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United States v. Rivera-Niebla

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 24, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MANUEL RIVERA-NIEBLA, Defendant

MANUEL RIVERA-NIEBLA, also known as EL CHARRO, also known as MANUEL CORONEL, also known as GATEADO (1:06-cr-00007-JDB All Defendants), Defendant, Pro se, TAFT, CA.

For MANUEL RIVERA-NIEBLA, also known as EL CHARRO, also known as MANUEL CORONEL, also known as GATEADO (1:06-cr-00007-JDB All Defendants), Defendant: Manuel J. Retureta, LEAD ATTORNEY, RETURETA & WASSEM, P.L.L.C., Arlington, VA; Richard Keith Gilbert, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF RICHARD KEITH GILBERT, Washington, DC; Jeffrey P. Manciagli, PRO HAC VICE, Atlanta, GA.

For USA (1:06-cr-00007-JDB All Defendants), Plaintiff: Adrienne Rose, Michael Nicholas Lang, LEAD ATTORNEYS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Criminal Division, Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, Washington, DC; Joseph Hong Huynh, Wendy L. Pohlhaus, LEAD ATTORNEYS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, Washington, DC.

MANUEL RIVERA-NIEBLA (1:13-cv-00744-JDB), Petitioner, Pro se, TAFT, CA.

Page 375

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Before the Court is petitioner Manuel Rivera-Niebla's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny the motion.

BACKGROUND

In 1994, Rivera-Niebla was convicted in the Southern District of Florida for three drug-related offenses, and sentenced to a total of 135 months of imprisonment and eight years of supervised release. See United States v. Rivera-Niebla, No. 89-309 (S.D. Fl. 1994). An alien, he was released from custody and deported in 2000. Def.'s Mot. to Vacate [ECF No. 59] (" Def.'s Mot." ) 3b. Six years later, a grand jury handed down an indictment in Washington, D.C., charging him with two drug-related offenses. Indictment [ECF No. 2] (" Indictment" ). He was then arrested in Colombia, and in 2008, he was extradited to the United States. Docket Entry of Jan. 7, 2008, Arrest of Manuel Rivera-Niebla. Following Rivera-Niebla's plea of guilty to one of the counts in the indictment--conspiring to import and distribute cocaine--this Court sentenced him in 2012 to 132 months of imprisonment, with credit for time served since his arrest. See July 31, 2012 Judgment [ECF No. 53].

Both the indictment and the statement of facts accompanying Rivera-Niebla's guilty plea indicated that the conduct to which he was pleading guilty occurred in 2002 and 2003. See Indictment at 2, 4; Statement of Facts [ECF No. 14] 2-4. Because he was under supervised release for his Florida sentence when that conduct occurred, the Court added two points to his criminal history, which bumped his criminal history category from II to III. See U.S.S.G. § 4A1.1(d). Rivera-Niebla, proceeding pro se, has now moved to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under section 2255, arguing that his counsel was constitutionally deficient for not objecting to the Court's sentencing calculations and for not moving to dismiss the indictment for improper venue.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under section 2255, a prisoner in custody under sentence of a federal court

Page 376

may move the sentencing court to vacate, set aside, or correct its sentence if the prisoner believes 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." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Such a motion will be granted only in limited circumstances because of the premium placed on the finality of judgments and because of the opportunities prisoners have to raise most of their objections during trial or on direct appeal. See United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 164, 102 S.Ct. 1584, 71 L.Ed.2d 816 (1982) (" Once the defendant's chance to appeal has been waived or exhausted, . . . we are entitled to presume he stands fairly and finally convicted, especially when . . . he already has had a fair opportunity to present his federal claims to a federal forum." ). " [T]o obtain collateral relief a prisoner must clear a significantly higher hurdle than would exist on direct appeal." Id. at 166. The defendant bears the burden of proving his claims by a preponderance of the evidence. United States v. Simpson, 475 F.2d 934, 935, 154 U.S.App.D.C. 350 (D.C. Cir. 1973).

Even so, " unless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court shall . . . grant a prompt hearing thereon, determine the issues, and make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto." § 2255(b). But a district court need not conduct an evidentiary hearing before denying a section 2255 motion when " the motion and files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." Id.; accord United States v. Morrison, 98 F.3d 619, 625, 321 U.S.App.D.C. 170 (D.C. Cir. 1996). " If it plainly appears from the face of the motion and any annexed exhibits and the prior proceedings in the case that the movant is not ...


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