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United States v. Desadier

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division

April 2, 2015



DEE D. DRELL, Chief District Judge.

Before the Court is Petitioner Ronny Desadier, Jr.'s Motion to Vacate Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 56). For the following reasons, Petitioner's motion is DENIED.

I. Background

In February 2011, Petitioner Ronny Desadier, Jr. (Mr. Desadier) was indicted on one count of Distribution of Child Pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2)(A) and one count of Possession of Child Pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). Petitioner pled guilty to these offenses in August 2011, and the Court subsequently sentenced him to 120 months in prison (Doc. 34). He now moves to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, claiming violations of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel.

II. Law and Argument

There are four grounds upon which a federal prisoner may move to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence under § 2255: (1) "the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States;" (2) "the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence;" (3) "the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law;" or (4) the sentence "is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); United States v. Cates, 952 F.2d 149, 151 (5th Cir. 1992); see also United States, v. Scruggs, 691 F.3d 660, 666 (5th Cir. 2012) (quotations and citations omitted). While this language appears broad, "[r]elief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for transgressions of constitutional rights and for a narrow range of injuries that could not have been raised on direct appeal and would, if condoned, result in a complete miscarriage of justice." United States v. Young, 77 F.Appx. 708, 709 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing United States v. Vaughn, 955 F.2d 367, 368 (5th Cir.1992)).

The Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit have emphasized that habeas review is an "extraordinary remedy" and may not do service for a direct appeal. United States v. Cooper, 548 F.Appx. 114, 115 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998)). Following a conviction and exhaustion or waiver of any right to direct appeal, federal courts may presume a defendant stands fairly and finally convicted. United States v. Willis, 273 F.3d 592, 595 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 167-68 (1982); United States v. Shaid, 937 F.2d 228, 231-32 (5th Cir. 1991) (en banc)). Consequently, the nature of a collateral challenge under § 2255 is fairly limited:

Review under § 2255 ordinarily is limited to questions of constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude. If a § 2255 movant failed to raise a claim on direct appeal, he may not raise it on collateral review unless he shows cause [for the procedural default] and [actual] prejudice [resulting from the error of which he complains] or that he is actually innocent. Scruggs, 691 F.3d at 666 (internal citations omitted). See also, e.g., Bousley, 523 U.S. at 622; Willis, 273 F.3d at 595; United States v. Kallestad, 236 F.3d 225, 227 (5th Cir. 2000).

A. Necessity of an Evidentiary Hearing

We are able to resolve the merits of Petitioner's motion without the necessity of an evidentiary hearing because the motion, files, and record of the case provide the required and adequate factual basis necessary to the resolution of this § 2255 application. United States v. Reed, 719 F.3d 369, 373 (5th Cir. 2013) ("A motion brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 can be denied without a hearing only if the motion, files, and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." (internal quotations and citations omitted)). Petitioner's "[c]onclusory allegations, unsubstantiated by evidence, do not support [his] request for an evidentiary hearing." Id.

B. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims

Courts can consider claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that are brought for the first time in a § 2255 motion. United States Gaudet, 81 F.3d 585, 589 (5th Cir. 1996). To prevail on such claims, a petitioner must meet the two-pronged test set forth by the Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984):

A convicted defendant's claim that counsel's assistance was so defective as to require reversal of a conviction or death sentence has two components. First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the "counsel" guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. This requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable. Unless a defendant makes both showings, it cannot be said that the conviction or death sentence resulted from a breakdown in the adversary process that renders the result unreliable.

To establish the first element of deficient performance, a petitioner must show that counsel's representation "fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Id. at 688. This prong of the Strickland test calls for "highly deferential" judicial scrutiny, requiring courts to apply "a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Id. at 689. Accordingly, the petitioner "must overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action might be considered sound trial strategy" and ...

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