should have received a
reduction in his sentence due to his “minor role”
in the offenses based on Amendment 794 to § 3B1.2 of the
Sentencing Guidelines. Finally, he asserts that he should
have received a two-level reduction in his Base Offense Level
based on Amendment 782 to the Guidelines.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Mendiola first asserts that his defense attorney performed
deficiently in various respects. Mr. Mendiola alleges that
his plea was “coerced by the wrongful urging of
counsel, the involvement of agents of the Government's
lies and promises, which they very apparently had no
intention of performing, and complete abandonment of
legitimate defenses and objections to the PSI.” Dkt. 2.
He further alleges that he would not have agreed to the plea
had he “known what was taking place behind the
scenes.” Id. He adds in his reply that he
would not have pleaded guilty had he known that the
sentencing guidelines would take his prior criminal history
petitioner claiming ineffective assistance of counsel bears
the burden of showing (1) that trial counsel's
performance fell below objective standards for reasonably
effective representation and (2) that this deficiency
prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington,
466 U.S. 668, 688- 94 (1984); United States v.
Jones, 635 F .3d 909, 915 (7th Cir. 2011). To satisfy
the first prong of the Strickland test, the
petitioner must direct the Court to specific acts or
omissions of his counsel. Wyatt v. United States,
574 F.3d 455, 458 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court must then
consider whether in light of all of the circumstances
counsel's performance was outside the wide range of
professionally competent assistance. Id. In order to
satisfy the prejudice component, Mr. Mendiola must establish
that “there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different.”
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694.
Mendiola's scant and conclusory allegations are
insufficient to establish that his counsel performed
deficiently. Mr. Mendiola does not state what legitimate
defenses or what objections to the PSI his counsel failed to
raise. To prevail on such claims, Mr. Mendiola would need to
identify particular objections his counsel failed to raise
and particular defenses he abandoned, demonstrate that such
failures constituted deficient performance, and prejudiced
Mr. Mendiola. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688-94.
Because Mr. Mendiola did not detail what objections should
have been made or what defenses should have been developed,
let alone demonstrate either prong of the Strickland
standard, he cannot prevail on these claims.
Mr. Mendiola argues that his attorney failed to properly
investigate his case. When counsel's “purported
deficiency is based on a failure to investigate, we require
the petitioner to allege what the investigation would have
produced.” Long v. United States, 847 F.3d
916, 920 (7th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation omitted). Mr.
Mendiola has not alleged what further investigation would