United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Ronnie Greer United States District Judge
before the Court is the motion of Lucas Jordan Conerly
(“Conerly”), a federal inmate, to vacate, set
aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255
[Doc. 52]. The Court The Court finds the materials
thus submitted, together with the record of the underlying
criminal case (2:13-CR-15), conclusively show Conerly is not
entitled to relief on any of the claims asserted in his
petition. Accordingly, the Court will decide this matter
without an evidentiary hearing, see United States v.
Todaro, 982 F.2d 1025, 1028 (6th Cir.1993), and will
DENY Conerly's motion for the following reasons.
Procedural and Factual Background
federal grand jury indicted Conerly on February 12, 2013,
charging him with coercing a minor into sexual activity in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b) [Doc. 13]. Conerly
signed an amended plea agreement, agreeing to plead guilty to
the Indictment [Doc. 39]. As a factual basis for his guilty
plea, Conerly stipulated to the following facts:
a) At all relevant times, the defendant resided in Sullivan
County, in the Eastern District of Tennessee.
b) Beginning in mid-October 2012 and continuing through
January 9, 2013, the defendant used means and facilities of
interstate commerce including, but not limited to cellular
telephones and internet-based social media outlets to contact
an individual under the age of 18, in order to engage the
minor in illegal sexual activity which is a crime under
Tennessee law. The defendant engaged the minor in multiple
conversations including text messages, telephone calls, and
electronic mail communications.
c) During the foregoing conversations, the defendant induced,
enticed, or persuaded, or attempted to induce, entice, or
persuade a minor in illegal sexual activity.
d) On Saturday, January 19, 2013, the defendant drove from
his home in Blountville, Sullivan County, Tennessee to a
public location in Johnson City, Washington County,
Tennessee, for the purpose of meeting and engaging an
individual under the age of 18 in illegal sexual activity
which is a crime under Tennessee [law]. At the time of the
foregoing acts, the defendant believed that he was
communicating with and meeting a person under the age of 18.
e) The foregoing acts occurred in the Eastern District of
[Id. at 2].
entered a plea of guilty on December 9, 2013. The PSR
established a total offense level of 27 and a criminal
history category of II, resulting in an advisory guideline
range of 78 to 97 months imprisonment [Doc. 38]. However,
because he faced a minimum mandatory term of imprisonment of
10 years, the guideline range was 120 months. On April 9,
2014, the Court imposed the minimum sentence, a 120 month
term of imprisonment. Conerly did not appeal. A judgment was
entered on April 22, 2014 [Doc. 49]. On July 2, 2015, Conerly
timely filed this §2255 petition.
Standard of Review
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 fact 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.
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 (6th Cir. 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 (6th
Cir. 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. 152 (1982).
first claims he received ineffective assistance of counsel
because his counsel (1) failed to explain adequately all
elements of the alleged crimes, (2) failed to adequately
investigate and submit mitigation evidence, and (3) induced
him to sign a plea [Doc. 52 at 4]. Second, Conerly claims he
was not competent to make decisions on his own behalf at the
time of his plea [Doc. 52 at 5]. He claims that his plea was
involuntary and unknowingly made. The Court will address each
argument in turn.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Failure to Explain Elements
argues “counsel failed to adequately explain all
elements of alleged committed crimes” [Doc. 52 at 4].
This claim is unequivocally contradicted by Conerly's
sworn testimony during the change of plea hearing. The
District Court advised Conerly that he was charged with
“a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section
2422, which prohibits the use of a means of interstate
commerce to knowingly persuade, induce, entice or coerce any
individual under the age of 18 to engage in any sexual
activity for which you could be charged with a crime under
state law.” [Doc. 62 at 2].
following colloquy then occurred between the Court and
Conerly under oath:
Q: Have you read the indictment?
A: Yes, sir.
Q. Have you had sufficient time to discuss this case with
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Have you told your lawyer everything you know about this
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Has your lawyer advised you as to the nature and meaning
of the charge against you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Has your lawyer advised or explained to you the meaning of
all words used in this indictment about which you had any
question? In other words, if there were words in this
indictment that you did not fully ...