United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division
BEAU C. VAUGHAN, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the sole remaining claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel from Beau C. Vaughan's Motion to
Vacate Judgment Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. No.
1.) On April 7, 2017, the Court held an evidentiary hearing
on this claim. For the following reasons, this claim is
DENIED and this action is
underlying criminal case, a federal jury convicted Vaughan of
conspiracy to distribute or possess with intent to distribute
100 kilograms or more of marijuana. United States of
America v. Beau C. Vaughan, No. 1:10-cr-00006, ECF No.
51 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 11, 2011). He was sentenced to a term of
300 months' imprisonment. Id., ECF. No. 76 (M.D.
Tenn. Jan. 18, 2012).
Court denied Vaughan's Motion to Vacate Judgment Pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. No. 1), except for one of his
claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel-John
Colley. (Doc. No. 15.) Specifically, Vaughan argues that
Colley's failure to communicate “led him to reject
a plea offer pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C) of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure with a recommended sentence of
twelve years.” (Doc. No. 1 at 15.) Respondent argues
that the Government did not make such an offer, though it did
advise Colley in March 2011 that “it could be possible
to obtain approval . . . for a sentence of fifteen years . .
. .” (Doc. No. 5 at 9-10.) The Court concluded that,
“[g]iven the ambiguity created from the timing between
the . . . emails, . . . an evidentiary hearing is necessary
to resolve whether [Vaughan's] counsel effectively
communicated Respondent's 15 year plea offer and the
consequences of rejecting the offer.” (Id.)
FINDINGS OF FACT
and Colley testified at the April 7, 2017 hearing. The record
establishes by a preponderance of the evidence the following:
August 2010, Vaughan and Colley discussed plea options, but
Colley did not engage plea discussions with the Government
because Vaughan did not want to serve time in federal prison.
Vaughan spoke to Colley again at the suppression hearing on
December 6, 2010. Vaughan and Colley disagree on whether they
spoke between August and December 2010.
motion to suppress was denied on February 28, 2011. He
maintains that his brother told him that the motion to
suppress had been denied, but Colley believes that he
provided Vaughan a copy of the Court's order denying the
motion to suppress either directly or through Vaughan's
entered plea discussions with the Government after the denial
of the motion to suppress. He testified that Vaughan told him
that he would accept a deal to serve a sentence of 7 or 8
years imprisonment, but to begin by offering 5 years. Colley
told Vaughan that the Government would not accept the first
offer, and asked Vaughan to tell Colley the maximum sentence
he would accept. Colley understood that Vaughan would go to
trial before agreeing to serve more than 10 years.
March 3, 2011 at 10:19 a.m., Colley sent an email to the
Government stating “I have spoken with Mr. Vaughan. He
is agreeable to a sentence in the 5 year range.” (Ev.
Hr'g Ex. 1 at 2.) At 11:34 a.m., the Government responded
that it intended to file an “851” if he did not
plead guilty. (Id. at 1-2.) The Government stated
that it could not “agree to a sentence in the range of
five years. If [Vaughan] is interested in a plea agreement
which would result in a sentence of 15 years - which would be
below his Guidelines range, I expect I could get approval for
that from my supervisor. If he is not interested in a
sentence in that range, please let me know and we can ask the
court to set a trial date.” (Id. at 2.) At
12:01 p.m., Colley responded, “Let's get a trial
date.” (Id. at 1.) At 12:16 p.m., the
Government responded, “Just so I am clear, Mr. Vaughan
is not going to plead guilty and intends to proceed to
trial?” (Id.) At 12:45 p.m., Colley responded,
“Yes, Mr. Vaughan intends to go to trial rather than
plead and take 15.” (Id.) Vaughan testified,
however, that he would have been interested in a plea deal
for 15 years at that point, but he would have sought to
preserve the right to appeal the denial of his motion to
22, 2011 at 11:17 a.m., the Government sent an email to
Colley asking “if Mr. Vaughan does intend to go to
trial, whether [he had] objections to” transcripts of
jail calls that the Government intended to use as evidence.
(Id. at 3.) On July 25 at 7:42 a.m., Colley
responded, “You are at 15, and we are at 10, and if we
can't bridge that gap, we shall try the case, I
he sent the email at 7:42 a.m., Colley met with Vaughan in
person and they discussed a possible plea agreement to serve
a 15 year sentence. Vaughan was not willing to accept such a
possible agreement, unless he could preserve his right to
appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. Colley believed
that Vaughan made it clear that he would go to trial if the
Government would not agree to such an offer. Vaughan
testified that, at this meeting, Colley informed him that he
faced a 30 year sentence if he was found guilty. Vaughan then
authorized Colley to offer an open guilty plea if he was
allowed to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.
Colley told him that he would contact the Government, and
told Vaughan to call Colley to find out the Government's
p.m. on July 25, Colley sent an email to the Government
stating, “Mr. Vaughan is seriously considering pleading
open if the Government will consent to a Rule 11 (a)(3)
appeal of the Court's ruling on our suppression motion.
Will it?” (Id. at 4.) At 11:01 p.m., the
Government responded, “We won't agree  that Mr.
Vaughan can plead open with our agreement that he can appeal
the ruling on the suppression issue.” (Id.) At
7:12 a.m. the next morning, Colley responded, “No,
we'll try it. End of discussions.” (Id.)
Colley testified that he told Vaughan the Government's
decision, either directly or through Vaughan's family.
Vaughan testified, however, his brother informed him on July
27 that the Government filed an “851, ” and this
led Vaughan to assume that the Government had rejected the
offer. In any case, Vaughan and Colley agree that they did
not communicate after their July 25 meeting until the morning
of trial, which was August 9, 2011. ...