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Campbell v. United States

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

July 18, 2019

KEVIN CAMPBELL, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Kevin Campbell's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Dkt. No. 14). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court hereby DENIES the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In February 2017, Petitioner pled guilty to one count of distribution of controlled substances. United States v. Campbell, CR17-0025-JCC, Dkt. No. 9 (W.D. Wash. 2017). As part of his plea agreement, Petitioner admitted that he sold drugs through the website Silk Road to dozens of clients, including J.M. Id. at 5. Petitioner admitted this included the sale of China White heroin, which he sold to J.M. in 2013. Id. Petitioner also admitted that J.M. presumably ingested the drugs that Petitioner sold him, and subsequently died of a drug overdose. Id. at 5-6. As part of his plea agreement, Petitioner agreed to waive all rights to directly appeal the sentence imposed by the Court, including any fine, restitution order, probation or supervised release condition, or forfeiture order. Id. at 11-12. The waiver includes any right to bring a collateral attack against the conviction and sentence that he received, except as it may relate to ineffective assistance of counsel. Id.

         In August 2017, the Court sentenced Petitioner to 72 months in prison. Campbell, CR17-0025-JCC, Dkt. No. 36. Over the objection of Petitioner's former counsel, Jennifer Wellman, the Court found that, for the purpose of sentencing considerations, the drugs Petitioner sold J.M. caused his death. See Campbell, CR17-0025-JCC, Dkt. No. 37; (See also Dkt. No. 16-3 at 26.) Following his sentencing, Petitioner filed a notice of appeal in the Ninth Circuit. Campbell, CR17-0025-JCC, Dkt. No. 41. The grounds for Petitioner's appeal are not known to the Court. Petitioner was subsequently granted a substitution of counsel by the Ninth Circuit, and attorney Eric Levin took over Petitioner's case. Campbell, CR17-0025-JCC, Dkt. No. 45. Subsequently, Petitioner voluntarily withdrew his appeal, and the same day filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea in this Court, which was denied. Campbell, CR17-0025-JCC, Dkt. Nos. 50, 54. Petitioner now brings what the Court considers to be his first petition for habeas corpus relief. (Dkt. No. 14.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         To state a cognizable claim under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a petitioner must assert that he or she is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, that the district court lacked jurisdiction, that the sentence exceeded the maximum allowed by law, or that the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). “Unless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court shall grant a prompt hearing thereon.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). A claim must be “so palpably incredible or patently frivolous as to warrant summary dismissal” in order to justify the refusal of an evidentiary hearing. United States v. Leonti, 326 F.3d 1111, 1116 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting United States v. Schaflander, 743 F.2d 714, 717 (9th Cir. 1984)). Plaintiff alleges three separate grounds for relief: (1) Petitioner's plea was not intelligently entered into because he was coerced into the plea by Ms. Wellman's failure to investigate the cause of J.M.'s death; (2) Mr. Levin rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by withdrawing Petitioner's appeal to the Ninth Circuit; and (3) the conditions of his supervised release are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.

         B. Knowing and Intelligent Plea

         Petitioner asserts that he did not enter into his plea intelligently because he was coerced into entering into the plea. (Dkt. No. 14 at 4.) Petitioner alleges that this coercion was based on Ms. Wellman's inadequate assistance of counsel because of her failure to conduct an adequate investigation into J.M.'s cause of death. (Id.) A plea is not entered into intelligently “if the defendant is without the information necessary to assess intelligently the advantages and disadvantages of a trial as compared with those attending a plea of guilty.” United States v. Hernandez, 203 F.3d 614, 619 (9th Cir. 2000).

         However, Petitioner was given substantial information regarding J.M.'s death when deciding whether to enter into a plea agreement. Ms. Wellman hired an expert pathologist to independently review the circumstances of J.M.'s death. Campbell, CR17-0025-JCC, Dkt. No. 29 at 19-24. This expert explicitly mentioned the chain of custody concern that Petitioner mentions in his petition. (Id. at 20-21.) Petitioner also had access to J.M.'s autopsy records, toxicology reports, and the findings of other experts who conducted an examination into J.M.'s death. See Campbell, CR17-0025-JCC, Dkt. Nos. 28, 29. Petitioner had the necessary information to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Government's case for proving that the drugs Petitioner sold J.M. caused J.M.'s death. With this information, Petitioner ultimately decided to enter into a plea agreement to avoid being charged with the sentencing enhancement that his sale of drugs to J.M. caused J.M.'s death. Campbell, CR17-0025-JCC, Dkt. No. 9. When asked at his plea hearing whether he had entered into his plea agreement intelligently, Petitioner answered that he did. (Dkt. No. 16-2 at 19.) When asked at his plea hearing whether he had the information necessary to intelligently enter into his plea, Petitioner answered that he did. (Id. at 18-19.) And when asked if he had an additional questions for Ms. Wellman or any need for additional information, he answered that he did not. (Id.) For these reasons, the Court finds that Petitioner's plea was entered intelligently, and DENIES Petitioner's motion for relief on this ground.

         C. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         1. Ineffective assistance of trial counsel

         Though Petitioner characterizes his first ground for relief as unintelligently entering into his plea, the Court also analyzes Petitioner's claim as one for ineffective assistance of counsel. (See Dkt. No. 14.) Petitioner claims that Ms. Wellman provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to fully investigate the cause of J.M.'s death. (Id. at 4.) In order to show ineffective assistance of counsel, Petitioner must prove that: (1) counsel's performance was professionally unreasonable, and (2) any ...


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