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George Mooneyham v. United States of America

July 25, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Ronnie Greer United States District Judge


This matter is before the Court on the "Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 To Vacate, Set Aside, Or Correct Sentence By A Person In Federal Custody,"filed by George Mooneyham ("petitioner" or "Mooneyham"), [Doc. 672 in No. 2:00-CR-65; Doc. 116 in No. 2:02-CR-73]. Also pending is Mooneyham's "Motion to Hold the Case in Abeyance" for up to 180 Days, [Doc. 678].*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, the motion to hold the case in abeyance will be DENIED. Likewise, the Court has determined that it plainly appears from the petition and the record as a whole that petitioner is not entitled to relief and the § 2255 motion is without merit and will be DENIED and this matter DISMISSED.

I. Procedural Background

On November 15, 2000, Mooneyham and co-defendant Sheridan McMahan ("McMahan") were indicted by the federal grand jury and charged in a nine count superceding indictment, [Doc. 24]. The trial of McMahan and Mooneyham in August, 2001, resulted in a mistrial, [Doc. 201]. Mooneyham was released on bond pending retrial, absconded and remained a fugitive until July, 2003. McMahan was retried and convicted in April, 2003. [Doc. 492]. Mooneyham was retried in October, 2003, and convicted on Counts 1, 6 and 10. [Doc. 584].

Prior to his arrest as a fugitive in July, 2003, Mooneyham was indicted a second time by the grand jury on July 23, 2002 and charged with unrelated drug trafficking offenses, [Doc. 1, No. 2:02-CR-73]. After a jury trial which commenced on October 21, 2003, Mooneyham was convicted of three counts of distributing cocaine and methamphetamine, [Doc. 55, No. 2:02-CR-73]. The cases were consolidated for sentencing and Mooneyham was sentenced on January 26, 2004, to concurrent terms of 137 months imprisonment. [Doc. 593]. Judgment was entered on February 9, 2004, [Doc. 595]. Petitioner filed a notice of appeal on February 11, 2004, [Doc. 596]. On January 9, 2007, the Sixth Circuit affirmed Mooneyham's convictions in both cases, but remanded for resentencing in light of the Supreme Court's intervening decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). United States v. Mooneyham, 473 F.3d 280 (6th Cir. 2007). Mooneyham's petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court on November 5, 2007, [Doc. 653]. A resentencing hearing was conducted on March 24, 2008, and the Court reimposed the 137 month term of imprisonment, [Doc. 667]. An amended judgment was entered on April 9, 2008, [Doc. 662]. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

On March 5, 2009, petitioner sought an extension of time to file a § 2255 motion, [Doc. 669]. The Magistrate Judge denied the motion on March 9, 2009, [Doc. 671]. The instant motion to vacate was then timely filed on March 23, 2009, [Doc. 672].

II.Legal Standard

A federal prisoner may file a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the United States Constitution. To obtain relief under § 2255, the movant bears the burden of establishing an error of constitutional magnitude which had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the criminal proceedings. Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637-38 (1993); Griffin v. United States, 330 F.3d 733, 736 (6th Cir. 2003); Watson v. United States, 165 F.3d 486, 488 (6th Cir. 1999). A petitioner seeking relief under § 2255 "must clear a significantly higher hurdle than would exist on direct appeal" and establish a "fundamental defect in the proceedings which necessarily results in a complete miscarriage of justice or an egregious error violative of due process." Fair v. United States, 157 F.3d 427, 430 (6th Cir. 1998); Gall v. United States, 21 F.3d 107, 109 (6th Cir. 1994).

A petitioner alleging ineffective assistance of counsel must satisfy the two-part test of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1987). First, he must establish, by identifying specific acts or omissions, that counsel's performance was deficient and that counsel did not provide "reasonably effective assistance," id., as measured by prevailing professional norms." Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374, 380 (2005). Counsel is presumed to have provided effective assistance, and petitioner bears the burden of showing otherwise. Mason v. Mitchell, 320 F.3d 604, 616-17 (6th Cir. 2003); see also Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (a reviewing court "must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonably professional assistance; that is, the defendant must overcome the presumption that . . . the challenged action might be considered sound trial strategy").

Second, petitioner must demonstrate "a reasonable probability that, but for [counsel's acts or omissions], the result of the proceedings would have been different." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. "An error by counsel, even if professionally unreasonable, does not warrant setting aside the judgment of a criminal proceeding if the error had no effect on the judgment." Id. at 691; see also Smith v. Robbins, 528 U.S. 259, 285-86 (2000). If a petitioner fails to establish prejudice, the court need not decide whether counsel's performance was deficient. See United States v. Hynes, 467 F.3d 951, 970 (6th Cir. 2006) (holding that alleged "flaws" in trial counsel's representation did not warrant new trial where the claims, even if true, did not demonstrate that jury would have reached a different conclusion").


A. The Motion To Hold In Abeyance

When Mooneyham filed his § 2255 motion on March 23, 2009, he filed what the Court can only characterize as a "bare-bones" motion without any supporting memorandum. He states two general claims in the motion as ineffective assistance of counsel at "First Trial" and at "Second Trial." He states that "further grounds are reserved pending the need to amend this initial filing to preserve timeliness." [Doc. 672 at 7]. On the last page of the motion, the petitioner has made the following notation: "All parties are to note that this filing is being made to protect the timeliness of the filing. An amended Motion and a complete Supporting Memorandum of Law are underway and will be filed with the court as soon as possible." [Id. at 13].

On June 8, 2009, more than a month after the expiration of the statute of limitations*fn2 , Mooneyham filed a motion for a transcript of proceedings held on March 12, 2008*fn3 , the indictment in case number 00-CR-65, the Amended Judgment and any sworn statement or affidavit in support of any "charging document" or search warrant. The Court took no action on the motion until January 17, 2012, when it granted the motion and directed the clerk to mail to petitioner the Indictment and ...

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