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Reddy v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

June 13, 2019

ROHIT REDDY, Petitioner,

          ORDER DENYING 28 U.S.C. § 2255 PETITION



         Before the court is Petitioner Rohit Reddy's habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. (Pet. (Dkt. # 1).) Respondent United States of America (“the Government”) filed an answer to the petition. (Answer (Dkt. # 5).) Mr. Reddy did not respond to the Government's answer. (See Dkt.; see also 3/4/19 Order (Dkt. # 4) at 2 (explaining that the Government “shall note the Answer for consideration on the fourth Friday after it is filed” and “Petitioner may file a responsive brief no later than the Monday immediately preceding the noting date.”).) The court has reviewed the petition, the parties' submissions concerning the petition, the relevant portions of the record, including the record of the underlying criminal case, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, [1] the court DENIES Mr. Reddy's petition.


         On July 1, 2016, Mr. Reddy, who is not a United States citizen, pleaded guilty to one count of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) Benefit Fraud. See United States v. Reddy, No. CR16-0189JLR (W.D. Wash.), Dkt. # 7 (“Plea”). His crime involved knowingly violating 7 U.S.C. § 2024 and related regulations by acquiring or using more than $100 of SNAP benefits. Id. ¶ 3. At sentencing, the court determined that the loss amount associated with Mr. Reddy's crime was $95, 001.00. (See Answer, Ex. 3 (“Sentencing Tr.”) at 60:15-23, 63:13-16); Reddy, No. CR16-0189JLR, Dkt. # 28 (“Judgment”) at 6. The court sentenced Mr. Reddy to 14 months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release. See Reddy, No. CR16-0189JLR, Judgment at 2-3.

         Mr. Reddy now brings a habeas petition alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. (See Pet. at 4.) In particular, Mr. Reddy asserts that his counsel led him to believe that the court would find a loss amount under $10, 000.00, which would make it “very unlikely that [he] would be deported.” (See Statement (Dkt. # 1-2) at 4.) With a $95, 001.00 loss amount, however, Mr. Reddy is subject to mandatory deportation. (Id. at 4.) Mr. Reddy claims that, had his attorney not misadvised him about the loss amount associated with his guilty plea and the likelihood of his deportation, Mr. Reddy “would have gone to trial or requested a plea agreement with a binding stipulation as to loss under $10, 000.” (Id. at 5.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Title 28 United States Code § 2255

         A prisoner in federal custody may collaterally challenge his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on “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 . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). A court must hold an evidentiary hearing on a § 2255 petition “[u]nless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). “[N]o hearing is required if the allegations, viewed against the record, either fail to state a claim for relief or are so palpably incredible or patently frivolous as to warrant summary dismissal.” Shah v. United States, 878 F.2d 1156, 1158 (9th Cir. 1989) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Here, the court concludes that an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary. The record provides a sufficient basis on which to judge Mr. Reddy's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Accordingly, the court exercises its discretion not to hold an evidentiary hearing. See id.

         B. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         “[T]he Sixth Amendment right to counsel exists, and is needed, in order to protect the fundamental right to a fair trial.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 684 (1984). To establish a Sixth Amendment violation for ineffectiveness of counsel, a petitioner must establish that (1) counsel's performance was deficient, and (2) counsel's deficient performance prejudiced his defense. Id. at 687. Counsel's performance was deficient if counsel “made errors that a reasonably competent attorney acting as a diligent and conscientious advocate would not have made.” Butcher v. Marquez, 758 F.2d 373, 375-76 (9th Cir. 1985). Because of the difficulties of evaluating attorney performance in hindsight, “[a] fair assessment of attorney performance requires that every effort be made . . . to evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the time.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689.

         The Strickland two-prong analysis applies to ineffective assistance of counsel challenges concerning guilty pleas. Washington v. Lampert, 422 F.3d 864, 872-73 (9th Cir. 2005). In the context of a plea bargain, the prejudice requirement is met by showing that, but for counsel's alleged errors, the petitioner would have rejected the plea offer. Id.; see also Weaver v. Palmateer, 455 F.3d 958, 967 (9th Cir. 2006). Further, counsel's failure to “advise her client regarding the risk of deportation” stemming from a plea agreement is grounds for an ineffective assistance of counsel finding. See Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 367-68 (2010). Where removal is “presumptively mandatory, ” counsel's performance is deficient by giving “false assurance” that a conviction will not result in removal. Id. at 368-69. In other words, “when the deportation consequence is truly clear, ” counsel must “give correct advice.” Id. at 369. However, in “situations in which the deportation consequences of a particular plea are unclear or uncertain . . . a criminal defense attorney need do no more than advise a noncitizen client that pending criminal charges may carry a risk of adverse immigration consequences.” Id.

         A court addressing a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel need not address both prongs of the Strickland test if the petitioner's showing is insufficient as to one prong. Weaver, 455 F.3d at 697. “If it is easier to dispose of an ineffectiveness claim on the ground of lack of ...

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