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Dejesus v. United States

July 30, 2008

RAMON DEJESUS, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, Senior District Judge

OPINION

Before the Court is Petitioner Ramon Dejesus's ("Petitioner") Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's motion will be denied without an evidentiary hearing.

I.

On July 11, 2005, Leonicio Vasquez arrived on a flight from the Dominican Republic at Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. (Answer at 1.)*fn1 Upon his arrival at the airport, Vasquez retrieved a suitcase from the baggage claim area, which was later searched by Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") agents. (Id. at 1-2.) During this search, ICE agents discovered approximately three kilograms of cocaine hidden under a false bottom in the suitcase. (Id.) Vasquez admitted to ICE agents that he expected to receive $1,000 for smuggling the cocaine into the United States, and ICE agents placed him under arrest. (Petition at 3.)

Vasquez agreed to cooperate with the ICE agents by performing a controlled delivery of the cocaine to Petitioner. (Presentence Investigation Report at 4, ¶ 9.) On July 12, 2005 Vasquez spoke to Petitioner, who agreed to pick up the cocaine from Vasquez at a diner in Union City, New Jersey. (Answer at 2.) Later that night, Vasquez arrived at the diner carrying a bag containing approximately three kilograms of sham narcotics.*fn2 (Id.) ICE agents observed Petitioner, his sister, Ramona Cruz, and a third individual arrive at the diner. (Id.) Cruz entered the diner and told Vasquez he would be paid for the drugs that following Thursday. (Answer, Ex. A, Attachment A, ¶ 4.) Petitioner then walked into the diner and took the bag of counterfeit narcotics from Vasquez. (Id. at ¶ 5.) Soon after, ICE agents arrested Petitioner and Cruz. (Id.)

A criminal complaint was filed against Petitioner and Cruz on July 12, 2005. (Answer, Ex. A.) Petitioner initially agreed to plead guilty to an Information and signed a plea agreement with the U.S. Government.*fn3 (Response at 6.) Petitioner later withdrew his plea agreement on April 18, 2006 and cancelled the plea hearing scheduled for April 21, 2006.

On April 28, 2006, a grand jury charged Petitioner in a superseding indictment with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) and 21 U.S.C. § 846. (Answer, Ex. B.) Petitioner pled not guilty to the charge on May 2, 2006. The court ordered discovery and the parties began preparing for trial.

At some point over the next four months, Petitioner changed his decision to proceed to trial and reached a second plea agreement with the Government on August 22, 2006 (the "Second Plea Agreement"). (Answer, Ex. D.) As part of this Second Plea Agreement, the Government proposed a two-level reduction in Petitioner's offense level for acceptance of personal responsibility under U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(a). (Answer, Ex. D, Sched. A at ¶ 8.) If the Court found that Petitioner met the criteria of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f),*fn4 the Second Plea Agreement stipulated that Petitioner would qualify for an additional two-level reduction. (Id. at ¶ 9.) The Second Plea Agreement also included a waiver provision, which provided that Petitioner agreed to waive his right to collaterally attack any sentence imposed within the guidelines set forth in the agreement. (Id. at ¶ 11.)

This Court accepted Petitioner's guilty plea on September 6, 2006. On February 13, 2007, Petitioner appeared before this Court for sentencing. According to the Sentencing Guidelines, Petitioner qualified for a base offense level of twenty-eight for the amount of cocaine involved in the offense. See U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c)(6). Pursuant to the Second Plea Agreement, Petitioner received a two-level reduction in his offense level for acceptance of personal responsibility under U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(a). This Court awarded Petitioner an additional two-level reduction in his offense level for meeting the criteria of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f). See U.S.S.G. § 5C1.2. Thus, Petitioner's total offense level was twenty-four, with a corresponding sentencing range of fifty-one to sixty-three months. See U.S.S.G., ch. 5, pt. A. This Court sentenced Petitioner to a prison term of fifty-four months, followed by a five-year term of supervised release. (Answer, Ex. E.) Petitioner did not directly appeal his sentence.

II.

Section 2255 provides, in pertinent part:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255 (2006). Therefore, Petitioner is entitled to relief only if he can establish that he is in custody in violation of federal law or the Constitution.

A district court is given discretion in determining whether to hold an evidentiary hearing on a motion made under § 2255. See Gov't of V.I. v. Forte, 865 F.2d 59, 62 (3d Cir. 1989). When exercising that discretion, the court must first determine whether the petitioner has alleged facts, if proved, would entitle him to relief, and if so, if an evidentiary hearing is needed to determine the truth of the allegations. See Zettlemoyer v. Fulcomer, 923 F.2d 284, 291 (3d Cir. 1991). A district court may dismiss a motion brought under ยง 2255 without a hearing where the "motion, files, and records 'show conclusively that the movant is not ...


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