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Santana-James v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

June 21, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge Justin S. Anand's Final Report and Recommendation [44] ("Final R&R"), recommending denial of Movant Orvelin Santana-James's ("Movant") Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [40] ("Motion to Vacate").

         I. BACKGROUND

         Movant first entered the United States during the mid-1990s. (Pre-Sentence Investigation Report [24] at 5). He worked and lived in North Carolina before being arrested in 1997 for trafficking cocaine. (IcL). After pleading guilty to the drug trafficking offense, Movant was sentenced to serve 175 to 219 months in prison. (Id.). In January 2012, Movant was paroled and ordered removed from the United States. (Id.). In February 2015, Movant illegally returned to United States and, after being arrested for a misdemeanor offense in DeKalb County, Georgia, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") issued a detainer. (IcL)- On April 17, 2015, Movant was again arrested by the DeKalb County Police Department and charged with Giving False Name, Address or Birthdate to a Law Enforcement Officer. (IcL). On May 5, 2015, Movant was transferred to ICE custody, who confirmed Movant was previously deported from the United States. (Id.).

         On July 14, 2015, a federal grand jury sitting in the Northern District of Georgia returned an Indictment charging Movant with illegal reentry into the United States as an aggravated felon having been previously deported. (See generally [1]). On October 22, 2015, at his plea hearing, Movant admitted that he returned to the United States illegally in February 2015, and stated that he understood he was committing a crime by reentering the United States. (IcL at 6). Movant's guilty plea agreement included a Limited Waiver of Appeal, which stated:

To the maximum extent permitted by federal law, the Defendant voluntarily and expressly waives the right to appeal his conviction and sentence and the right to collaterally attack his conviction and sentence in any postconvictionproceeding (including, but not limited to, motions filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255) on any ground, except that the Defendant may file a direct appeal of an upward departure or a variance from the sentencing guideline range as calculated by the district court. Claims that Defendant's counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance are excepted from this waiver. The Defendant understands that this Plea Agreement does not limit the Government's right to appeal, but if the Government initiates a direct appeal of the sentence imposed, the Defendant may file a cross-appeal of that same sentence.

([16.1] at 10-11.). In signing the Guilty Plea and Plea Agreement he entered into with the Government, Movant also signed the following Certification:

I have read the Indictment against me and have discussed it with my attorney. I understand the charges and the elements of each charge that the Government would have to prove to convict me at a trial. I have read the foregoing Plea Agreement and have carefully reviewed every part of it with my attorney. I understand the terms and conditions contained in the Plea Agreement, and I voluntarily agree to them. I also have discussed with my attorney the rights I may have to appeal or challenge my conviction and sentence, and I understand that the appeal waiver contained in the Plea Agreement will prevent me, with the narrow exceptions stated, from appealing my conviction and sentence or challenging my conviction and sentence in any postconviction proceeding. No one has threatened or forced me to plead guilty, and no promises or inducements have been made to me other than those discussed in the Plea Agreement. The discussions between my attorney and the Government toward reaching a negotiated plea in this case took place with my permission. I am fully satisfied with the representation provided to me by my attorney in this case.

(Id. at 13).

         The Court accepted Movant's guilty plea, and found that he was "voluntarily offering to plead guilty to the charge against him in the indictment fully understanding the charge and fully understanding the consequences of pleading guilty to it." (IcL at 47). The Court later sentenced Movant to 41 months' imprisonment. ([20]). Neither party objected to the Court's Guidelines calculation. ([42] at 8).

         On July 10, 2017, Movant filed his Motion to Vacate, asserting claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Movant claims that his counsel was ineffective for "failing to negotiate a reasonable plea deal for an illegal re-entry offense .. . below Guidelines in exchange for [a] prompt and undisputed guilty plea." ([40] at 4-5). Movant also asserts that his counsel was ineffective for "failing to negotiate [a] plea agreement without [an] appeal waiver." (Id.).

         On November 27, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued the Final R&R recommending denial of the Motion to Vacate and denial of a certificate of appealability. The parties did not file objections.

         II. ...

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