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Rodriguez v. United States

July 29, 2009

EDGAR OVALLES RODRIGUEZ, 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's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (2008). For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's application will be denied without an evidentiary hearing.

I.

On March 16, 2007, Edgar Ovalles Rodriguez was arrested and charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, contrary to 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A)(ii), and in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846.

Petitioner and the Government reached a plea agreement that was signed by Petitioner and his attorney, John Caruso, on July 6, 2007. (Gov't Ex. 1, Plea Agreement.) Petitioner agreed to enter a guilty plea and stipulated that the offense involved at least fifteen kilograms but less than fifty kilograms of cocaine, resulting in a Base Offense Level of 34 pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c)(3). (Id. at Sched. A, ¶ 3.) The parties further stipulated to a number of possible reductions, resulting in a potential Guidelines offense level of 24.*fn1 (Id. at ¶ 11.)

The parties also agreed not to seek any departure or variance from the Guidelines. Similarly, Petitioner agreed to waive his right to appeal or to collaterally attack the sentence if it fell within or below the Guidelines range. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.)

On August 14, 2008, following a sentencing hearing, this Court sentenced Petitioner to a prison term of 48 months, to be followed by a five-year term of supervised release. (Gov't Ex. 2, Sentencing Hr'g Tr. at 53.) In addition, Petitioner was ordered to pay a special assessment of $100 to the United States. (Id. at 55.)

Documents on file with the Court demonstrate that Petitioner was confined in Passaic County Jail for a portion of the time before he was sentenced. Petitioner bases his claim for relief on that time served in the Passaic County Jail, asserting that the conditions of confinement were so deplorable as to warrant a compensatory reduction in his sentence. He filed this § 2255 Motion on March 11, 2009.*fn2

II.

Section 2255 provides, in pertinent part, that: 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 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; see also Rules Governing § 2255 Cases, Rule 1(a). Thus, 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 § 2255 application. See Gov't of the V.I. v. Forte, 865 F.2d 59, 62 (3d Cir. 1989). In exercising that discretion, the court must first determine whether the Petitioner's claims, if proven, would entitle him to relief, and then consider whether an evidentiary hearing is needed to determine the truth of the allegations. See Zettlemoyer v. Fulcomer, 923 F.2d 284, 291 (3d Cir. 1991). Accordingly, a district court may summarily dismiss a motion brought under § 2255 without a hearing where the "motion, files, and records 'show conclusively that the movant is not entitled to relief.'" U.S. v. Nahodil, 36 F.3d 323, 326 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting U.S. v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 41-42 (3d Cir. 1992)); Forte, 865 F.2d at 62.

III.

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