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Gonzalez v. United States

February 19, 2009

RE: GONZALEZ
v.
UNITED STATES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Martini Judge

LETTER OPINION

Dear Counsel:

This matter comes before the Court on pro se Petitioner Luis Gonzalez's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. There was no oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons stated below, the motion is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE and the relief requested therein is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Luis Gonzalez was charged by information with conspiracy to distribute 1 kilogram or more of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A). Gonzalez's arrest came in November 2004, after federal drug enforcement agents executed a search warrant at a house in Clifton, New Jersey. During the search of this house, agents found, inter alia, over thirteen kilograms of heroin, $70,000, and Petitioner Gonzalez. (Pet'r's Br. 1). Subsequent to his arrest, Gonzalez spoke to the agents and admitted assisting in the processing of heroin at the Clifton house. Id. Further, Gonzalez told the agents that he was paid "anywhere between $300.00 and $500.00 per week." Id.

The Government offered Gonzalez a plea agreement, dated June 28, 2005, which Gonzalez rejected. (Resp't Br. 2). On February 14, 2006, Gonzalez pled guilty to the one-count information before this Court, without a plea agreement. The Court then sentenced Gonzalez to eighty-seven months in prison and three years of supervised release.

II. DISCUSSION

28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides that a prisoner in custody under a sentence from a federal court may move the court that imposed the sentence to either vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence. A prisoner can challenge his or her sentence on the ground that: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence; (3) the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; or (4) the sentence is "otherwise subject to collateral attack."

28 U.S.C. § 2255.

Gonzalez's petition attacks his sentence on Fifth and Sixth Amendment grounds. The crux of Gonzalez's claim is that his attorney did not advise him of the full consequences of his plea. Accordingly, Gonzalez brings an ineffectiveness challenge, as well as a claim that his plea was not knowing and voluntary.

A. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Gonzalez first attacks his sentence on Sixth Amendment grounds, arguing that defense counsel was "deplorably ineffective" because she did not advise him fully as to the consequences of his plea and did not "protect his legal rights." (Pet'r's Br. 4). To set forth an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, petitioner is required to demonstrate that: (1) his attorney's performance was deficient, and (2) he was prejudiced by this deficiency.

Strickland v. United States, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984).

Gonzalez alleges that his attorney's performance was deficient because she failed to explain the consequences of accepting the plea agreement offered by the Government. Gonzalez states that the plea agreement exposed him to "open-ended liability" by waiving the statute of limitations for any criminal conduct ...


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