United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. VARLAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Tyler James Schaeffer has filed a motion to vacate, set
aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255
[Doc. 1],  and a supplemental pleading that seeks to
add a claim based on Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S.Ct.
1204 (2018) [Doc. 19]. The government has responded to each
[Docs. 7 & 31]. Because, based on the record before the
Court, it plainly appears that Schaeffer is not entitled to
relief, it is not necessary to hold an evidentiary hearing,
his motion will be denied.
July 26, 2010, and September 14, 2012, Schaeffer committed
seven Hobbs Act robberies, often assisted by others [Doc. 3,
No. 3:13-cr-32]. A federal grand jury charged Schaeffer with
many offenses: committing each of those robberies, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951; conspiring to violate the
Hobbs Act, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; four counts
of violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) for brandishing a
firearm during four of those robberies; conspiring to
distribute methylone, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
846 and 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C); and another § 924(c)
violation for possessing a firearm in furtherance of that
drug-trafficking crime [Id.].
pleaded guilty to all but the firearms counts and maintained
that he would dispute “anything related to firearms, .
. . and that's what the trial will be on” [Doc.
116, at 18, No. 3:13-cr-32]. Schaeffer admitted that
“something was brandished” during the robberies,
but disputed whether that “something” was a real
firearm, as opposed to a fake one [Doc. 116, at 18, No.
3:13-cr-32]. A jury convicted Schaeffer as charged [Doc. 100,
3:16-CV-575], except for one § 924(c) count that the
government dismissed [Docs. 78 & 84, No. 3:13-cr-32].
Court sentenced Schaeffer to a within-guidelines term of 1,
200 months' imprisonment, 960 months of which was
statutorily mandated by the four § 924(c) convictions
[Doc. 146, No. 3:13-cr-32]. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that
judgment on direct appeal, where Schaeffer raised only
evidentiary issues. United States v. Schaeffer, 626
Fed.Appx. 604 (6th Cir. 2015). This § 2255 motion
Schaeffer alleges that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel
was violated by a recording of his statements to a jailhouse
informant, that the prosecution allegedly committed several
instances misconduct, that his counsel was constitutionally
ineffective, and that his Hobbs Act convictions violate the
Tenth Amendment [Doc. 1]. Schaeffer's supplemental pleading
argues that Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S.Ct. 1204
(2018), invalidated the similarly worded residual clause of
18 U.S.C. § 924(c), upon which he claims his convictions
depend. However, for the reasons explained below,
none of these claims provides any basis for relief.
initial matter, each of Schaeffer's claims-except for
those asserting ineffective assistance of counsel or
attacking his § 924(c) convictions-are procedurally
defaulted. “[A] defendant has procedurally defaulted a
claim” if he “fail[s] to raise it on direct
review.” Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S.
614, 622 (1998). These claims, regarding his Sixth Amendment
rights, prosecutorial misconduct, and the constitutionality
of the Hobbs Act, could all have been objected to and raised
on direct appeal and were not. See United States v.
Schaeffer, 626 Fed.Appx. 604 (6th Cir. 2015) (raising
only evidentiary issues). Those claims are therefore
procedurally defaulted. For Schaeffer's Tenth Amendment
claim asserted in Ground Four of his motion, the analysis
ends here because he does not assert any cause that would
excuse the procedural default of that claim.
other claims to be reviewed, Schaeffer must show, as relevant
here, that he had good cause for not raising the claim
earlier and would suffer “actual prejudice” if
the claim were left unreviewed. United States v.
Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 167-68 (1982). The
“hurdle” for overcoming procedural default is
“intentionally high . . ., for respect for the finality
of judgments demands that collateral attack generally not be
allowed to do service for an appeal.” Elzy v.
United States, 205 F.3d 882, 884 (6th Cir. 2000).
Schaeffer asserts that the Sixth Amendment and
prosecutorial-misconduct claims were not raised because they
“relate to ineffective assistance of counsel claims,
” which refers to his counsel's failure to
“object, preserve for appeal, or appeal” these
issues [Doc. 1, at 6].
ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim can excuse a
procedural default, but counsel's performance “must
have been so ineffective as to violate the Federal
Constitution.” Edwards v. Carpenter, 529 U.S.
446, 451 (2000). In other words, “ineffective
assistance adequate to establish cause for the procedural
default of some other constitutional claim, ” must be
“itself an independent constitutional claim.”
Id. Thus, to excuse his procedural default,
Schaeffer's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims must
satisfy the familiar and deferential standard from
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88
(1984). “First, the defendant must show that
counsel's performance was deficient” as measured by
“an objective standard of reasonableness, ” under
which “[j]udicial scrutiny of counsel's performance
must be highly deferential.” Id. at 687-89.
“Second, the defendant must show that the deficient
performance prejudiced the defense, ” which means that
“[t]he defendant must show that there is a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceeding would have been
different.” Id. at 687, 694. For the reasons
explained below, Schaeffer's counsel was not
constitutionally ineffective with respect to either
Schaeffer's Sixth Amendment right-to-counsel claim or his
prosecutorial-misconduct claim, so the procedural default of
these claims is therefore unexcused.
Sixth Amendment right-to-counsel claim
does not have a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel
with respect to the Sixth Amendment right-to-counsel issue,
which concerns his statements to a jailhouse informant. While
awaiting trial, Schaeffer “confess[ed]” to
another inmate about “the robberies that he had been
committing before he went to jail” [Doc. 161, at 358,
No. 3:13-cr-32]. The other inmate reported those
conversations to federal agents, who arranged for that inmate
to wear a recording device on December 11, 2012, to capture
further conversations with Schaeffer [Id. at 349,
358-359]. Schaeffer now alleges that those recorded
statements-in which he “clearly and accurately
describes most of the robberies that he participated
in” [id. at 363; see also id. at
364-66]-violated his right to counsel.
Schaeffer's Sixth Amendment rights were violated-a matter
on which the Court expresses no opinion-there was no
ineffective assistance of counsel with respect to this claim
because Schaeffer's counsel not objecting on Sixth
Amendment grounds did not prejudice Schaeffer. The
jailhouse-informant recording apparently only related to
Schaeffer's robberies, to which he pleaded guilty, rather
than the gun charges, which were the subject of his trial. In
fact, Schaeffer's counsel explored this very matter while
cross-examining Agent Bukowski, who stated that Schaeffer did
not “[say] anything about using [the guns] in
anything” during “all of those”
conversations involving Schaeffer, which included
“[his] interviewing Mr. Schaeffer, some jail calls, and
some jailhouse snitches wearing a wire” [Id.
at 372-73]. Because these jailhouse-informant statements
appear to have related only to robberies that were not at
issue during Schaeffer's trial, rather than the gun
charges he was facing, he was not prejudiced by his
counsel's not objecting to any Sixth Amendment
right-to-counsel violation. And even if the
jailhouse-informant recording were inculpatory, in light of
the extensive evidence of Schaeffer's guilt, suppressing
that recording-the remedy for this kind of claim, see
United States v. Henry, 447 U.S. 264, 274 (1980)-would
have had no effect on his trial. See Brecht v.
Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 633 (1993) (error is harmless
unless it “had substantial and injurious effect or
influence in determining the jury's verdict (quoting
Kotteakos v. United States, 328 U.S. 750, 776
(1946))). Because Schaeffer's counsel was therefore not
constitutionally ineffective, there is no cause to excuse the
procedural default of this underlying Sixth Amendment claim.
was also no ineffective assistance of counsel with respect to
any of the alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Schaeffer claims
that the prosecution engaged in seven separate instances of
misconduct. According to Schaeffer, the prosecution
(1) advised the jury during voir dire that “you have to
be able to focus on [the charges at issue] and understand
that maybe there are things at play that because they
happened behind the scenes ...