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Rigney v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

December 22, 2017

TODD ADAM RIGNEY, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the “Motion To Vacate, Set Aside, Or Correct Sentence Pursuant to Title 28 United States Code Section 2255(f)(3), ” [Doc. 34], [1] filed by Todd Adam Rigney (“Rigney” or “petitioner”) on June 27, 2016. The United States has responded in opposition, [Doc. 38], and petitioner did not reply within the thirty (30) day response period. The matter is now ripe for disposition. The Court has determined that the files and records in the case conclusively establish that the petitioner is not entitled to relief under § 2255 and, therefore, no evidentiary hearing is necessary. For the reasons which follow, the petitioner's § 2255 motion lacks merit, and the motion will be DENIED.

         I. Procedural and Factual Background

         An indictment was filed on January 14, 2014, [Doc. 1], charging Rigney with distribution and receipt of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(2) and (b)(1), and possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(5)(B) and (b)(2). On May 1, 2014, the United States filed a Plea Agreement signed by the petitioner, [Doc. 22], and the Court held a Change of Please Hearing on May 19, 2014. The petitioner pled guilty to Count One of the indictment: distribution of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2). A sentencing hearing was held on September 8, 2014, and Rigney was sentenced to 200 months of imprisonment with a life term of supervised release, pursuant to his Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement. [Doc. 31]. Judgment was entered on September 16, 2014, [Doc. 31], and was returned executed on November 12, 2014, [Doc. 33]. Petitioner did not appeal.

         II. Standard of Review

         This Court must vacate and set aside petitioner's sentence if it finds that “the judgment was rendered without jurisdiction, or that the sentence imposed was not authorized by law or otherwise open to collateral attack, or that there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack, . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Under Rule 4 of the Governing Rules, the Court is to consider initially whether the face of the motion itself, together with the annexed exhibits and prior proceedings in the case, reveal the movant is not entitled to relief. If it plainly appears the movant is not entitled to relief, the court may summarily dismiss the § 2255 motion under Rule 4.

         When a defendant files a § 2255 motion, he must set forth facts which entitle him to relief. Green v. Wingo, 454 F.2d 52, 53 (6th Cir. 1972); O'Malley v. United States, 285 F.2d 733, 735 (6thCir. 1961). “Conclusions, not substantiated by allegations of fact with some probability of verity, are not sufficient to warrant a hearing.” O'Malley, 285 F.2d at 735 (citations omitted). A motion that merely states general conclusions of law without substantiating allegations with facts is without legal merit. Loum v. Underwood, 262 F.2d 866, 867 (6th Cir. 1959); United States v. Johnson, 940 F.Supp. 167, 171 (W.D. Tenn. 1996). To warrant relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 because of constitutional error, the error must be one of constitutional magnitude which had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the proceedings. Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993) (citation omitted) (§ 2254 case); Clemmons v. Sowders, 34 F.3d 352, 354 (6thCir. 1994). See also United States v. Cappas, 29 F.3d 1187, 1193 (7th Cir. 1994) (applying Brecht to a § 2255 motion). If the sentencing court lacked jurisdiction, then the conviction is void and must be set aside. Williams v. United States, 582 F.2d 1039, 1041 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 988 (1978). To warrant relief for a non-constitutional error, petitioner must show a fundamental defect in the proceeding that resulted in a complete miscarriage of justice or an egregious error inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure. Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339, 354 (1994); Grant v. United States, 72 F.3d 503, 506 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 517 U.S. 1200 (1996). In order to obtain collateral relief under § 2255, a petitioner must clear a significantly higher hurdle than would exist on direct appeal. United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152 (1982).

         A one-year statute of limitations applies to § 2255 motions, which begins to run on the latest of the following:

(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;
(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of Constitution or laws of the United States is removed …;
(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255 (f)(1)-(4). A judgment of conviction becomes final at the conclusion of direct review, or when the time to appeal expires. See Sanchez-Castellano v. United States, 358 F.3d 424, 428 (6th Cir. 2004); Johnson v. United States, 246 F.3d 655, 657 (6th Cir. 2001). Rule 4(b)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure requires that notice of appeal in a criminal case should be filed within 14 days of the entry of the judgment.

         The Sixth Amendment provides, in pertinent part, “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” U.S. Const. amend. VI. A defendant has a Sixth Amendment right not just to counsel, but to “reasonably effective assistance” of counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). In Strickland, the Supreme Court set forth a two-pronged test for evaluating claims of ineffective assistance of counsel:

First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the “counsel” guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. This requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable. Unless a defendant makes both showings, it cannot be said that the conviction . . . resulted from a breakdown in the adversary process that renders the result unreliable.

Strickland 466 U.S. at 687. As with any other claim under § 2255, the burden of proving ineffective assistance of counsel is on the petitioner. Virgin Islands v. Nicholas, 759 ...


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