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United States v. Hecock

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 18, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Petitioner,
v.
JASON MICHAEL HECOCK, Respondent.

ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR HABEAS RELIEF

RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Defendant-Petitioner Jason Hecock's Motion for Habeas Corpus Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Dkt. # 1) and Response by Plaintiff United States of America (Dkt. # 10). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief is DENIED.

Background

Defendant-Petitioner Jason Hecock filed the instant Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 seeking to vacate the sentence imposed at his sentencing hearing in CR11-178RSM on January 25, 2012. Dkt. # 1. Mr. Hecock has served a 185-day term of incarceration in CR05-159RSM after he pleaded guilty to a single count of Distribution of MDMA and is currently on supervised release. On March 31, 2011, Defendant had an initial appearance for three supervised release violations: (1) possession of marijuana with intent to distribute; (2) possession of Oxycontin with intent to deliver; (3) possession of drug paraphernalia. See CR05-159RSM, Dkt. ## 82, 88.

On October 14, 2011, Defendant pleaded guilty to three related counts alleged in the indictment in CR11-178RSM: (1) Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(D); (2) Possession of MDMA, Hydrocodone, Codeine, and Heroin, with Intent to Distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), and (3) Possession of Oxycodone with Intent to Distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). The sole recommendation contained in the Plea Agreement specified that,

"The government agrees to recommend that the sentence in this matter be served concurrently to any time period imposed on the supervised release violations in CR05-0159RSM. However, Defendant understands that the United States Probation Office will recommend that the sentence in both matters be served consecutively."

Dkt. # 27, p. 9. At Defendant's plea hearing and through Defendant's sworn plea colloquy, the presiding Magistrate Judge found that Defendant was competent to enter a guilty plea and understood the consequences of the plea. See CR11-178RSM, Dkt. # 25; CR13-173RSM, Dkt. # 10, pp. 4-5.

On January 1, 2012, the Court held a combined disposition hearing on Defendant's supervised release violations in CR05-0159RSM and sentencing hearing in CR11-178RSM. In its Sentencing Memorandum, the government recommended an above Guideline range term of forty-six months on CR11-178RSM, and a term of twenty-four months for the supervised release violations, to be served concurrently. CR11-178RSM, Dkt. # 30, p. 4. In its Sentencing Memorandum, the defense recommended a term of thirty-seven months in custody at the high end of the Guideline range, with either dismissal of the supervised release violations or a sentence of nine months on the violations to run concurrently. Id. at Dkt. # 31, p. 3. The Court imposed a term of thirty-seven months, consecutive to a disposition term of nine months for the supervised release violations. Id. at Dkt. # 32; CR05-0159RSM, Dkt. # 33.

Analysis

In his petition for habeas relief, Mr. Hecock claimed that his sentence should be vacated on two grounds: ineffective assistance of counsel and breach of the plea agreement by the Government. Dkt. # 1, pp. 4, 5. Petitioner also stated a conclusory allegation that he was "induced into signing two plea agreements, " though he failed to develop these allegations or support them with any factual assertions. See Id. at 5. The government denies all claims. See Dkt. # 10.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, the Court shall vacate and set aside a judgment upon a finding that "the judgment was rendered without jurisdiction, or that the sentence imposed was not authorized by law or otherwise open to collateral attack, or that there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack." The presiding judge has discretion to determine whether an evidentiary hearing is warranted upon review of the record. See Rule 8, Rules Governing Section 2255 Cases in the District Courts. "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, " the Court must deny the motion. Id. at Rule 4(b) ; see also Baumann v. United States, 692 F.2d 565, 571 (9th Cir.1982).

1) Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

To prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, Petitioner must establish both that his "counsel's performance was deficient" and that "the deficient performance prejudiced the defense." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). To establish deficient performance, a defendant must show that "in light of all the circumstances, the identified acts or omissions were outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance." Id. at 690. "Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential" in light of the "strong presumption that counsel rendered adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment.'" United States v. Palomba, 31 F.3d 1456, 1460 (9th Cir. 1994)(quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690). To demonstrate actual prejudice, the "defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 695. "The benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result." Id. at 685.

Mr. Hecock claims that his counsel was ineffective because: (1) he failed to argue for a total sentence not exceeding thirty seven months, concurrent with the supervised release disposition, and (2) he failed to properly explain the contents of the plea ...


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