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Parker v. United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 4, 2016




         Defendant Darnell Parker (“Mr. Parker”) is serving a 19-year sentence on drug and money laundering charges at the Federal Correctional Insitute in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Pet.’s Mot. Vacate, ECF No. 530. In May 2014, Mr. Parker filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence. Id. Mr. Parker claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel from his pre-plea attorney, Kira West (“Attorney West”), and his subsequent attorney, Marvin Miller (“Attorney Miller”). Pet.’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Vacate (“Pet.’s Mem. Supp.”), ECF No. 530 at 15-21. Mr. Parker also argues that the court erred by failing to consider the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors during Mr. Parker’s sentencing. Pet.’s First Suppl. Mem., ECF No. 545 at 4-5. For the reasons discussed below, and upon consideration of Mr. Parker’s motion, supplements, the government's opposition, and Mr. Parker’s reply, Petitioner’s § 2255 motion is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. Background

         On May 8, 2012, Mr. Parker was charged in a superseding indictment with two counts related to an alleged conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and five counts related to money laundering. Indictment, ECF No. 123.[1] On December 20, 2012, the government filed a superseding information charging Mr. Parker with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine in violation 21 U.S.C. § 846 and one count of laundering of monetary instruments in violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i). Superseding Information, ECF No. 253. On December 21, 2012 Mr. Parker pled guilty to both counts of the superseding information. Plea offer, ECF No. 258; Plea Hearing Tr., Resp’t Opp’n Mem. Def.’s Mot. (“Resp’t Opp’n Mem.”), Ex. F.

         Mr. Parker was sentenced on May 9, 2013. Id., Ex. J. Because Mr. Parker was previously convicted on two felony drug charges (California Case No. GA04608401 and Maryland Case No. 21K03031669), he is classified as a career offender under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines (“Sentencing Guidelines”). Presentence Investigation Report, ECF No. 345 at 16. In his plea agreement, Mr. Parker acknowledged his status as a career offender and that he would face heighted penalties under the Sentencing Guidelines. Plea Agreement Letter, ECF No. 258 at 1-3. Mr. Parker also agreed to the forfeiture of certain property derived from the proceeds of the offenses charged in the written plea agreement he signed. Plea Agreement, ECF No. 258 at 5. Specifically, Mr. Parker forfeited a collection of shoes, purses, and a fur coat. Id. Am. Final Order of Forfeiture, ECF No. 490.

         On March 25, 2013 Mr. Parker filed a motion to reduce his criminal history score from VI to V. Pet.’s Sent. Mem., ECF No. 357. The government did not oppose the motion and on May 9, 2013, the Court lowered Mr. Parker’s criminal history score to V, reducing Mr. Parker’s sentencing range from 262 months to 327 months to 235 to 293 months. Sent. Tr., ECF No. 552, Ex. H at 14; Presentence Investigation Report. Mr. Parker was sentenced to 235 months of imprisonment followed by 60 months of supervised release. Judgment, ECF No. 412.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a prisoner may move to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence imposed “in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, ” or any sentence that “the court was without jurisdiction to impose, ” or that is “in excess of the maximum authorized by law, ” or is “otherwise subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The defendant must prove his allegations by a preponderance of the evidence, however a challenge under § 2255 “requires the defendant to show a ‘good deal more than would be sufficient on a direct appeal from his sentence.’” United States v. Lancaster, No. CIV 05-838 (EGS), 2007 WL 779039, at 1 (D.D.C. Mar. 7, 2007) (citing United States v. Pollard, 959 F.2d 1011, 1120 (D.C. Cir. 1992)). “A § 2255 motion may be denied when it ‘offers only bald legal conclusions with no supporting factual allegations.’” Aljaff v. United States, 987 F.Supp.2d 64, 66 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting Mitchell v. United States, 841 F.Supp.2d 322, 328 (D.D.C. 2012)).

         III. Discussion

         Mr. Parker makes three arguments in support of his § 2255 Motion. First, Mr. Parker argues that Attorney West provided ineffective assistance of counsel because she failed to investigate how various shoes, purses, and a fur coat forfeited by Mr. Parker were procured. Pet.’s Mem. Supp. at 18. Next Mr. Parker alleges that his subsequent counsel, Attorney Miller, was ineffective for failing to challenge his prior Maryland conviction, the purported miscalculation of his criminal history points, and his status as a career offender. Id. at 19. Finally, Mr. Parker argues that the Court erred by not considering the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors during his sentencing. Pet.’s First Suppl. Mem. at 4-5. Each of Mr. Parker’s arguments shall be addressed in turn.[2]

         A. Attorney West’s representation of Mr. Parker was not ineffective because it was not objectively unreasonable

         Mr. Parker alleges Attorney West rendered ineffective assistance causing him to suffer undue prejudice. Pet.’s Mem. Supp. at 18. Specifically, Mr. Parker alleges that “[h]ad attorney West only conducted the minimal investigation, she could of proven that Defendant’s collection of shoes, his wife’s purses, and personal belongings were not purchased from any proceeds derived from his charge of conviction.” Id. The government argues that Mr. Parker’s claims against Attorney West are both vague and conclusory. Resp’t Opp’n Mem. At 7-8. Regardless, the government notes that Mr. Parker repeatedly consented to the forfeiture of his belongings while he was represented by Attorney West and Attorney Miller. Id. at 8-10.

         “To succeed on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, Defendant must show both that his counsel’s performance was deficient, falling below an objective standard of reasonableness, and that counsel’s deficient performance prejudiced Defendant’s defense.” Mitchell v. United States, 841 F.Supp.2d at 326 (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984)). If a Defendant cannot meet either prong, a court need not address the other. Id. As explained by the Supreme Court:

In any ineffectiveness case, a particular decision not to investigate must be directly assessed for reasonableness in all the circumstances, applying a heavy measure of deference to counsel’s judgments. The reasonableness of counsel’s actions may be determined or substantially influenced by the defendant’s own statements or actions. Counsel’s actions are usually based, quite properly, on informed strategic choices made by the defendant and on information supplied by the defendant . . . and when a defendant has given counsel reason to believe that pursuing certain ...

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