United States District Court, District of Columbia
BERMAN JACKSON United States District Judge
November 18, 2016, defendant Lamont Delrico Roberts was
sentenced to seventy-two months of incarceration after his
plea of guilty to unlawful distribution of twenty-eight grams
or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(iii). See J.
in a Criminal Case [Dkt. # 49] (“J & C”). He
now seeks to vacate that sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. Mot. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set
Aside, or Correct Sentence [Dkt. # 52] (“Def.'s
Mot.”). Roberts argues that the Court's calculation
of the sentencing guidelines was incorrect, and that his
counsel was ineffective because: he “failed to fight
and argue the reasonableness of [the] sentence;” he
failed to advise Roberts of his right to a direct appeal; and
he failed to argue that the Court's sentence would cause
an unwarranted disparity as to his co-defendant. Id.
at 4. Because defendant's argument about the sentencing
guidelines is foreclosed by his plea agreement and incorrect
in any event, and because he has not demonstrated that his
representation was constitutionally deficient, the Court will
deny the motion without a hearing.
in the summer of 2014, defendant sold cocaine base on
multiple occasions to an undercover Metropolitan Police
Department officer. Statement of Offense [Dkt. # 37] at 1. On
May 5, 2015, he was charged with ten counts of unlawful
distribution of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(iii). Superseding
Indictment [Dkt. # 4] (“Indictment”).
ultimately agreed to plead guilty to Count Nine of the
Indictment, which charged him and his co-defendant Randy
Jarell Johnson with one count of unlawful distribution of
cocaine base. Indictment at 4. As part of his plea
agreement, defendant acknowledged that he was pleading guilty
to an offense that carried a mandatory maximum sentence of
five years of incarceration. Plea Agreement [Dkt. # 36] at 1.
At the time of his plea, he agreed that his estimated
sentencing guidelines range would be between 87 to 108
months, and that a sentence within that range would be
reasonable. Id. ¶¶ 3-4.
Court accepted defendant's guilty plea on August 8, 2016.
See Tr. of Plea Hr'g [Dkt. # 61] (“Plea
Hr'g”) at 24:3-9. On November 18, 2016, the Court
sentenced defendant to seventy-two months of incarceration,
followed by forty-eight months of supervised release.
See J & C at 2-3. Defendant did not file a
March 7, 2017, defendant filed this motion under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255, challenging his sentence and claiming that he
received ineffective assistance of counsel. Def.'s Mot.
Mr. Roberts also sent a letter to the Court that was docketed
as part of these proceedings on April 13, 2017. Letter to the
Court [Dkt. # 56]. The government then opposed the motion.
Opp. to Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. # 58]. Defendant did not file a
reply, but he did send two more letters to the Court, which
were docketed on June 8 and July 18, 2017. Letter [Dkt. #
65]; Letter [Dkt. # 67].
prevail on a motion to vacate a sentence under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255, a defendant must show that his “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). The
defendant bears the burden of proving his claims by a
preponderance of the evidence. See United States v.
Simpson, 475 F.2d 934, 935 (D.C. Cir. 1973).
“Relief under § 2255 is an extraordinary remedy in
light of society's legitimate interest in the finality of
judgments.” United States v. Zakas, 793
F.Supp.2d 77, 80 (D.D.C. 2011). So in a section 2255
proceeding, the defendant “must clear a significantly
higher hurdle than would exist on direct appeal.”
United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 166 (1982).
And “[t]o have a plea set aside on a section 2255
petition, the petitioner ‘must show that the plea
proceeding was tainted by a fundamental defect which
inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice or an
omission inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair
procedure.'” United States v. Weaver, 265
F.3d 1074, 1077 (D.C. Cir. 2001), quoting United States
v. Farley, 72 F.3d 158, 162 (D.C. Cir. 1995); see
also Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 471 (1962).
considering a section 2255 motion, a district court shall
grant a hearing “[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). The
rules governing section 2255 proceedings add that “[i]f
it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits,
and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is
not entitled to relief, the judge must dismiss the
motion.” Rules Governing § 2255 Proceedings, Rule
4(b), 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2255. The decision to grant a
hearing “is committed to the district court's
discretion.” United States v. Pollard, 959
F.2d 1011, 1030-31 (D.C. Cir. 1992). And a “district
judge's decision not to hold an evidentiary hearing
before denying a § 2255 motion is generally respected as
a sound exercise of discretion when the judge denying the
§ 2255 motion also presided” over the
defendant's original proceeding. United States v.
Morrison, 98 F.3d 619, 625-26 (D.C. Cir. 1996); see
also United States v. Toms, 396 F.3d 427, 437 (D.C. Cir.
2005), quoting Morrison, 98 F.3d 619 at 625;
United States v. Sayan, 968 F.2d 55, 66 (D.C. Cir.
1992). Ultimately, the “summary denial of a § 2255
motion is appropriate . . . when the [claims do] not
necessitate the consideration of any information not within
the record or within the memory of the judge ruling on the
motion.” Morrison, 98 F.3d at 626.
has attacked his conviction on two grounds. First, he
contends that the Court incorrectly calculated his sentencing
guidelines range, and that it consequently imposed an
erroneous sentence. Def.'s Mot. at 6-7. Second, he argues
that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. See
Id. at 5. Specifically, defendant claims that his lawyer
failed to argue that the sentence to be imposed was
unreasonable, failed to argue that his sentence would cause
an unwarranted sentencing disparity between defendant and his
co-defendant, and failed to advise him of his right to
is barred from challenging the Court's calculation of his
sentencing guidelines range because he waived his right to
make such an attack in his plea agreement. He has also failed
to allege any prejudice arising out of his allegations of
ineffective assistance of counsel. Because 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), defendant's motion will be denied without
an evidentiary hearing.
Defendant's claim that the Court erred in calculating his
sentencing guidelines range is barred by his plea agreement,
and it is incorrect in any event.
argues that his “sentence of 72 months was
unreasonable” because the Court “raised my level
2 points for a crime I was later found not guilty of, ”
and he submits that his base offense level “should have
been level 24 with a guideline range of 51 to 63
months.” Def.'s Mot. at 5.
challenge to the sentence imposed by the Court is foreclosed
by his plea agreement. Defendant agreed in his plea that he
was waiving the right to file a motion under section 2255
except under limited circumstances:
Your client also waives any right to challenge the conviction
entered or sentence imposed under this Agreement or otherwise
attempt to modify or change the sentence or the manner in
which it was determined in any collateral attack, including,
but not limited to, a motion brought under 28 U.S.C. §
2255 or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), except to the
extent such a motion is based on newly discovered evidence or
on a claim that your client received ineffective assistance
of counsel in entering this Agreement or in connection with
Agreement at 6. And defendant confirmed during the plea
hearing that he understood that he was waiving those rights:
THE COURT: [D]o you also understand that sometimes after
people have been convicted of an offense they attack their
conviction in a separate legal proceeding under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 60(b) or a section of the U.S. Code called
28 U.S.C. § 2255. Basically they come back in and they
say my conviction was illegal for various reasons. Do you
understand that you're giving up the right to do that,
too, unless there's newly discovered evidence or ...