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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 1, 2018


         SECTION "F"



         Before the Court is Joseph Jones' 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.


         On October 12, 2005, officers and detectives with the Hammond Police Department executed a search warrant at Joseph Jones' residence. The officers found a Glock 19 9mm semi-automatic handgun, a plastic bag that contained approximately 500 grams of cocaine base (“crack”), and $19, 799 in U.S. currency. Jones acknowledged that the cocaine, money, and gun found in the house belonged to him. A review of Jones' criminal history showed that he previously pled guilty in the 21st Judicial District Court for the State of Louisiana for possession of cocaine, in violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 40:967(C)(2), a felony drug offense.

         On January 12, 2006, Joseph Jones pled guilty to a three-count indictment which charged Jones with possession with intent to distribute fifty grams or more of cocaine base in violation of Title 21, United States Code, § 841(a)(1) and § 841(b)(1)(A), being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of Title 18, United States Code, § 922(g)(1), and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of Title 18, United States Code, § 924(c). When Jones signed the plea agreement, he waived the right to appeal or otherwise contest his sentence. He reserved the right to appeal any punishment that was imposed in excess of the statutory maximum.

         Jones is currently serving a 120 month sentence. On July 13, 2006, Jones was sentenced to a total of 211 months. The sentence was subsequently reduced three times to the current 120 month sentence.


         A petitioner may file a habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, claiming a right to release from custody on the ground that a sentence ordered by a federal court "was imposed in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2255.[1] “Relief 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. Gaudet, 81 F.3d 585, 589 (5th Cir. 1996)(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A claim of error that is neither constitutional nor jurisdictional is not cognizable in a § 2255 proceeding unless the error constitutes a “fundamental error” that “renders the entire proceeding irregular or invalid.” United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979).

         A habeas petitioner has the burden of establishing his claims by a preponderance of the evidence. Wright v. United States, 624 F.2d 557, 558 (5th Cir. 1980)(citations omitted). If the Court finds that the petitioner is entitled to relief, it “shall vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         II. A.

         In the plea agreement signed by Jones and accepted by the Court, Jones waived his right to contest his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         A defendant may waive his right to appeal as part of a plea agreement, as long as the waiver is informed and voluntary. United States v. Wilkes, 20 F.3d 651, 653 (5th Cir. 1994). For a waiver to be informed and voluntary, the defendant must understand the consequences of the waiver. United States v. Baty, 980 F.2d 977, 979 (5th Cir. 1992). Namely, “that [the defendant] had a right to appeal his sentence and that he was giving up that right.” United States v. Portillo, 18 F.3d 290, 292 (5th Cir. 1994)(quoting United States v. Melancon, 972 F.2d 566, 568 (5th Cir. 1992)). The Court can rely on the defendant's statements at his guilty plea hearing because “[s]olemn declarations in open court carry a strong presumption of verity.” Wilkes, 20 F.3d at 653 (quoting Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 74 (1977)); United States v. Cantu, 273 F.3d 393, at *1 (5th Cir. 2001)(per curiam)(unpublished). In Portillo, the Fifth Circuit held that “when the record of the Rule 11 hearing clearly indicates that a defendant has read and understands his plea agreement, and that he raised no question regarding a waiver-of-appeal provision, the defendant will be held to the bargain to which he agreed, regardless of whether the court specifically admonished him concerning the waiver of appeal.” Portillo, 18 F.3d at 292-93.

         In this motion, Jones does not challenge the knowledge or voluntariness of his waiver of rights in the plea agreement. Jones also doesn't claim that he did not understand the plea agreement. Since there is no issue about the plea agreement, then Jones' waiver of right to challenge his ...

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