United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
the Court is Petitioner Stanley Scott's Motion for
Post-Conviction Relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255 (Rec.
Doc. No. 523), and the Government's Response in
Opposition (Rec. Doc. No. 533).
reasons below, IT IS ORDERED that
Petitioner's Motion for Post-Conviction Relief is
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
December of 2014, a federal grand jury indicted Petitioner
Stanley Scott (“Petitioner”) and five other
defendants charging them with multiple criminal counts,
including: RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute
controlled substances, violent crimes in furtherance of or in
relation to racketeering. Rec. Doc. 163. Specifically, the
indictment charged Petitioner with a total of nine counts.
Id. Petitioner accepted a plea agreement with the
Government, where he plead guilty to six counts and waived
his rights to challenge: 1) the Court's sentence, and 2)
the “manner in which the sentence was
determined[.]” Rec. Doc. 271 at 2-4. The terms of the
plea agreement also provided that the Government would
refrain from filing a bill of information containing two
prior felony convictions. The plea agreement further stated
that the Government would request dismissal of the remaining
three counts. Rec. Doc. 271 at 2.
March 11, 2016, the Court held a plea hearing where
petitioner acknowledged he reviewed the plea agreement with
his counselor and that he understood and accepted all the
terms of the plea agreement. Rec. Doc. 533; Rec. Doc. 391 at
9:4-9:10. At the same hearing, the Court informed petitioner
of the mandatory minimum and maximum sentences applicable to
his guilty plea on each of the six counts. Rec. Doc 533; Rec.
Doc. 391 at 10:13-13:22. The Court further cautioned
petitioner that any sentence suggested to him by his counsel,
the Government, or anyone else was not binding upon the
Court. Rec. Doc. 533; Rec. Doc. 391 at 24:2-24:12. Petitioner
affirmed his understanding of the Court's caution and
acknowledged his intent to maintain is guilty plea.
Id. Although petitioner's counsel admitted that
he provided petitioner with his expected sentencing range,
Rec. Doc. 391 at 48:9-48:16, petitioner acknowledged that his
lawyer never guaranteed him any specific sentence.
Id. at 46:5-46:12.
the plea hearing, the Government filed a sentencing
memorandum for an upward departure of petitioner's
sentencing. Rec. Doc. 374. In its memorandum, the Government
asserted that petitioner and other defendants committed a
murder in furtherance of the RICO enterprise conspiracy.
Id. Petitioner's lawyer filed multiple
objections to the enhancement. Rec. Docs. 337, 389, 404.
Petitioner also filed objections to a pre-sentence
investigation report (“PSR”) issued by the United
States Probation Officer, Rec. Doc. 359, arguing that the PSR
should not assessed as a first-degree murder. Id. at
51-54. The Court overruled petitioner's objections at the
sentencing hearing, Rec. Doc. 461 at 37:13-39:15, and
sentenced petitioner to 480 months (40 years) of
imprisonment. Id. at 99:11 - 100:7.
appealed the Court's sentence, arguing that the Court
erred in considering a related homicide as a first-degree
murder in its sentencing calculation. United States V.
Stanley Scott, No. 16-30311 (5th Cir. 2016). The Government
filed a motion to dismiss, asserting to the Fifth Circuit
that Petitioner waived his right to appeal sentencing matter
as apart of terms of the plea agreement. Rec. Doc. 271 at 4.
The Fifth Circuit agreed and granted the Government's
motion to dismiss. United States V. Stanley Scott, No.
16-30311 (5th Cir. Oct. 12, 2016), ECF No. 00513715574. The
instant pro se motion followed.
filed for post-conviction relief asserting four issues of
error: (1) he made an unknowing and unintelligent guilty plea
because trial court counsel was ineffective by failing to
inform him that the Court could consider the homicide in its
sentencing; (2) the Government breached the plea agreement by
informing the Court of the homicide; (3) he received an
illegal sentence because his trial lawyer promised him a
lower sentence if he accepted the plea agreement; and (4) his
trial counselor ineffectively assisted him by failing to
challenge the Government's sufficiency of proof that
Petitioner was involved in the homicide. Rec. Doc. 523 at
post-conviction motion, petitioner contends that he did not
raise the breach of the plea agreement claim on direct appeal
because his appellate counselor believed it held no merit.
Id. at 7. Lastly, petitioner asserts that he did not
raise the remaining claims on direct appeal because his
appellate lawyer told him he could not. Id. at 4-5,
Government filed a response, objecting to petitioner's
motion. Rec Doc. 533. The Government argues that
petitioner's claims are procedurally barred because
petitioner did not raise instant claims on direct appeal,
Id. at 8-9, and failed to show actual prejudice,
e.g. but for his counselors advice he would have received a
lower sentence or even went to trial. Id. at 21. The
Government also argues that neither of petitioner's
counselors were ineffective because petitioner's trial
attorney correctly informed petitioner that the Court could
consider relevant conduct for his sentencing, Id. at
14, and petitioners appellate counsel made a tactical
decision, considering petitioner's plea wavier, to not
raise the issue of the Government's sufficiency of the
evidence regarding petitioner's involvement in the
homicide. Id. at 19.
to 28 U.S.C. §2255, a federal prisoner serving a
court-imposed sentence may move the imposing court to vacate,
set aside or correct the sentence. Section 2255 provides four
grounds for filing a pursuant motion: 1) that the sentence
was imposed in violation of the Constitution or law of the
United States; 2) that the court lacked jurisdiction to
impose the prisoner's sentence; 3) that the imposed
sentence exceeded the maximum authorized by law; or 4) that
the sentence is “otherwise subject to collateral
attack.” An evidentiary hearing is not required when