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
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
reasons explained in this Entry, the motion of Michael James
Richardson to vacate his conviction and sentence 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.
The § 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
August 21, 2015, a four-count Information was filed in
United States v. Richardson, 1:15-cr-161-JMS-MJD-1
(hereinafter “Crim. Dkt.”), Dkt. 26, naming
Richardson as the defendant. Counts 1 through 3 alleged he
sexually exploited a child between March and July 2014, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a). Count 4 alleges he
conspired to distribute and receive child pornography between
March 2014 and February 25, 2015, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 2252A(a)(2) and 2552A(b)(1). Crim. Dkt. 26 at p. 7.
sent emails from an account registered to “Tiff
Rich” to roughly 80 people on July 25, 2014.
Presentence Investigation Report, Crim. Dkt. 54, (hereinafter
“PSR”) at ¶ 9. The email said, “[t]his
folder is just pics of all ages and all desires… write
back with pics and vids of 0-12 yo hard pen, oral,
swallowing, brutal, rape, anal, anything goes and tell me
what you like. I also have some very ‘special'
personal vids of me and my daddy:)”. Id. The
email included a link to a deactivated Dropbox file location.
October 26, 2014, the same account sent an email containing
over 180 images depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit
conduct. Id. at ¶ 10. On January 30, 2015, the
same account sent another email that read: “lots of
pics in this link, all very good:) sending all of you a link
for vids too very soon. Please send something back. really
love 0-6 full pen and swallowing.” Id. at
¶ 11. This email also included a Dropbox link which was
no longer available. Id. That same day, another
email was sent including links to multiple videos of kids and
teens engaged in sexually explicit conduct including digital
and real sex between children and adults. Id. at
¶¶ 12-14. This account would send two more emails
with thousands more images and dozens more videos.
Id. at ¶¶ 15-16.
determined that the IP address associated with the account
was registered to Richardson's girlfriend, who housed
Richardson as her live-in boyfriend beginning in November of
2014. PSR at ¶ 17. Based on this evidence, agents
executed a search warrant on February 27, 2015, at the
residential address. Id. at ¶ 18. Richardson
admitted to being the user of the email account which had
sent the illegal material. Id. He gave the agents
his passwords and admitted to using a laptop computer hidden
under the couch to access child pornography. Id. A
photograph taken of Richardson's leg during the search
matched images seen in the child pornography sent.
determined that Richardson kept thousands of images, many of
which were sadistic and masochistic, of child pornography in
the cloud. Id. at ¶ 19.
1, 2016, Richardson filed a petition to enter a plea of
guilty to all four counts charged in the Information
(following waiver of Indictment). Crim. Dkt. 38. In exchange
for concessions made by the government, Richardson waived his
right to directly and collaterally appeal his conviction if
sentenced to 40 years or less. Crim. Dkt. 47 at ¶ 81-82.
This “waiver does not encompass claims, either on
direct or collateral review, that [Richardson] received
ineffective assistance of counsel.” Id. at
Court accepted Richardson's guilty plea and sentenced him
to exactly 40 years imprisonment. Judgment was entered on
November 8, 2016. Richardson did not file a direct appeal.
Motion to Vacate
filed this Motion to Vacate or Set Aside Sentence pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2255 on November 22, 2017. He raises fifteen
grounds for relief. See dkt. 2. In response, the United
States argues that Richardson's claims for relief fail
because (1) the motion is time-barred, (2) he signed an
appellate waiver that foreclosed all appeals except
ineffective assistance of counsel, and this motion violates
that waiver,  (3) his plea deal was knowing and
voluntary, and (4) his counsel was effective. The statute of
limitations defense was rejected in the Entry of June 13,
2018. For the reasons explained below, none of the claims
raised by Richardson entitle him to any relief.
The Plea Agreement
first attacks the validity of the plea agreement. The plea
agreement specifically states that if the Court accepts the
plea and sentences Richardson to 40 years of imprisonment or
any lesser term, then Richardson,
agrees not to contest, or seek to modify, his conviction or
sentence or the manner in which either was determined any
proceeding, including, but not limited to, an action brought
under 18 U.S.C. § 3582 or 28 U.S.C. § 2255. . . .
As concerns the Section 2255 waiver, the waiver does not
encompass claims, either on direct or collateral review, that
he received ineffective assistance of counsel.
Crim. Dkt. 47 at p. 24-25. The United States argues that the
appeal waiver in the plea agreement forecloses
Richardson's right to appeal his conviction or sentence
on any ground besides ineffective assistance of counsel.
order for a plea to be valid, it must be made voluntarily,
knowingly, and intelligently. United States v. Hays,
397 F.3d 564, 567 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing United States
v. Gilliam, 255 F.3d 428, 432-33 (7th Cir. 2001)). This
Court found, when it accepted Richardson's plea of
guilty, that the plea was entered knowingly and voluntarily.
Specifically, at the conclusion of the plea hearing, the
THE COURT: It is, therefore, the finding of the Court in the
case of the United States v. Michael Richardson,
that the Defendant is fully competent and capable of entering
an informed plea, that he is aware of the nature of the
charges to which he is pleading guilty and the consequences
of the plea and that his plea of guilty is a knowing and
voluntary plea, supported by an independent basis in fact,
containing each of the essential elements of the offense. The
plea is, therefore, accepted, and the Defendant is now
adjudged guilty of Counts I through IV.
Transcript, Crim. Dkt. 69 at p. 35-36.
brief in support of his § 2255 motion argues that this
Court's finding was erroneous because his psychiatric
impairments foreclosed his ability to enter into a knowing,
intelligent or voluntary plea agreement. Dkt. 2 at p. 13-14.
Richardson further asserts that had he been healthy he would
not have pleaded guilty. Id. at 14. In addition,
Richardson argues in his reply brief that his guilty plea was
not knowing, intelligent and voluntary because his attorney
failed to discover facts that would have “shown ...