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Vicente-Sapon v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

June 12, 2018


          Susan K. Lee Magistrate Judge



         This case is before the Court upon a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (“2255 Motion”) [Doc. 67] filed on July 20, 2015, and supporting memorandum filed by German Rolando Vicente-Sapon (“Petitioner”) on July 5, 2017 [Doc. 76][1]. The United States of America (the “Government”) filed a response to Petitioner's 2255 Motion on May 15, 2018 [Doc. 81]. Petitioner's 2255 Motion is now ripe.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals explained the pertinent background of this case as follows:

In 2006, a federal grand jury charged Sapon with importing an alien into the United States for an immoral purpose, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1328 (Count 1); interstate transport of a female for an immoral purpose, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(a) (Count 2); and interstate transport of a minor for the purpose of sexual activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a) (Count 3). The charges were based on Sapon paying smugglers to bring his underage cousin, Yuria Vicente-Calel (Calel), from Guatemala to Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the purpose of engaging in a sexual relationship with her. Sapon pleaded not guilty and was convicted by a jury on all counts in November 2012. The district court sentenced him to 120 months of imprisonment for Count 1 and 188 months of imprisonment for Counts 2 and 3, all sentences to be served concurrently.

[Doc. 63].

         As established at the trial, Yuria Maria Calel Vicente (“Yuria”) was a 16-year-old minor when she arrived in the United States [Doc. 58 at Page ID # 204; Doc. 80 at Page ID # 505; [Doc. 59 at Page ID # 345] (Defendant incorrectly calculating Yuria's age as 17 when she arrived)].[2] Either on the first or second night of Yuria's arrival at Petitioner's residence, he had sex with her even though she was a minor [Doc. 58 at Page ID # 221; Doc. 59 at Page ID # 346-47]. Yuria become pregnant twice: the first pregnancy was voluntarily terminated and the second pregnancy resulted in the birth of Yuria and Petitioner's child [Doc. 58 at Page ID # 222-23]. While Yuria was living with Petitioner, he would introduce Yuria as his “wife” [Doc. 58 at Page ID # 226, 234; Doc. 59 at Page ID # 305, 307, 309, 313, 320]. In 2012 after Petitioner's separation from Yuria, Petitioner was interviewed by law enforcement agents after waiving his Miranda rights [Doc. 59 at Page ID # 300-03]. During this interview, Petitioner admitted responsibility for organizing Yuria's illegal entry into the United States [Id. at Page ID # 307-09]. He also admitted to knowing Yuria's birth year though he claimed ignorance as to the actual birthdate [Id. at Page ID # 306, 318-20] and the fact that Yuria was then underage [Id. at Page ID # 312-13 ].

         During his sentencing allocution, Petitioner disputed the sufficiency of the evidence for his convictions but admitted to the sexual relationship with Yuria, claiming that she had “c[o]me[] after” him for a “sexual life.” [Doc. 61 at Page ID # at 399-400]. When imposing sentence, the Court affirmed that Petitioner “talked about this wicked, vicious, manipulative 16-year-old who deceived you and tricked you” and that Petitioner had “blame[d] everyone” instead of “focusing on [his] own actions, ” which included having sexual intercourse with a girl approximately the same age as his own daughter on her first night in his home. [Id. at Page ID # 406-07].

         On appeal, Petitioner again denied there was sufficient evidence to support his convictions, claimed the Court erred in denying his motion to suppress, and argued his sentence was procedurally and substantively unreasonable [Doc. 63]. The Sixth Circuit ruled against Petitioner and affirmed the district court's judgment [Id.]. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of certiorari [Doc. 65], which was denied [Doc. 66].

         Petitioner filed a timely 2255 Motion raising two grounds, both of which were labeled as ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims. The first ground (“Ground One”) alleges his counsel was ineffective for failing to properly investigate and challenge the authenticity of the documents supporting Yuria's age-Yuria's birth certificate and passport. The second ground is unclear, [3]but it seems that Petitioner is arguing his counsel was ineffective for not negotiating a plea agreement or explaining the potential reduction in his sentence had Petitioner pleaded guilty. Though not raised in his 2255 Motion, Petitioner requests an evidentiary hearing in his supporting memorandum, which was not filed until almost two years after the 2255 Motion was filed [Doc. 76 at Page ID # 494].


         A. Threshold Standard for § 2255 Relief

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a federal prisoner may make a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his judgment of conviction and sentence, if he claims that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; that the court lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence; or that the sentence is in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack. As a threshold standard, to obtain post-conviction relief under § 2255 a motion must allege: (1) an error of constitutional magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside the federal statutory limits; or (3) an error of fact or law so ...

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