United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Shawn Coleman, Cumberland, MD, Petitioner, pro se.
Matthew T. Smith, AUSA, Robert Stephen Stigall, AUSA, Office of the U.S. Attorney, District of New Jersey, Camden, NJ, Attorneys for Respondent.
JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.
Petitioner Shawn Coleman brings this petition to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Docket Item 1.] On September 14, 2011, a jury convicted Petitioner of one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), and on January 13, 2012, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 108 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. [Cr. Docket Item 44.] Petitioner now moves for the Court to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence based on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. Petitioner's ineffective assistance claim rests on four grounds: (1) failure of counsel to investigate facts surrounding Petitioner's statement to police immediately following his arrest; (2) failure of counsel to properly seek suppression of evidence; (3) failure of counsel to properly negotiate a plea deal and advise Petitioner of his sentencing exposure if convicted; and (4) failure of counsel to impeach a government witness with evidence of police misconduct and to permit Petitioner to testify. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny the Petition.
This case arises from Petitioner's arrest in the early morning hours of November 5, 2009. Around 2:00 A.M. that morning, the Lindenwold, New Jersey Police Department received a telephone call from a resident of the Pine Ridge Apartments complaining about a motor vehicle parked with its lights shining in the apartment's window. Officers Arthur W. Hall and George Przybylski responded to the call. Upon arrival, the officers observed that the vehicle was running with its high beams illuminated. They saw a man, who was later identified as Mr. Coleman, in the driver's seat, with the radio playing inside the vehicle. Noting no signs of movement or breathing, the officers attempted to rouse Coleman by shining their flashlights and hollering. Believing Coleman was intoxicated or experiencing a medical issue, the officers concluded that there was an emergency that required them to enter the vehicle.
The officers found the driver's side and passenger side doors unlocked and entered the vehicle. Officer Hall observed in plain view the butt of a handgun protruding from the center console. Officer Przybylski removed Coleman from the vehicle and placed him in handcuffs. Hall asked him why he was carrying the gun and Coleman stated that it was for protection. The officers escorted Coleman to Przybylski's patrol car, advised him that he was being detained for the firearm but did not administer Miranda warnings at that time. The officers spent an additional 10-30 minutes searching the vehicle before transporting him to the station. Thereafter, Coleman made two allegedly uncounseled statements - one in the patrol car during transport and the other at the station after being Mirandized - which he later sought to suppress.
By criminal complaint filed January 6, 2010, Petitioner was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). [Cr. Docket Item 1.] Petitioner was indicted on July 21, 2010 [Cr. Docket Item 11] and arraigned on July 27, 2010 [Cr. Docket Item 12]. On August 25, 2010, Petitioner's counsel, M. W. Pinsky, Esq., filed a motion to suppress the firearm and several of Petitioner's statements to police. [Cr. Docket Item 14.] The Government opposed Petitioner's motion [Cr. Docket Item 15] and the Court conducted a motion hearing on January 10, 2011 to address Petitioner's motion and a motion by the Government to admit the facts of Petitioner's prior federal conviction under Fed.R.Evid. 404(b). [Cr. Docket Item 16.] The Court ordered and received from both parties supplemental briefing on the admissibility of two statements made in the course of Petitioner's arrest which the Government intended to use at trial. [Cr. Docket Items 23 & 24.] By Opinion and Order entered July 1, 2011, the Court denied Petitioner's motion to suppress and deferred decision on the Government's motion regarding 404(b) evidence. [Cr. Docket Items 30 & 31.] A three-day jury trial commenced on September 12, 2011, and on September 14, 2011 the jury convicted Petitioner of violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).
On January 13, 2012, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 108 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release. [Cr. Docket Item 44.]
Petitioner appealed and the Third Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence of this Court on November 20, 2013. [Cr. Docket Item 54.] The Court of Appeals found that any error in denying Petitioner's motion to suppress his post-arrest statements was harmless, that the Government did not violate its obligations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and that the Court's instruction cured any prejudice caused by the prosecutor's statements during examination of a Government witness. See United States v. Coleman, 545 F.Appx. 156, 159 (3d Cir. 2013).
On June 4, 2014, Petitioner timely filed the instant pro se Petition to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Docket Item 1.] The Court gave Petitioner due notice of his right to amend his petition to include any additional grounds within 30 days under United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644 (3d Cir. 1999) on June 9, 2014. On August 12, 2014, the Court ordered the Government to file an answer to the Petition. [Docket Item 4.] After receiving an extension of time to file its answer, the Government responded to the Petition. [Docket Item 7.] Petitioner then filed a reply. [Docket Item 8.]
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a federal prisoner may move to vacate, set aside or correct a sentence on the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or federal law, the sentencing court was without jurisdiction, or the sentence is in excess of the maximum authorized by law or is otherwise subject to collateral attack. The district court shall grant a hearing to determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). However, if the motion, files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is not entitled to relief, the petition will be denied. § 2255(b); see also United States v. McCoy, 410 F.3d 124, 131-32 (3d Cir. 2005) (holding a district court must grant an evidentiary hearing unless the record before it conclusively showed the petitioner was not entitled to relief). A hearing need not be held if the petition raises no legally cognizable claim, or if the factual matters raised by the petition may be resolved through the district court's review of the motions and the records in ...