United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
JOSEPH A. CARAMADRE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE.
Joseph A. Caramadre has filed a motion to vacate, set aside,
or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255
(“Mot. to Vacate, ” ECF No. 267), and supporting
memorandum (“Caramadre Mem., ” ECF No. 267-1), in
the above-captioned matter. The Government has objected to
the Motion (“Gov't Obj., ” ECF No. 271).
Caramadre thereafter filed a reply (“Caramadre Reply,
” ECF No. 273), to which the Government filed a
sur-reply (“Gov't Sur-Reply, ” ECF No. 274).
The Court has determined that no hearing is necessary. For
the reasons that follow, the Motion to Vacate is DENIED.
Background and Travel
background of the case is taken from the Court's
Memorandum of Decision (ECF No. 181) explaining its denial of
Caramadre's motion to withdraw guilty plea (“Mot.
to Withdraw Plea, ” ECF No. 122). The travel is taken
from the Court's Docket.
On November 17, 2011, after a lengthy investigation including
pre-indictment depositions and Grand Jury proceedings, the
Grand Jury returned a detailed indictment against Defendants
Caramadre and Raymour Radhakrishnan. The Indictment charged
both Defendants with sixty-five counts including wire fraud,
mail fraud, conspiracy, identity fraud, aggravated identity
theft, and money laundering. Caramadre was also charged with
one count of witness tampering. At its core, the Indictment
alleged that Caramadre devised a fraudulent scheme, later
joined by Radhakrishnan, to secure the identities of
terminally ill people through material misrepresentations and
omissions. Caramadre and Radhakrishnan allegedly made
millions of dollars by taking these fraudulently obtained
identities, making additional misrepresentations to insurance
carriers, and then purchasing variable annuities and
corporate bonds with death-benefit features. Because of the
vast scope of the Indictment and the number of government
witnesses, trial was anticipated to last over three months.
The jury empanelment process was lengthy as well, involving
an extensive questionnaire and individual voir dire.
Trial began on Tuesday, November 13, 2012. After four days of
trial, on Monday, November 19, 2012, Caramadre and
Radhakrishnan entered guilty pleas pursuant to a package plea
agreement (the “Plea Agreement”) in which they
both pleaded guilty to Counts Nine (wire fraud) and
Thirty-three (conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud,
and identity theft). Sentencing was scheduled for March 2013
in anticipation of considerable disagreement over the loss
amounts and restitution. All was quiet until January 2013,
when Caramadre's attorneys moved to withdraw from the
case and his new attorneys alerted the Court that Caramadre
would be filing a motion to withdraw his plea. The Motion was
eventually filed on February 28, 2013.
United States v. Caramadre, 957 F.Supp.2d 160, 165
(D.R.I. 2013) (internal citations omitted)
(“Caramadre IV”); see also
United States v. Caramadre, 807 F.3d 359,
364-65 (1st Cir. 2015) (denying Caramadre's direct
appeal) (“Caramadre V”), cert.
denied, Caramadre v. United States, 136 S.Ct.
2455 (2016) (“Caramadre
VI”). After an evidentiary hearing spanning four
days, the Court denied Caramadre's Motion to Withdraw
Plea from the bench on May 20, 2013. The Court issued a
Memorandum of Decision on August 1, 2013.
was sentenced on December 16, 2013, to 72 months'
incarceration as to Count Nine and a concurrent term of 60
months' incarceration as to Count Thirty-Three, to be
followed by three years of supervised release on each Count,
also to run concurrently, and a special assessment of $200.
Restitution was to be determined at a later date. The
Government moved to dismiss the remaining counts, and the
Court granted the motion. Judgment issued on December 26,
2013, followed on February 25, 2014, by an Amended Judgment,
which included the restitution amounts which had been
filed Notices of Appeal of both the Judgment and the Amended
Judgment. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit denied
Caramadre's appeal on December 7, 2015. The court's
Mandate issued on January 20, 2016. On May 23, 2016, the
Supreme Court denied further review.
15, 2017, Caramadre timely filed the instant Motion to
2255 provides in relevant part:
A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established
by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the
ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the
Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court
was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the
sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or
is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court
which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).
the grounds justifying relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a)
are limited. A court may grant relief pursuant to § 2255
in instances where the court finds a lack of jurisdiction, a
constitutional error, or a fundamental error of law.
United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178,
185 (1979). “[A]n error of law does not provide a basis
for collateral attack unless the claimed error constituted a
fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete
miscarriage of justice.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted). Moreover, § 2255 is not a
substitute for direct appeal. Knight v. United
States, 37 F.3d 769, 772 (1st Cir. 1994)(citing cases).
Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants the right to effective
assistance of counsel. Lema v. United States, 987
F.2d 48, 51 (1st Cir. 1993)(citing Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)). However,
“[t]he Constitution does not guarantee a defendant a
letter-perfect defense or a successful defense; rather, the
performance standard is that of reasonably effective
assistance under the circumstances then obtaining.”
United States v. Natanel, 938 F.2d 302, 309-10 (1st
defendant who claims that he was deprived of his Sixth
Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel must
(1) that his counsel's performance fell below an
objective standard of reasonableness; and
(2) a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would
have been different.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-88, 694. In assessing
the adequacy of counsel's performance, a defendant
“‘must identify the acts or omissions of counsel
that are alleged not to have been the result of reasonable
professional judgment,' and the court then determines
whether, in the particular context, the identified conduct or
inaction was ‘outside the wide range of professionally
competent assistance.'” United States v.
Manon, 608 F.3d 126, 131 (1st Cir. 2010)(quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690). With respect to the
prejudice requirement under Strickland, a
“reasonable probability is one sufficient to undermine
confidence in the outcome. In making the prejudice
assessment, [the court] focus[es] on the fundamental fairness
of the proceeding.” Id. (internal citations
and quotation marks omitted). “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; see also Reyes-Vejerano v. United
States, 117 F.Supp.2d 103, 106 (D.P.R. 2000)(“The
petitioner has the burden of proving both prongs of this
test, and the burden is a heavy one.”). “The
benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be
whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper
functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot
be relied on as having produced a just result.”
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 686.
instructs that “[j]udicial scrutiny of counsel's
performance must be highly deferential.” Id.
at 689; see also Id. (“It is all too tempting
for a defendant to second-guess counsel's assistance
after conviction or adverse sentence, and it is all too easy
for a court, examining counsel's defense after it has
proved unsuccessful, to conclude that a particular act or
omission of counsel was unreasonable.”). The court
“must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's
conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable
professional assistance; that is, the defendant must overcome
the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged
action ‘might be considered sound trial
strategy.'” Id. (quoting Michel v.
Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101 (1955)). Moreover,
“[a]n error by counsel, even if professionally
unreasonable, does not warrant setting aside the judgment of
a criminal proceeding if the error had no effect on the
judgment.” Id. at 691. Finally, “[a]
fair assessment of attorney performance requires that every
effort be made to eliminate the distorting effects of
hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of counsel's
challenged conduct, and to evaluate the conduct from
counsel's perspective at the time.” Id. at
same principles apply in the context of guilty pleas. See
Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 57 (1985). The
Hill Court held that “the two-part
Strickland v. Washington test applies to challenges
to guilty pleas based on ineffective assistance of
counsel.” Id. at 58; see also Padilla v.
Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 371 n.12 (2010)(“In
Hill, the Court recognized-for the first time- that
Strickland applies to advice respecting a guilty
plea.”). The first prong of the Strickland
test is nothing more than a restatement of the standard of
attorney competence described above. Hill, 474 U.S.
The second, or “prejudice, ” requirement, on the
other hand, focuses on whether counsel's constitutionally
ineffective performance affected the outcome of the plea
process. In other words, in order to satisfy the
“prejudice” requirement, the defendant must show
that there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and
would have insisted on going to trial.
Id. at 59; see also Lee v. United States,
137 S.Ct. 1958, 1965 (2017)(quoting Hill);
Padilla, 559 U.S. at 372 (noting that “to
obtain relief on this type of claim, a petitioner must
convince the court that a decision to reject the plea bargain
would have been rational under the circumstances”);
Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156, 163 (2012)
(“In the context of pleas a defendant must show the
outcome of the plea process would have been different with
competent advice.”). However, “[c]ourts should
not upset a plea solely because of post hoc
assertions from a defendant about how he would have pleaded
but for his attorney's deficiencies. Judges should
instead look to contemporary evidence to substantiate a
defendant's expressed preferences.” Lee,
137 S.Ct. at 1967.
presents one ground for relief: that, as a result of the
ineffective assistance of his trial counsel, “his
guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary and as a result,
his 5th and 6th Amendment rights were abridged.” (Mot.
to Vacate 5.) Specifically, Caramadre asserts that:
[H]e was deprived of his 5th Amendment rights to due process
of law and his constitutional right to present a complete
defense, including the right to present witnesses in his own
defense, as well as his 6th Amendment right to the effective
assistance of counsel, as a result of his trial counsels'
failure to undertake the steps necessary to have determined
that Petitioner's co-defendant, Raymour Radhakrishan, was
willing to provide compelling exculpatory evidence on
Petitioner's behalf if Mr. Radhakrishan was tried at a
separate trial and further, that it constituted ineffective
assistance of counsel for the failure of his trial counsel to
move before the District Court for a severance pursuant to
Rule 14 of the Fed. R. Crim. Pro., based upon
Petitioner's need for the testimony of co-defendant,
Raymour Radhakrishnan, and that as the result of
Petitioner's counsels' ineffective assistance,
Petitioner was induced to enter a guilty plea, which he would
not have entered but rather would have insisted on going to
trial. As a result, Petitioner's guilty plea was not a
knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to a trial . . . .
(Id.) The Government counters that Caramadre's
claim is procedurally barred (Gov't Obj. 3), and that, in
any event, Caramadre has failed to meet his burden of
demonstrating that counsels' performance was
constitutionally deficient and that he suffered prejudice as
a result (id. at 1).
Government contends that Caramadre's current claim is
procedurally barred because:
Caramadre already thoroughly argued that his former attorneys
were ineffective in the context of his motion to withdraw his
guilty plea. In that motion, petitioner made every argument
he could imagine in support of his assertion that his
attorneys committed serious errors that caused him to enter a
guilty plea .....
(Gov't Obj. 3-4; see also id. at 4
(“Petitioner is now simply recycling this same claim by
finding a new spin on the same old argument - that his former
counsel's ineffectiveness led him to plead
guilty.”).) Thus, the Government concludes, Caramadre
has already been “afforded the opportunity for full and
fair litigation of his counsel's alleged ineffectiveness
in the context of his decision to plead guilty, as required
by the Supreme Court in Withrow,
” (id. at 4), and is “barred
from rehashing the same argument once again”
(id. at 5).
responds that “the government's argument that
Petitioner has somehow ‘waived' his right to bring
the instant Petition, is without merit.” (Caramadre
The issue that forms the basis for the instant petition -
failure to investigate whether Mr. Caramadre's
co-defendant would provide meaningful exculpatory testimony
at a separate trial, and/or failing to move the Court for a
severance on that basis - is a free standing issue that has
never been previously raised and has never been previously
litigated or adjudicated either by this Court or in
Petitioner's direct appeal to the First Circuit Court of
Appeals. It is now ...