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Hutchens v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 26, 2018

THOMAS HUTCHENS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING MOTION FOR RELIEF PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 2255 AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE

         For the reasons explained in this Entry, the motion of Thomas Hutchens for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 must be denied and the action dismissed with prejudice. In addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability should not issue.

         I. The § 2255 motion

         A. Background

         On May 10, 2013, an eight-count Information was filed in the Southern District of Indiana under case number 1:13-cr-102-1-SEB-TAB. Counts 1 through 6 alleged that Mr. Hutchens sexually exploited two girls on various dates between 2003 and 2009, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a). Count 7 alleged that Mr. Hutchens distributed child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2). Count 8 alleged that Mr. Hutchens possessed child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B).

         On February 7, 2014, Mr. Hutchens filed a Petition to Enter a Plea Agreement. In the Petition, Mr. Hutchens represented to the Court that he received a copy of the Information; read and discussed it with his attorney; understood the charges brought against him; his attorney advised him of the punishment; and declared that his plea of guilty was offered freely and voluntary and of his own accord.

         On February 18, 2014, Mr. Hutchens filed a Plea Agreement pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(B). The Plea Agreement provided that Mr. Hutchens would plead guilty to Counts 1 through 6 and 8 of the Information.

         The Plea Agreement provided that Mr. Hutchens agreed that the determination of his sentence was within the discretion of the Court and he understood that if the Court decided to impose a sentence higher or lower than any recommendation of either party he would not be permitted to withdraw his plea of guilty for that reason and would be bound by his guilty plea. Mr. Hutchens agreed that the final determination of his sentence to include the applicable advisory guideline calculation, criminal history category, and advisory sentencing guideline range would be made by the Court. Mr. Hutchens understood that the Court had the authority to impose concurrent or consecutive sentences for some or all of the offenses charged in the Information.

         The parties agreed to reserve the right to present evidence and arguments concerning what they believed to be the appropriate sentence, supervised release, fine, and restitution. Mr. Hutchens agreed that he would not ask for a sentence below the mandatory minimum of 15 years imprisonment.

         The government agreed that if Mr. Hutchens continued to accept responsibility, he would be entitled to a three-level decrease in his offense level, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(a) and (b). In addition, if the Court accepted the Plea Agreement the government agreed to dismiss Count 7 of the Information.

         On September 9, 2014, a stipulated factual basis was signed and filed by the parties. It was sufficient to support the plea. The parties agreed to the facts of the case and Mr. Hutchens signed the agreement. On September 9, 2014, Mr. Hutchens' plea hearing was held. The Court fully advised him of his rights and the possible penalties. Mr. Hutchens pleaded guilty to Counts 1 through 6 and 8 of the Information. The Court accepted Mr. Hutchens' plea and adjudged him guilty as charged in Counts 1 through 6 and 8 of the Information.

         Mr. Hutchens was then sentenced to 180 months on each of Counts 1 through 6, to be served concurrently. On Court 8, he was sentenced to 120 months in prison to be served consecutive to the term of imprisonment imposed in Counts 1 through 6. As a result, his total term of imprisonment was 300 months (25 years). Mr. Hutchens was sentenced to 5 years of Supervised Release and a mandatory special assessment fee of $700. The judgment of conviction was entered on September 16, 2014. Mr. Hutchens did not appeal his sentence.

         On August 31, 2015, Hutchens filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Mr. Hutchens filed this action seeking relief from his sentence in 1:13-cr-102-SEB-TAB-1. He raises two grounds for relief. First, he asserts that his counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate all available defense strategies and to call witnesses. Second, he claims that he is entitled to relief because he was charged pursuant to a fraudulent Indictment and that there were no actual Grand Jury charges/Information filed. The United States responded and Mr. Hutchens filed a reply. This action is now ripe for resolution.

         B. ...


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