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Roberts v. United States

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

July 12, 2019

JUSTIN M. ROBERTS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ENTRY DENYING 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 Justin Roberts 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 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). “Relief under this statute is available only in extraordinary situations, such as an error of constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude or where a fundamental defect has occurred which results in a complete miscarriage of justice.” Blake v. United States, 723 F.3d 870, 878-79 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Prewitt v. United States, 83 F.3d 812, 816 (7th Cir. 1996); Barnickel v. United States, 113 F.3d 704, 705 (7th Cir. 1997)).

         II. Factual Background

         On February 3, 2016, Mr. Roberts was charged in an indictment with one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and three counts of distribution of a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). United States v. Roberts, 1:16-cr-00025-SEB-MJD-8 (“Crim. Dkt.”) Dkt. 1. A grand jury returned a superseding indictment on May 4, 2016, but the charges against Mr. Roberts remained the same. Crim. Dkt. 172.

         During the criminal proceeding, Mr. Roberts was initially represented by attorney Kathleen Sweeney. Crim. Dkt. 59. Ms. Sweeney was the attorney who negotiated and signed the plea agreement. See Crim. Dkt. 296, Crim. Dkt. 475 at 45. However, in August 2016, the Court granted Ms. Sweeney's motion to withdraw her appearance, Crim. Dkt. 343, Crim. Dkt. 349, and appointed attorney Kathryn DiNardo to represent Mr. Roberts, Crim. Dkt. 358.

         On May 31, 2016, a petition to enter a plea of guilty and a plea agreement was filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C). Crim. Dkt. 296. In the plea agreement, Mr. Roberts agreed to plead guilty to two counts of distribution of a controlled substance, and the government agreed to dismiss the conspiracy count and the other distribution count. Id. at ¶ 1; see also Crim. Dkt. 475 at p. 8. The plea agreement also provided as follows:

Because the defendant has sustained a prior conviction for a felony drug offense and the government has filed an information pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851(a)(1), the offense is punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years' imprisonment, a fine of not more than $1, 000, 000, and not less than 3 years' supervised release following any term of imprisonment.

Crim. Dkt. 296 at ¶ 2. By executing the plea agreement under Rule 11(c)(1)(C), Mr. Roberts agreed that the Court would sentence him to a term of imprisonment between 144 and 168 months with the government recommending a sentence of 156 months' imprisonment. Id. at ¶¶ 4, 9.

         Although the plea agreement stated that the government had filed an information pursuant to § 851, see Crim. Dkt. 296 at ¶ 2, the government did not file the information until October 13, 2016, see Crim. Dkt. 380. The information stated:

JUSTIN M. ROBERTS, the defendant herein, did commit the offense alleged in the Superseding Indictment returned herein on May 4, 2016, under cause number 1:16-cr-0025-SEB-MJD-08 after one prior conviction for a felony offense punishable under state or federal law that prohibits or restricts conduct relating to controlled substances became final, to-wit:
1. On or about July 15, 2011, JUSTIN M. ROBERTS was convicted in the Scott County (Indiana) Circuit Court of Possession of Methamphetamine, at docket number 72D01-0906-FB-17. Judgment was entered on the conviction on or about July 15, ...

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