United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CHIEF JUDGE
the Court is the Motion to Vacate
under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 135) filed
by Petitioner, Jose Rigoberto Iglesias. The United States
filed an Opposition. (Doc. 141). An evidentiary hearing is
not warranted. For the following reasons, the Motion
to Vacate (Doc. 135) is DENIED.
November 20, 2013, Petitioner and his brother, Jose Luis
Argueta Iglesias ("Argueta"), were charged with
conspiracy to distribute, and possession with the intent to
distribute, 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 18 U.S.C. § 2
(Count One); distribution of methamphetamine (in varying
amounts up to 500 grams), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1) (Counts Two-Seven, and Nine); and possession, with
intent to distribute, 50 or more grams of methamphetamine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count Eight). (Doc.
55). Petitioner entered a plea of not guilty and his case
proceeded to trial. Before trial, the Court granted
Petitioners motion to dismiss Count Two (distribution of a
detectable amount of methamphetamine), after finding that
procedurally, the United States' decision to add the
additional count after the discovery deadline prejudiced
Petitioner. (Doc. 117 at pp. 13-14; see also
Doc. 57). However, his brother, Argueta, executed a plea
agreement in which he pleaded guilty to the lesser included
offenses in Counts One, Four, Six, and Seven. (Doc. 97).
February 26, 2014, the jury returned guilty verdicts on
Counts One (conspiracy), Three through Seven (distribution)
and Eight (possession with intent to distribute), but could
not reach a verdict on Count Nine (distribution of 50 grams
or more of methamphetamine). At trial, the United States
presented, inter alia, testimony from confidential
informants, Angela Muniz ("Muniz") and Tonya
Honeycutt ("Honeycutt"), which later became an
issue on appeal. See United States v. Iglesias, 634
Fed.Appx. 971, 972 (5th Cir. 2015). Both Muniz and Honeycutt
testified that they were former drug users who worked with
Argueta and Petitioner to buy and sell methamphetamine.
Id. After being approached separately by the FBI,
both agreed to participate in undercover, controlled drug
March 12, 2014, Petitioner filed a Motion for New Trial and
an Amended Motion for New Trial, alleging in both motions
that Muniz, one of the United States' key witnesses, lied
during her testimony about her drug use and criminal history.
(Docs. 65, 83). Petitioner also alleged that the United
States failed to produce all evidence required under its
discovery obligations, particularly information about
Muniz's misdemeanor summons for marijuana use issued to
her during the period of time that she was acting as an
informant in the investigation against Petitioner.
(Id.). On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth
Circuit affirmed the Court's denial of the Motions
holding that Muniz's misdemeanor marijuana summons was
not "material" to Petitioner's guilt, and thus,
was not subject to the United States' duty to disclose
under Brady. See United States v. Iglesias, 2014 WL
4373213, at *1 (M.D. La. Sept. 3, 2014), aff'd,
634 Fed.Appx. 971 (5th Cir. 2015).
October 30, 2014, the Court sentenced Petitioner to a term of
imprisonment of 192 months, five years of supervised release,
and an assessment in the amount of $700. (Doc. 104). On
January 21, 2016, the Fifth Circuit issued its mandate
affirming Petitioner's conviction. (Doc. 129).
filed a Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on
November 7, 2016. (Doc. 135). In his motion, Petitioner
asserts three grounds: (1) "Ineffective Assistance of
Counsel, " (2) "Prosecutorial Misconduct, "
and (3) "Cause and Prejudice To The Defendant."
(Doc. 135 at pp. 4-6; see also Doc. 135-1 at p. 4).
Petitioner claims that his attorney was ineffective by
failing to: (1) investigate, and thus discover evidence
needed to impeach Muniz and Honeycutt at trial; (2) interview
his brother/co-defendant Argueta, and call him as a witness
at trial; (3) object to the admissibility of recorded
conversations (phone calls); (4) object to the dates alleged
in Count One (conspiracy); and (5) object to the amounts
alleged in Count One during sentencing. (Doc. 135-1 at pp.
7-11). Moreover, (6) he alleges ineffective assistance of
appellate counsel for failing to challenge, on appeal, the
sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for
Count One, both at trial and at sentencing. (Id. at
further claims that the United States engaged in
prosecutorial misconduct by; (1) knowingly presenting
perjured testimony from Honeycutt and Muniz, who he contends
were "very unreliable witnesses;" and (2) using
inadmissible exhibits and testimony at trial for the purposes
of misleading and confusing the jury. (Id. at pp.
2255 provides that a federal prisoner serving a court-imposed
sentence may move the court to vacate, set aside or correct
his sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Only a narrow set of
claims are cognizable on a § 2255 motion. The statute
identifies four grounds on which a motion may be made: (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 exceeds
the statutory maximum sentence; or (4) the sentence is
"otherwise subject to collateral attack."
petitioner files a § 2255 motion, the district court is
required by statute to hold a hearing "[u]nless the
motion and the files and records of the case conclusively
show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." §
2255(b). Applying this statutory command triggers a two-step
inquiry. First, the court must determine whether the record
"conclusively negate[s] the factual predicates asserted
in support of the motion for post-conviction relief, "
and second, whether "the petitioner [would] be entitled
to post-conviction relief as a legal matter if those factual
allegations which are not conclusively refuted" are
true. Friedman v. United States, 588 F.2d 1010, 1015
(5th Cir. 1979).
Cause and Prejudice
§ 2255 appears broad, the scope of review is actually
narrow. The Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit have
emphasized repeatedly that a collateral challenge may not
substitute for an appeal. United States v. Shaid,
937 F.2d 228, 231 (5th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (citing
United States u. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165 (1982)).
As such, review under § 2255 is ordinarily limited to
questions of constitutional or juris dictional magnitude.
United States v. Cervantes, 132 F.3d 1106, 1109 (5th
Cir. 1998); Shaid, 937 F.2d at 232. Nevertheless,
those issues may not be raised for the first time on
collateral review without a showing of both cause for the
procedural default and actual prejudice resulting from the
error. Cervantes, 132 F.3d at 1109; Shaid,
937 F.2d at 232 (citing Frady, 456 U.S. at 166).
error may constitute "cause" for a procedural
default; however, the petitioner must show that counsel's
actions or inactions amounted to ineffective assistance of
counsel. Cotton v. Cockrell,343 F.3d 746, 754-55
(5th Cir. 2003) (citing Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S.
477, 478 (1986)); Ortez u. Dretke, 108 F. App'x.
188, 190 (5th Cir. 2004). Thus, "attorney error short of
ineffective assistance of counsel" in the constitutional
sense "does not constitute cause for a procedural
default." Murray, 477 U.S. at 492. Accordingly,
ineffective assistance adequate to establish
"cause" for the procedural default of a
constitutional claim must be proven in accordance with the
principles set forth by the United States Supreme Court in
Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668 (1984). Here,
Petitioner has alleged that any procedurally defaulted claims