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United States v. Laureys

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 8, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BRANDON LAUREYS, Defendant. Civil No. 14-1325 (RCL)

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, District Judge.

Before the Court are the defendant's motions for a new trial [82] and to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [127].[1] Both motions rest on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment. Upon consideration of the defendant's motions [82, 127], the government's opposition briefs [102, 128], the defendant's reply briefs [103, 133], the defendant's and government's respective proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law [152, 153], the applicable law, and the entire record herein, the Court will DENY the defendant's motions.

I. BACKGROUND

Following defendant Laureys' conviction for crimes related to attempted sexual conduct with a minor on May 27, 2010, Laureys filed an appeal challenging the sufficiency of evidence against him, disputing the lawfulness of the terms of his supervised release, and claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. See generally Main Brief of Appellant, United States v. Laureys, No. 10-3047 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 30, 2010). Laureys raised three issues in his ineffective assistance of counsel claim: (1) failure to call Dr. Frederick Berlin to offer expert testimony that Laureys was a "paraphiliac";[2] (2) failure to call two federal prisoners who could purportedly testify to the meaning of the phrases "perv out" and "down low"; and (3) failure to seek to admit two polygraph test results. Id. at 42-43, 46.

On August 19, 2011, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the government's evidence was sufficient "to prove [Laureys'] intent to persuade a minor to engage in sexual activity under [18 U.S.C.] § 2422(b) and to prove his intent to engage in sexual conduct with a minor under [18 U.S.C.] § 2423(b), " and rejected Laureys' contention that the terms of supervised release were unlawful. United States v. Laureys, 653 F.3d 27, 31-33, 34-35 (D.C. Cir. 2011). However, the Circuit remanded Laureys' ineffective assistance claims for analysis by this Court. Id. at 34.

After a series of continuation motions filed by Laureys, the defendant filed his motion for a new trial on March 25, 2013. In support of his motion, Laureys presented the Court with an expert report from Dr. Berlin dated March 20, 2013. Mot. New Trial Ex. 2. As the government notes, "[d]ue to Dr. Berlin's heavy work schedule and the fact that he stopped working on this matter for an unspecified period of time in early 2013, the doctor did not submit his expert report until... approximately 16 months after the first post-remand hearing on November 21, 2011[]. In his report, Dr. Berlin explained that he had diagnosed the defendant as having a sexual disorder, namely pedophilia." Gov't's Opp'n 5, ECF No. 128. The motion also introduced two new issues underlying Laureys' ineffective assistance claim: (4) counsel's failure to investigate text messages allegedly corroborating Laureys' plan to meet a girlfriend on the evening of his encounter with a D.C. police sting operation; and (5) counsel's failure to object to a jury instruction on Count One of the Indictment. See Mot. New Trial 36-48.

Finally, at a hearing held on July 18, 2014, defense counsel raised two more ineffective assistance issues: counsel's failure to call (6) Dr. Ronald Butters and (7) Dr. Karen Young to offer expert testimony. The four additional reasons offered in support of Laureys' ineffective assistance claim were effectively combined with the three original arguments presented on appeal via Laureys' § 2255 motion, ECF No. 127. See supra n.1. Following two days of evidentiary hearings in December 2014, at which Dr. Butters, Dr. Berlin, and trial counsel Cary Clennon testified, the parties submitted their respective proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Court on February 18, 2015. ECF Nos. 152, 153.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under § 2255, Laureys may move to vacate his conviction "upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Laureys bears the burden of proof, and must demonstrate his right to relief by a preponderance of the evidence. See, e.g., United States v. Pollard, 602 F.Supp.2d 165, 168 (D.D.C. 2009).[3] Here, Laureys claims that his sentenced was imposed in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel. Mot. 1, ECF No. 127.

To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, Laureys must establish (1) that counsel's performance was deficient - that is, that counsel "made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the counsel' guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment" - and (2) that counsel's "deficient performance prejudiced the defense." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984) (emphasis added). To establish that counsel's performance was deficient, Laureys must show that "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Id. at 688. Laureys must overcome the "strong presumption that counsel's conduct [fell] within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Id. at 689; see also Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 381 (1986) ("[T]he standard of review is highly deferential."). To establish that counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the defense, Laureys must show that "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. "A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id.; see also Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1403 (2011) (noting that a reasonable probability "requires a substantial, ' not just conceivable, ' likelihood of a different result" (citation omitted)).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Polygraph Tests, Inmate Witnesses, Text Messages, and Dr. Young

In the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law ("proposed findings") that the defendant submitted to the Court, Laureys omits any ineffective assistance arguments regarding the two possibly exculpatory polygraph test results, the two prisoners who could purportedly testify to the meaning of the phrases "perv out" and "down low, " the text messages referring to Laureys' plan to meet a girlfriend on the night of his arrest in this case, and the possible testimony of Dr. Young. Given that the purpose of such a filing is to present the Court with a comprehensive summary of the facts and legal arguments in favor of a party's position, the Court can only conclude that Laureys effectively concedes that these four issues do not actually support a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Nevertheless, the Court will briefly address each issue's lack of merit.

First, this Circuit has been skeptical of any value that may be derived from polygraph testing. See, e.g., Almerfedi v. Obama, 654 F.3d 1, 8 n.1 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (Rogers, J., concurring) ("[t]he reliability of [polygraph] evidence is not beyond doubt"); United States v. Skeens, 494 F.2d 1050, 1053 (D.C. Cir. 1974) (noting the inadmissibility of polygraph tests in criminal trials); Graham v. Mukasey, 608 F.Supp.2d 50, 55 (D.D.C. 2009) (observing that polygraph results "usually are not [admissible at trial]") (collecting cases). The Supreme Court has explained that "there is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable, " and that "the scientific community remains extremely polarized about the reliability of polygraph techniques." United States v. Scheffer, 523 U.S. 303, 309 (1998). While the Court was unable to glean Judge Robertson's position on polygraph testing from past decisions, [4] this member of ...


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