United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge.
P. Miller pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging
him with interstate transport of stolen goods in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 2314 and money laundering in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i). The court sentenced Mr.
Miller to a term of 135 months' imprisonment and two
years' supervised release. Mr. Miller was also ordered to
pay back over one million dollars in restitution. The
judgment was affirmed on appeal and Mr. Miller is now before
the court requesting that the court vacate his conviction and
sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Doc. No. 72]. For the
following reasons, the court denies Mr. Miller's motion.
the summer 2012 through January 2014, Jeffrey Miller stole
large amounts of copper wire from his employer in Indiana,
sold the wire in Michigan, and laundered some of his profits
through casinos. After Mr. Miller's arrest, Mr. Fred
Hains was appointed as his counsel. Mr. Hains then conducted
numerous meetings and communications with Mr. Miller and the
Government, and represented Mr. Miller throughout the
entirety of the case.
Hains met with Mr. Miller several times to discuss the case
and possible plea agreement. This discussion included
information and evidence surrounding the charges as well as
specific terms and conditions of the plea agreement. Mr.
Hains also explained the impact of the United States
Sentencing Guidelines and outlined Mr. Miller's probable
offense level. During this conversation, possible offense
level reductions and enhancements were discussed. Mr. Hains
opined that acceptance of responsibility reduction would
lower Mr. Miller's offense level by three and didn't
anticipate any enhancements for being an
“organizer” of the alleged criminal activity. Mr.
Hains explained to Mr. Miller that the offense level
calculation could change if more unfavorable facts came to
Hains also communicated with the prosecution multiple times
in tries to challenge various parts of the case and proposed
plea agreement, including a recommendation for a lower
sentence. These attempts were ultimately unsuccessful. The
government showed willingness to provide Mr. Miller with a
benefit if he continued to provide helpful information about
other possible individuals associated with the charged theft
and money laundering. Mr. Hains communicated his efforts and
the governments posture to Mr. Miller. As Mr. Miller drew
nearer to signing the proposed plea agreement, Mr. Hains
further warned that Mr. Miller shouldn't sign the
agreement if any questions or concerns arose. Mr. Miller
claims that Mr. Hains said that signing the plea agreement
would result in a lower term of incarceration, and that this
convinced Mr. Miller to sign the agreement, and it would have
had Mr. Miller not continued with illegal activity
(manufacturing and using methamphetamine).
plea contained numerous provision, including one about Mr.
Miller's acceptance of responsibility. The provision
stated that such acceptance was contingent on Mr.
Miller's continued cooperation. The government could also
be released from the crediting Mr. Miller with acceptance of
responsibility if Mr. Miller engaged in more criminal conduct
including the use of controlled substances. During Mr.
Miller's change of plea hearing, he indicated that he had
enough time to discuss the plea agreement and case with Mr.
Hains and that Mr. Hains had satisfactorily represented him.
Mr. Miller further stated that he was not under the influence
of any substances.
sentencing, the government told the court that Mr. Miller had
manufactured and used methamphetamine during the time between
his change of plea and sentencing hearings. In light of this
information the court rejected Mr. Miller's acceptance of
responsibility reduction and imposed a total of six levels of
enhancement for use of sophisticated means and organizer
status relating to Mr. Miller's initial charges. Mr.
Miller was sentenced to a total of 135 months. Mr. Miller
then directly appealed, asking he be resentenced. The Seventh
Circuit rejected the appeal and affirmed this court's
sentence. United States v. Miller, 641 Fed.
App'x. 563 (7th Cir. 2016).
Miller alleges that: 1) Mr. Hains never told him that
continued substance abuse could result in the loss of
relevant sentencing reductions; 2) Mr. Hains didn't
conduct a thorough investigation of the case; 3) Mr. Hains
didn't try to dismiss the criminal charges; 4) the plea
agreement he signed was vague and absurd, and that no one
explained to him the consequences of the plea; and 5) Mr.
Hains didn't tell him that he faced the possibility of a
sentencing enhancement for being an “organizer.”
The rules governing petitions filed under 28 U.S.C. §
2255 provide that once a motion is filed:
The motion, together with all the files, records,
transcripts, and correspondence relating to the judgment
under attack, shall be examined promptly by the judge to whom
it is assigned. If it plainly appears from the face of the
motion and any annexed exhibits and the prior proceedings in
the case that the movant is not entitled to relief in the
district court, the judge shall make an order for its summary
dismissal and cause the movant to be notified.
4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the
United States District Courts. After reviewing the record in
this case, the court finds that Mr. Miller's petition can
be resolved without a hearing. See Bruce v. United
States, 256 F.3d 592, 597 (7th Cir. 2001); Daniels
v. United States, 54 F.3d 290, 293 (7th Cir. 1995).
court construes Mr. Miller's pro se petition
liberally. Jackson v. Duckworth, 112 F.3d 878, 881
(7th Cir. 1997). Mr. Miller essentially alleges deficiencies
in his representation with regards to the plea process
through an ineffective assistance of counsel argument.
Ineffective assistance of counsel claims applies to pleas.
Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156, 162 (citing
Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 134, 134-135 (2012)). To
prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, Mr.
Miller must show both that his attorney's performance
“fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness” and that there is a reasonable
probability that, but for his attorney's errors, the
result of the proceeding would have been different.
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688-693
(1984). This is a difficult standard to meet; to prevail, Mr.
Miller must show both “that counsel made errors so
serious that ‘counsel' was not functioning as the
counsel guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth
Amendment” and “that counsel's errors were so
serious as to deprive [Mr. Miller] of a fair [result].”
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. at 687. Mr.
Miller “bears a heavy burden” in proving that his
counsel was consitutionally ineffective. Barker v. United
States, F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 1993). The court can
address the Strickland prongs in the order it sees
fit, because an insufficient showing as to either of the
prongs is fatal to a claim. Strickland, 466 U.S. at
697; McDaniel v. Polley, 847 F.3d 887, 893 (7th Cir.
is a strong presumption that counsel performed effectively.
See Berkey v. United States, 318 F.3d 768, 772 (7th
Cir. 2003). “A court's scrutiny of an
attorney's performance is ‘highly deferential'
to eliminate as much as possible the distorting effects of
hindsight, and we ‘must indulge a strong presumption
that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of
reasonable professional assistance.'” Vinyard
v. United States, 804 F.3d at 1225 (quoting
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. at 687). In the
context of guilty pleas, competent counsel “will
attempt to learn all of the facts of the case, make an
estimate of a likely sentence, and communicate the results of
that analysis before allowing his client to plead
guilty.” Moore v. Bryant, 348 F.3d 238, 241
(7th Cir. 2003). Counsel doesn't need to “provide a
precisely accurate prediction of the respective consequences
of pleading guilty or going to trial.” United
States v. Barnes, 83 F.3d 934, 939 (7th Cir. 1996).