United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. MCCONNELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Alcantara has petitioned this Court under 28 U.S.C. §
2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his judgment of
conviction, entered after a jury found him guilty of
conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to pass
counterfeit currency, and aggravated identity theft. He now
claims that the Court should vacate his conviction because
his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance. The Court
has determined that no hearing is necessary. The Court finds
that Mr, Alcantara's Motion to Vacate (ECF No. 65) lacks
merit and thus DISMISSES his petition.
federal grand jury sitting in the District of Rhode Island
indicted Mr. Alcantara on charges of conspiracy to commit
bank fraud (Count l), aggravated identity theft (Counts 2-3),
and conspiracy to pass counterfeit obligations (Count 4). Mr.
Alcantara was arrested and arraigned the next day. The grand
jury subsequently returned a Superseding Indictment,
including additional counts of aggravated identity theft.
five-day jury trial, the jury found Mr. Alcantara guilty of
both conspiracy counts and all but one count of aggravated
identity theft, which the Court dismissed on the
Government's motion. The Court sentenced him to an
aggregate term of sixty months imprisonment and three years
Alcantara appealed his conviction, raising several
evidentiary issues and an allegation of prosecutorial
misconduct. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
affirmed the conviction, finding each of Mr. Alcantara's
claims to be meritless. Mr. Alcantara did not seek further
Alcantara timely filed this Motion to Vacate.
2255 provides for post-conviction relief only if the court
sentenced a petitioner in violation of the Constitution or
lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence, if the sentence
exceeded the statutory maximum, or if the sentence is
otherwise subject to collateral attack. United States v.
Addonizio, 422 U.S. 178, 185 (1979); David v. United
States, 134 F.3d 470, 474 (1st Cir. 1998). In trying to
collaterally attack his sentence, the petitioner bears the
burden of proving "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.
Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants the right to effective
assistance of counsel. Lema v. United States, 987
F.2d 48, 51 (1st Cir. l993)(citing Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)). That said,
"[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; United States v.
Manon, 608 F, 3d 126, 131 (1st Cir. 2010). 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, '" Manon, 608 F, 3d
at 131 (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690). As for
the second prong, or 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 citation omitted). Unless the petitioner makes both
showings, the court cannot say 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."). In sum, "[t]he 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, "[j]udcicial scrutiny of counsel's
performance must be highly deferential." Id. at
689. 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 689.
noted above, Mr. Alcantara filed the Motion to Vacate (ECF
No. 65), the Government filed an opposition (ECF No. 67), and