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United States v. Monzel

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 2, 2017



          Gladys Kessler, United States District Judge

         Petitioner is Michael Monzel, an inmate incarcerated in a federal prison pursuant to his 2010 guilty plea to child pornography charges. See Judgment as to Michael M. Monzel ("Judgment") [Dkt. No. 26]. Mr. Monzel now seeks to vacate that conviction under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Petition") [Dkt. No. 116]. Mr. Monzel argues that his conviction should be vacated because: (1) this Court was without authority to enter the conviction; and (2) his attorney provided him with ineffective assistance, thereby violating his right to counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. See generally id. Mr. Monzel has also requested that the court hold an emergency hearing on his Petition, Expedited Mot. for an Emergency Hearing ("Motion for Emergency Hearing") [Dkt. No. 124], and he has filed a number of other miscellaneous motions related to his Petition, described in greater detail below. The Government opposes Mr. Monzel's Motion for Emergency Hearing. Opposition [Dkt. No. 127]. After consideration of the Petition, the Motion for Emergency Hearing, the Opposition, and the Reply[1][Dkt. No. 130], and the entire record herein, Mr. Monzel's Petition, Motion for Emergency Hearing, and other related, miscellaneous motions will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Monzel was indicted on one count of distribution of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2) on September 24, 2009. [Dkt. No. 1]. At a hearing held on October 21, 2009, Magistrate Judge Robinson appointed David Bos, an attorney with the Federal Public Defender for the District of Columbia, as Mr. Monzel's counsel. Then on December, 8, 2010, a superseding information was filed, charging Mr. Monzel with one count of possessing material constituting or containing child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(4)(B) in addition to the distribution charge contained in the original indictment. [Dkt. No. 8]. On December 10, 2009, the Court held a plea hearing at which Mr. Monzel pled guilty to both the distribution of child pornography charge and the possession of child pornography charge.

         On May 25, 2010, the Court sentenced Mr. Monzel to 120 months incarceration, to be followed by 120 months of supervised release. Judgment at 3-4. After additional briefing, the Court also ordered Mr. Monzel to pay $5, 000 in nominal restitution to each of the victims, "Amy" and "Vicky." Restitution Order [Dkt. No. 50].

         Subsequently, Mr. Monzel appealed certain aspects of his sentence. As a result, the Court ultimately modified the award of restitution for Amy, awarding her $7, 500. Order Granting the Government's Supplemental Motion for Restitution ("Second Restitution Order") [Dkt. No. 115]. Mr. Monzel is currently appealing the Second Restitution Order. [Dkt. No. 117]. Additionally, the Court modified the terms of the special conditions of supervised release to conform to a proposed agreement jointly submitted by Mr. Monzel and the Government. Amended Judgment as to Michael M. Monzel (May 3, 2017).

         Prior to filing this latest appeal challenging the Second Restitution Order, Mr. Monzel filed his Petition on September 16, 2016. Though styled as a petition for writ of habeas corpus, Mr. Monzel subsequently filed a Motion for Emergency Hearing, which makes clear that his Petition seeks relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Motion for Emergency Hearing at 1 (describing the Petition as request for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255). Mr. Monzel has also filed numerous motions seeking to: have the Government produce documents, [Dkt. Nos. 120, 122, and 123]; serve requests for admissions on the Government, [Dkt. No. 121]; compel responses from the Government, [Dkt. Nos. 129 and 131]; and have the Court issue an expedited ruling on all of the above motions, [Dkt. No. 132]. The Government filed an Opposition to Mr. Monzel's Motion for Emergency Hearing, arguing that the arguments raised in his Petition are meritless and that the Petition may be denied without holding any hearing. Opposition at 1. Mr. Monzel then filed a Reply to the Government's Opposition.


         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. It is the prisoner's burden to prove her allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. See United States v. Simpson, 475 F.2d 934, 935 (D.C.Clr.1973). A challenge under Section 2255 requires the prisoner to show a "good deal more than would be sufficient on a direct appeal from his sentence." United States v. Pollard. 959 F.2d 1011, 1020 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

         Section 2255 authorizes the Court to hold a hearing to consider a prisoner's claims, "[u]nless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). "[N]o hearing is required where [her] claims are 'vague, conclusory, or palpably incredible.'" Pollard, 959 F.2d at 1031 (quoting Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 495 (1962)). Additionally, where a prisoner "has failed to present any affidavits or other evidentiary support for the naked assertions contained in his motion" summary disposition of the 2255 motion without a hearing is also appropriate. United States v. Taylor, 139 F.3d 924, 933 (D.C. Cir. 1998); see also United States v. Smith, 1998 WL 939501, *2 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (upholding denial of motion without evidentiary hearing when defendant provided no factual support in support of motion).

         The decision whether to hold a hearing is committed to the court's discretion, particularly when the court reviewing the motion presided over the criminal proceeding at issue. See United States v. Morrison, 98 F.3d 619, 625 (D.C. Cir.1996), cert, denied, 520 U.S. 1131 (1997); United States v. Sayan, 968 F.2d 55, 66 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (upholding summary denial of § 2255 proceeding in part because the same judge who presided over the original proceedings ruled on the § 2255 motion).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Issues

         Mr. Monzel raises a number of arguments as to why the Court should vacate his conviction; several raise pure questions of law. For example, he argues: (1) that the United States is an "improper party plaintiff without authority to prosecute him, Petition at 4-5; (2) that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear his case, Petition at 22-53; (3) that his sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, Petition at 54-55; (4) that the victims- "Amy" and "Vicky"-lacked standing to participate as interested parties in this prosecution, Petition at 6-7; (5) that the United States Code is not law, and therefore, that his conviction for violating provisions of the United States Code is unlawful, Petition at 12-15; (6) that the grand jury that indicted him was improperly convened, and therefore, that his indictment was "fraudulent, " Petition at 15-20; (7) that he was not charged with the violation of any Act of Congress, and therefore, was improperly detained in violation of the Non-detention Act of 1971, 18 USC § 4001, Petition at ...

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