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Teague v. United States

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

June 12, 2017

ERIC TEAGUE B.O.P. #30551-058
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Civil Action No. 6:15-cr-176

          MINALDI JUDGE.




         Before the Court is a pro se Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 by defendant Eric Teague ("Teague"). [Rec. Doc. 71]. The Government opposes the motion. [Rec. Doc. 76]. For reasons stated below, the motion is DENIED.



         On May 9, 2015, Special Agent Erol Catalan of Homeland Security Investigations in Lafayette, Louisiana, was contacted by CD., who reported that his sixteen-year-old daughter L.D. had been communicating via text message and email with adult male subjects. [Rec. Doc. 56-2, p. I].[1] During an interview with Agent Catalan, L.D. stated that she had received chat requests from other users, including Teague, shortly after becoming a member of a social networking site. Id. L.D. saved Teague's contact information into her cellphone. Id. They soon began talking about sex, with Teague expressing his desire to have sex with L.D. even after she informed him that she was sixteen years old. Id. L.D. stated that she sent Teague photographs of herself via email. Id. at 1-2. In January 2015, L.D. sent a full frontal nude photo of herself via attachment in an email to Teague. Id. at 2. She then informed him what the attachment contained, and he directed her to send the photograph to different phone numbers but subsequently received it through his email. Id. A few days later, Teague asked L.D. to send the same photograph to another one of his phones. Id. L.D. then told Teague that she was going to take a bath and he asked her to take a picture. Id. She responded by taking a picture of her legs in the water and sending it to him. Id.

         Upon Agent Catalan's affidavit this Court issued a search warrant to Yahoo!, Inc., which yielded email messages from Teague's account. [Rec. Doc. 76-1].[2] On August 12, 2015, Teague was indicted by federal grand jury in the Western District of Louisiana for one count of receiving child pornography. [Rec. Doc. 1]. In January 2016, Agent Catalan sought and obtained another search warrant from this Court to Google, Inc., authorizing a search related to L.D.'s email account. [Rec. Docs. 22, 76-1]. After two thwarted change of plea hearings, Teague's federal public defender, Cristie Gibbens, withdrew from the case and attorney Gerald Block was appointed as defense counsel. [Rec. Docs. 34, 39].

         On June 23, 2016, the Government filed a bill of information charging Teague with possession of child pornography. [Rec. Doc. 53]. Teague entered into a plea agreement on the same day, pleading guilty to that charge in exchange for the Government's promise to dismiss the receipt of child pornography charge. [Rec. Doc. 56]. At a hearing on September 21, 2016, Teague was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of sixty-three months and the receipt of child pornography charge was dismissed at the government's motion. [Rec. Docs. 63, 66].

         Teague has not filed a direct appeal. Instead, he submitted the instant motion on December 19, 2016. [Rec. Doc. 71]. As his sole claim for relief, he alleges that the search and/or arrest warrants were "unlawfully drawn (issued) only on lies told by Agent Catalan." Id. at 4. The Government contends that this claim is subject to procedural default based on Teague's failure to raise it on appeal. [Rec. Doc. 76, pp. 8-9]. In his reply, Teague clarifies his claim as being one of ineffective assistance based on the fact that neither Gibbens nor Block filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of these warrants. [Rec. Doc. 79');">79');">79');">79, pp. 2-6]. He requests an evidentiary hearing on the merits of his claim. Id. at 7. He also appends a letter to the district judge, asking that the communication be forwarded to an Assistant U.S. Attorney, requesting transcripts, and complaining about his treatment while incarcerated. Id. at 9-10.


         Law and Analysis

         A. Scope of§ 2255 Relief

         A federal prisoner may collaterally attack his conviction or sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on one or more of the following grounds: (1) "the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States;" (2) "the court was without jurisdiction to impose the sentence;" (3) "the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law;" and (4) the sentence is "otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); United States v. Cates, 952F.2d 149, 151 (5th Cir. 1992).

         Following conviction and exhaustion or waiver of the right to appeal, the court presumes that a defendant "stands fairly and finally convicted." United States v. Shaid, 937 F.2d 228, 231- 32 (5th Cir. 1991) (quoting United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 164 (1982)). Relief under § 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. Vaughn, 955 F.2d 367, 368 (5th Cir. 1992) (citing United States v. Capua, 656 F.2d 1033, 1037 (5th Cir. 1981)). Furthermore, the collateral challenge process of § 2255 is no substitute for appeal. A defendant may not raise a constitutional issue for the first time on collateral review without showing cause and prejudice for the procedural bar, or actual innocence. United States v. Mimms, 43 F.3d 217, 219 (5th Cir. 1995). However, this bar does not apply to ineffective assistance of counsel claims, which may be raised for the first time in a collateral proceeding under § 2255 regardless of whether the defendant raised the claim on direct appeal. Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 505-09 (2003).

         Here Teague's claim appears to be based entirely on ineffective assistance of counsel, a constitutional issue.[3] Therefore he has invoked a proper basis for relief under ยง 2255 and his failure to raise the ...

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