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Baldwin v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

October 9, 2019

JOHN ANTHONY BALDWIN, JR., Petitioner
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert L. Miller, Jr. Judge

         John Baldwin, Jr. was selling methamphetamine out of a motel room, with two loaded firearms. He pleaded guilty to possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c) and 922(g)(1) 2113(d), and was sentenced to an aggregate term of imprisonment of 117 months. Mr. Baldwin filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, contending that he “could have gotten a better [plea] deal” and a lower sentence but for trial counsel's ineffective assistance. That motion and Mr. Baldwin's motions to appoint counsel, to amend his petition to add a new claim, and to compel production of various documents are before the court. For the reasons that follow, the court denies those motions.

         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.

Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings. The court has reviewed Mr. Baldwin's motion and supporting memorandum and finds that his arguments, while adequately presented, aren't supported by the facts or the law in this case and can be resolved without a hearing. See Martin v. United States, 789 F.3d 703, 706 (7th Cir. 2015) (evidentiary hearing not required if “the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief” or petitioner's allegations are “vague, conclusory, or palpably incredible”); Kafo v. United States, 467 F.3d 1063, 1067 (7th Cir. 2006); Bruce v. United States, 256 F.3d 592, 597 (7th Cir. 2001). Appointment of counsel isn't required under Rule 8(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings or warranted in the interest of justice under 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(2)(B). See Rauter v. United States, 871 F.2d 693, 695-696 (7th Cir. 1989).

         “[A]n ineffective assistance of counsel claim may be brought in a collateral proceeding under § 2255, whether or not the petitioner could have raised the claim on direct appeal.” Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 504 (2003). Judicial scrutiny of an attorney's performance is “highly deferential, ” and the “court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional judgment.” Jones v. Page, 76 F.3d 831, 840 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 689 (1984)). To overcome that presumption, Mr. Baldwin must show that counsel's representation was so deficient that it “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, ” and that it prejudiced his defense, rendering the outcome of the proceedings against him unreliable. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88, 694 (1984); Taylor v. Bradley, 448 F.3d 942, 948 (7th Cir. 2006); United States v. Bradford, 78 F.3d 1216, 1225 (7th Cir. 1996). He hasn't done that.

         Mr. Baldwin contends that trial counsel was ineffective because he: (1) failed to move to suppress evidence obtained from the warrantless search of his truck, (2) advised him to plead to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (Count 1), without requiring the Government prove the underlying drug trafficking offense beyond a reasonable doubt (Count 2, which was dismissed at sentencing per the plea agreement), and (3) failed to object at sentencing to the assessment of two criminal history points for his 2008 conviction and sentence for driving on a suspended license, which resulted in a sentence of 11 months and 29 days.

         A. Failure to File Motion to Suppress

         “When a claim of ineffective assistance is premised on an attorney's failure to file a motion to suppress, the defendant must prove that the motion would have been meritorious, ” and that he wouldn't have been convicted but for counsel's error. United States v. Cieslowski, 410 F.3d 353, 360 (7th Cir.2005)). The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the search was illegal. Rawlings v.. Kentucky, 448 U.S. 98, 104 (1980); United States v. Longmire, 761 F.2d 411, 417 (7th Cir.1985).

         Mr. Baldwin contends that officers didn't have a warrant when they “unlawfully searched” his vehicle (a white pickup truck, that had been reported stolen and had plates that were registered to another vehicle), that he asked Mr. Boyles to file a motion to suppress the gun and drugs found in the truck, but he didn't comply, and that, “[w]ithout said physical evidence (in the event it was excluded) petitioner could have negotiated a much more beneficial contract with the Government, should he had chosen to do so.” [Doc. No. 35 at p. 1].

         To prevail on his ineffective assistance claim, Mr. Baldwin must show that a motion to suppress would have been granted. United States v. Cieslowski, 410 F.3d 353, 360 (7th Cir. 2005). He hasn't done that. Mr. Baldwin doesn't dispute that the truck was stolen, and he doesn't have standing to challenge the search of a stolen truck. See Byrd v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 1518, 1529 (May 14, 2018). A motion to suppress would have been futile under the circumstances, and Mr. Boyles had “no duty to make a frivolous argument.” Unites States v. Rezin, 322 F.3d 443, 446 (7th Cir. 2003), overruled on other grounds by Lockhart v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 958 (2016); United States v. Hanley, 906 F.2d 1116, 1121 (6th Cir. 1990) (holding that a defendant can't establish ineffective assistance if counsel decided “not to pursue suppression motions that would have likely been futile”).

         The documents Mr. Baldwin seeks in his discovery request (notes taken by his attorney between October and December 2017 and logs, photographs, audio/video recordings and police reports made before, during, and/or after the search) can't cure the legal deficiencies in his argument, so the court denies the request [Doc. No. 43]. See Bracy v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 904, 908-909 (1997) (habeas petitioners “not entitled to discovery as a matter of ordinary course” and must show good cause - specific allegations which give the court “reason to believe that the petitioner may, if the facts are fully developed, be able to demonstrate that he is...entitled to relief.”); Matta-Ballesteros v. Henman, 896 F.2d 255, 259 (7th Cir. 1990) (“Good cause cannot exist where the facts alleged do not provide a basis for relief.”); Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings (“A judge may, for good cause, authorize a party to conduct discovery under the Federal rules of Criminal Procedure or Civil Procedure, or in accordance with the practices and principles of law.”).

         The court also denies Mr. Baldwin's motion to amend his petition to add a new claim challenging the search of his motel room and Mr. Boyles's failure to file a motion to suppress evidence recovered from his room [Doc. No. 56]. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) provides that leave to amend should be granted freely, but only “when justice so requires”. “Justice generally does not requires such leave if a movant demonstrates ‘undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive.'” Vitrano v. United States, 643 F.3d 229, (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility, LLC, 449 F.3d 663, 666 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Rutlege v. United States, 230 F.3d 1041, 1051 (7th Cir. 2000) (“A district court can refuse to let the defendant amend the petition for reasons such as delay.”).

         Mr. Baldwin challenged the protective sweep of his motel room and Mr. Boyles's failure to move to suppress evidence taken from the room for the first time in his motion to amend, after the Government filed its response to his original motion challenging the search of the truck. The motion to amend was filed more than one year after the judgment became final, asserts new facts and new arguments that weren't raised in his original ...


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