United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division
ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Qaaid Reddick (“Reddick”), who is currently
housed at the Danbury Low Federal Correctional Institution in
Danbury, Connecticut, filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion to
Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence. Doc. 1. The
Government filed a Response. Doc. 7. Reddick filed a Reply
and “Addendum, ” docs. 13, 21. The Government
responded to these filings, doc. 24, and Reddick filed
another Reply, doc. 25. For the reasons which follow, I
RECOMMEND the Court DENY
Reddick's Motion, DIRECT the Clerk of
Court to enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal and
CLOSE this case, and DENY
Reddick in forma pauperis status on appeal and a
Certificate of Appealability.
and Brandon Conway were indicted and charged with conspiracy
to possess with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; possession of heroin and
cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(a)(1); and possession of a firearm in furtherance
of a drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 924(c)(1)(A). United States v. Reddick,
2:15-cr-38 (“Crim. Case”), Doc. 1 at 1-4. Reddick
was also charged with being a felon in possession of a
firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
Id. at 5. After Reddick's appointed attorney,
James Wrixam McIlvaine, filed several pre-trial motions on
his behalf, the Government filed a notice of plea agreement.
Crim. Case, Doc. 82. Reddick filed a change of plea. Crim.
Case, Doc. 88. Reddick agreed to plead guilty to counts 1 and
4 of the indictment-the conspiracy to possess with intent to
distribute and felon in possession charges. Crim. Case, Doc.
89 at 1, 3. In return, the Government agreed to move to
dismiss the other two charges alleged in the indictment.
Id. at 3. The Honorable Lisa Godbey Wood held a
change of plea, or Rule 11, hearing, during which Special
Agent Todd Kennedy provided the factual basis for the plea,
Judge Wood accepted Reddick's plea, and Judge Wood
directed the United States Probation Office to prepare a
pre-sentence investigation report (“PSR”). Crim.
Case, Doc. 90. Judge Wood sentenced Reddick to 82 months'
imprisonment as to each count, to be served concurrently.
filed a notice of appeal. Doc. 117. Mr. McIlvaine filed an
Anders brief and a motion to withdraw from further
representation of Reddick with the Eleventh Circuit Court of
Appeals. The Eleventh Circuit found Mr.
McIlvaine's “assessment of the relative merits of
the appeal is correct” and that an examination of
“the entire record reveals no arguable issues of merit
. . . .” Doc. 136 at 2. The Eleventh Circuit granted
Mr. McIlvaine's motion to withdraw and affirmed
Reddick's convictions and sentences. Id.
has now filed his § 2255 Motion to challenge his
sentence and conviction. Doc. 1. The Government filed a
Response. Doc. 7. Reddick filed a Reply and an amendment, the
Government filed a Response to the amendment, and Reddick
filed an additional Reply. Docs. 13, 21, 24, 25.
Reddick's § 2255 Motion is now ripe for review.
Whether Reddick's Appointed Counsel Rendered Ineffective
defendants have a right to effective assistance of counsel at
all critical stages of the proceedings. Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). This right extends to
the right to proceed to trial, see Carver v. United
States, 722 Fed.Appx. 906 (11th Cir. 2018), and during
sentencing proceedings, Glover v. United States, 531
U.S. 198, 202 (2001). This right also extends to the entry of
a guilty plea, Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 58
(1985), and on appeal, Philmore v. McNeil, 575 F.3d
1251, 1264 (11th Cir. 2009).
prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, the
defendant must demonstrate: (1) his counsel's performance
was deficient, i.e., the performance fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness, and (2) he suffered prejudice as
a result of that deficient performance. Id. at
685-86. The deficient performance requirement concerns
“whether counsel's advice was within the range of
competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases.”
Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 56 (1985). There is a
strong presumption that counsel's conduct fell within the
range of reasonable professional assistance. Davis v.
United States, 404 Fed.Appx. 336, 337 (11th Cir. 2010)
(citing Strickland, 466 U.S. at 686). “It is
petitioner's burden to ‘establish that counsel
preformed outside the wide range of reasonable professional
assistance' by making ‘errors so serious that
[counsel] failed to function as the kind of counsel
guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.'” LeCroy v.
United States, 739 F.3d 1297, 1312 (11th Cir. 2014)
(quoting Butcher v. United States, 368 F.3d 1290,
1293 (11th Cir. 2004) (alteration in original)).
“Showing prejudice requires petitioner to establish a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would
have been different.” Id. (internal citation
omitted). “The prejudice prong requires a petitioner to
demonstrate that seriously deficient performance of his
attorney prejudiced the defense.” Id. at
1312-13. “The likelihood of a different result must be
substantial, not just conceivable.” Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 112 (2011). “In evaluating
performance, ‘counsel is strongly presumed to have
rendered adequate assistance and made all significant
decisions in the exercise of reasonable professional
judgment.'” LeCroy, 739 F.3d at 1312
(quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690). “If a
petitioner cannot satisfy one prong, [a court] need not
review the other prong.” Duhart v. United
States, 556 Fed.Appx. 897, 898 (11th Cir. 2014).
“The burden of persuasion is on a section 2255
petitioner to prove, by a preponderance of the competent
evidence, both that counsel's performance was
unreasonable, and that he was prejudiced by that
performance.” Demar v. United States, 228
Fed.Appx. 940, 950 (11th Cir. 2007).
court deciding an actual ineffectiveness claim must judge the
reasonableness of counsel's challenged conduct on the
facts of the particular case, viewed as of the time of
counsel's conduct.” Strickland, 466 U.S.
at 690. “The cases in which habeas petitioners can
properly prevail on the ground of ineffective assistance of
counsel are few and far between.” James v.
Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., No. 8:12-CV-1363, 2013 WL
5596800, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 11, 2013) (citing Waters
v. Thomas, 46 F.3d 1506, 1511 (11th Cir. 1995));
Body v. United States, Crim. Action No. 10-0232,
2013 WL 2470660, at *20 (S.D. Ala. June 6, 2013) (citing
Johnson v. Alabama, 256 F.3d 1156, 1176 (11th Cir.
counsel made an error so egregious as to be outside the broad
scope of competence expected of attorneys, a movant can
obtain relief only if the error caused actual prejudice.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 691-92. In order to
establish actual prejudice, a petitioner must show that
“there is a reasonable probability that but for the
attorney's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different.” Armstead v.
Scott, 37 F.3d 202, 207 (5th Cir. 1994). A reasonable
probability is a probability sufficient to undermine
confidence in the outcome of the proceedings.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. “The likelihood
of a different result must be substantial, not just
conceivable.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S.
86, 112 (2011).
During Plea Negotiations
contends his counsel did not advise him as to the dangers and
disadvantages of pleading guilty. Doc. 1 at 4. Reddick also
contends Mr. McIlvaine did not investigate the facts in this
case, which led to counsel overlooking “the key
fact” that the evidence could not support Reddick's
§ 992(g)(1) conviction and that counsel knew or should
have known Reddick could not have conspired with federal
agents. Id.; Doc. 1-1 at 3. Specifically,
Reddick asserts the informant only had toy or
“prop” guns, which could not have risen to the
level of “weapons” within the meaning of §
922(g)(1). Doc. 1-1 at 4. Instead, Reddick argues that, had
Mr. McIlvaine investigated the facts of this case regarding
the “prop” guns and “the scam to beat
Reddick out of his spoils, ” he would have advised
Reddick not to plead guilty. Id. at 6. Reddick
maintains there is a reasonable probability he would have
rejected the plea agreement and proceeded to trial had Mr.
McIlvaine advised him on the Government's burden of
proof. Doc. 1 at 4.
Government asserts Reddick was depicted on tape committing
the crimes charged, confessed to those crimes, and admitted
all of the facts contained in his plea agreement. Doc. 7 at
The Government notes Reddick testified during the Rule 11
proceeding that he understood the purpose of the hearing and
his rights and that he wanted to plead guilty because he was
guilty of the offenses to which he was pleading guilty.
Id. The Government also notes Reddick stated at the
hearing that Mr. McIlvaine reviewed the possible punishment
and advisory Guidelines range. Id. at 15. In
addition, the Government states Reddick did not hesitate in
answering questions or express a desire to proceed to trial,
and Reddick stated no one had pressured him into pleading
guilty. Id. at 15-16. The Government alleges
Reddick's current assertions regarding the §
922(g)(1) offense are contradicted by the record in this
case. Id. at 16. Had Reddick gone to trial, the
Government contends he would have received a much higher
sentence than he did, unless the Court found a reason to
depart from the Guidelines range, which is not apparent and
which has not been suggested. Id.
defendant enters a guilty plea pursuant to Rule 11
proceedings, “there is a strong presumption that the
statements made during the colloquy are true” and his
plea is knowing and voluntary. United States v.
Gonzalez-Mercado, 808 F.2d 796, 800 n.8 (11th Cir.
1987). “However, a defendant's guilty plea is not
knowing and voluntary if he pled guilty on the advice of
counsel and that counsel rendered ineffective assistance
because his advice was outside of the range of competence
demanded of attorneys in criminal cases.” United
States v. Munguia-Ramirez, 267 Fed.Appx. 894, 897 (11th
Cir. 2008) (internal citation omitted). The standard for
determining the validity of a guilty plea is “whether
the plea represents a voluntary[, ] intelligent choice among
the alternative courses open to the defendant.”
North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 31 (1970);
Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 242 (1969). The
assistance of counsel received by a defendant is relevant to
the question of whether a defendant's guilty plea was
knowing and intelligent insofar as it affects the
defendant's knowledge and understanding. Cannon v.
Jones, No. 3:15CV213, 2017 WL 990583, at *6 (N.D. Fla.
Feb. 7, 2017), report and recommendation adopted,
2017 WL 988663 (N.D. Fla. Mar. 13, 2017) (citing McMann
v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 770-71 (1970)).
addition, a defendant's sworn testimony to the trial
judge in open court is presumed to be truthful. In the
context of a plea hearing, the United States Supreme Court
has stated that “the representations of the defendant .
. . at such a hearing, as well as any findings made by the
judge accepting the plea, constitute a formidable barrier in
any subsequent collateral proceedings. Solemn declarations in
open court carry a strong presumption of verity.”
Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 73-74 (1977).
The defendant's representations are presumptively
trustworthy and are considered conclusive absent compelling
evidence showing otherwise. Id.
“a defendant alleges his counsel's deficient
performance led him to accept a guilty plea rather than go to
trial, we do not ask whether, had he gone to trial, the
result of that trial ‘would have been different'
than the result of the plea bargain.” Lee v. United
States, __U.S.__, 137 S.Ct. 1958, 1965 (June 23, 2017).
“Instead, when a defendant claims that his
counsel's deficient performance deprived him of a trial
by causing him to accept a plea, the defendant can show
prejudice by demonstrating a reasonable probability that, but
for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty
and would have insisted on going to trial.” Spriggs
v. United States, 703 Fed.Appx. 888, 890 (11th Cir.
2017) (internal citation and punctuation omitted). A movant
“alleging prejudice with respect to the plea process
must demonstrate a reasonable probability that he would have
gone to trial rather than enter the plea, but for
counsel's errors.” Martinez v. Sec'y, Fla.
Dep't of Corr., 684 Fed.Appx. 915, 922 (11th Cir.
2017) (citing Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156, 163
(2012)). “Further, the decision to reject the plea must
have been ‘rational under the
circumstances.'” Id. (quoting Padilla
v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 372 (2010)). In a plea
situation, the focus of inquiry under the performance prong
of Strickland is “whether counsel's advice
‘was within the range of competence demanded of
attorneys in criminal cases.'” Hill, 474
U.S. at 56-57 (quoting McMann v. Richardson, 397
U.S. 759, 771 (1970)). “Judicial scrutiny of
counsel's performance must be highly deferential, ”
and courts should make every effort to “eliminate the
distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct the
circumstances of counsel's challenged conduct, and to
evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the
time.” Cannon, 2017 WL 990583, at *10 (citing
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689).
and his attorney, Mr. McIlvaine, were able to negotiate a
plea agreement with the Government whereby Reddick agreed to
plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine
and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Crim. Case,
Doc. 89 at 1, 4-5. In exchange, the Government agreed to move
the Court to dismiss the remaining two counts of the
indictment. Id. at 3. Reddick faced a statutory
sentence of not more than 20 years' imprisonment on the
conspiracy charge and not more than 10 years'
imprisonment on the felon in possession charge. Id.
at 2. The plea agreement set forth the statutory elements and
factual bases of the offenses to which Reddick was pleading
guilty. Id. at 5-7. Reddick agreed that he was
guilty of the offenses. Id. at 5. In addition,