United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
J. McConnell, Jr. United States District Judge.
Metellus, proceeding pro se, has filed a motion
under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct
his forty-two month prison sentence. (ECF No. 62). Mr.
Metellus asks the Court to vacate his sentence due to
ineffective assistance of counsel and the involuntariness of
his guilty plea. The Court finds no merit to Mr.
Metellus' writ and thus, DISMISSES his petition. The
requested evidentiary hearing is not required because his
petition is conclusively refuted by the record.
August 3, 2015, Mr. Metellus pled guilty to one count of wire
fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. His plea was
made pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, in which he
waived his right to plead not guilty and his right to a jury
trial. (ECF No. 55), Mr. Metellus also waived his right to
appeal the conviction and sentence if the Court imposed a
sentence of forty-two months. (Id., ). Mr. Metellus
was represented by able counsel throughout this process. On
January 6, 2015, this Court sentenced Mr. Metellus to
forty-two months imprisonment, to be followed by three years
of supervised release. (ECF No. 60). Thereafter, Mr. Metellus
timely filed the instant motion to vacate. (ECF No. 62). The
government has opposed Mr. Metellus' motion. (ECF No.
§ 2255 motion, Mr. Metellus first asserts that his
counsel failed to (l) properly advise him as to the sentence
he faced at trial, (2) investigate, (3) locate witnesses, (4)
file pretrial motions, and (5) inform him of immigration and
other consequences of his guilty plea. Second, Mr. Metellus,
a non-native English speaker, asserts that his plea was
involuntary because he did not understand the plea agreement
2255 provides for post-conviction relief only if a petitioner
was sentenced in violation of the Constitution, his sentence
was imposed by a court that lacked jurisdiction, it exceeded
the statutory maximum, or the sentence is otherwise subject
to collateral attack. David v. United States, 134
F.3d 470, 474 (1st Cir. 1998). In attempting to collaterally
attack his sentence, the petitioner bears the burden of
demonstrating "exceptional circumstances" that
warrant redress under § 2255. See Hill v. United
States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962); Mack v. United
States, 635 F.2d 20, 26-27 (1st Cir. 1980). For example,
an error of law must constitute a "fundamental defect
which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of
justice." Hill, 368 U.S. at 428; accord
David, 134 F.3d at 474. Notably, "'a voluntary
and intelligent plea of guilty made by an accused person, who
has been advised by competent counsel, may not be
collaterally attacked.'" Wilkins v. United
States, 754 F.3d 24, 28 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting
Mabry v. Johnson, 467 U.S. 504, 508 (1984)). Because
Mr. Metellus' motion mainly stems from his grievances
with his representation, the Court first turns to his
ineffective assistance claim.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
petitioner claiming ineffective assistance of counsel
"must demonstrate that counsel's performance fell
below an objective threshold of reasonable care and that this
deficient performance prejudiced him." United States
v. Caramadre, 807 F.3d 359, 371 (1st Cir. 2015); see
generally Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687
(1984). If the petitioner cannot satisfy one part of the
inquiry, the Court need not approach the other.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697 ("[T]here is no
reason for a court deciding an ineffective assistance claim
to approach the inquiry in the same order or even to address
both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes an
insufficient showing on one."). "The burden is on
the petitioner to demonstrate ineffective assistance by a
preponderance of the evidence." Lema v. United
States, 987 F.2d 48, 51 (1st Cir. 1993). In the context
of an attack on a plea agreement, the petitioner must
demonstrate that "but for counsel's errors, he would
not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to
trial." Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59
(1985); Caramadre, 807 F.3d at 371. In the
court's assessment of the petitioner's allegations,
counsel is "'strongly presumed to have rendered
adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the
exercise of reasonable professional judgment."'
Woods v. Etherton, 136 S.Ct. 1149, 1151 (2016)
(quoting Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 17 (2013)).
record conclusively refutes Mr. Metellus' ineffective
assistance claims. His counsel provided diligent assistance
that was at no point objectively unreasonable. Mr. Metellus
was indicted on an arson charge under 18 U.S.C. § 844(i)
and a wire fraud charge under 18 U.S.C. §
1343. He faced a combined maximum sentence of
sixty years imprisonment and a minimum sentence of seven
years imprisonment. His counsel appropriately informed Mr.
Metellus that, if convicted at trial, he faced a possible
fifteen year sentence. After receiving discovery production,
counsel for Mr. Metellus filed a series of pertinent pretrial
motions and memoranda, including motions in limine and
motions to suppress. (ECF Nos. 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31). As
confirmed by the affidavit he filed in response to this
motion, counsel investigated Mr. Metellus' case, became
familiar with it, and negotiated a reasonable plea agreement
to which Mr. Metellus assented. (ECF No. 67-1). With the aid
of an interpreter throughout, counsel for Mr. Metellus
conferred with him regarding the indictment and the
consequences of the plea agreement on his immigration status.
(ECF No. 66 at 4-6, ECF 67-1 at 2). None of Mr. Metellus'
grounds for relief reveals a fundamental defect in his
sentence under § 2255 as a result of ineffective
assistance of counsel.
Mr. Metellus seeks post-conviction relief because he asserts
that his guilty plea was involuntary. In order to attack a
plea agreement on grounds of involuntariness, a petitioner
must show that his agreement was not knowing, voluntary, and
intelligent under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11.
See Wilkins, 754 F.3d at 27. The plea colloquy
addresses the "core concerns" of Rule 11, and is
intended to ensure that a defendant who pleads guilty does so
after communicating an understanding of the nature of the
charge and the consequences of the plea to the Court. See
United States v, Kenney, 756 F.3d 36, 45 (1st Cir.
2014). A guilty plea must be set aside only in the event of a
"total failure to address one of Rule ll's core
concerns" or if deficiencies in the colloquy
"affected the defendant's 'substantial
rights.'" United States v. Cotal-Crespo, 47
F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(h)).
An examination of the Court's procedures for accepting a
plea is "crucial in later determining whether the plea
was truly understanding and voluntary." United
States v. Ruiz-del Valle, 8 F.3d 98, 102 (1st Cir.
1993). In conducting an examination into the Rule 11
procedure, "a district court's close relationship to
the plea process affords it a superior coign of vantage . . .
." United States v. Merritt, 755 F.3d 6, 9 (1st
to the record conclusively refutes the claim that Mr.
Metellus' plea agreement was involuntary. The transcript
shows that the Court, with the assistance of an interpreter,
was assiduous in its plea colloquy procedure. (ECF No.
66). After informing Mr. Metellus that he could
consult with counsel at any point during the colloquy, the
Court questioned Mr. Metellus in order to ensure his
competence, and afforded him time to review his indictment
with his attorney and the interpreter, (id. at 3-6).
Mr. Metellus then confirmed that he was satisfied with his
representation, assented to waive his rights to trial and
appeal, and indicated that he understood that his immigration
status would be affected by accepting a plea of guilty.
(Id. at 6"7, 9-10). After hearing the
government's recitation of the elements of the charge of
wire fraud, and the facts supporting that charge, Mr.
Metellus admitted that they were true. (Id. at
11-13). Finally, after confirming that he did not have any
remaining questions for the Court or counsel, Mr. Metellus
pled guilty. (Id. at 13). Mr. Metellus affirmed that
he understood the charges brought against him and their basis
in fact, the sentence he faced, and the rights that he
waived. The hearing was devoid of ...