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Vergara v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 5, 2018

Miguel Angel Vergara, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING IN PART PETITIONER'S MOTION TO VACATE SENTENCE [#128] AND ORDERING AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING

          GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the Court is Petitioner Miguel Angel Vergara's Motion to Vacate Sentence. Dkt. No. 128. Petitioner argues ineffective assistance of counsel because his lawyer allegedly did not properly investigate facts of his case at trial. Id. at pg. 4 (pg. ID 545). Petitioner also argues ineffective assistance of counsel because his lawyer allegedly did not file a timely notice of appeal after Petitioner told his lawyer he wanted to appeal. Id. at pg. 5 (pg. ID 546). For the reasons that follow, this Court will deny Petitioner's Motion to Vacate on grounds that Petitioner's attorney did not properly investigate. However, this Court will hold a hearing on Petitioner's Motion to Vacate for allegedly not filing a timely notice of appeal.

         II. Factual Background

         On June 15, 2016, Petitioner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Dkt. No. 124, pg. 1 (Pg. ID 481). That same day, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 108 months in prison. Dkt. No. 128, pg. 1 (Pg. ID 542). Petitioner did not appeal from the judgment of conviction. Id. On June 13, 2017, Petitioner filed the present Motion to Vacate Sentence. Dkt. No. 128. The government responded to the Motion on September 28, 2017. Dkt. No. 136. Petitioner did not file a timely reply.

         III. Legal Standard

         A Court will grant relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 if there was: “(1) an error of constitutional magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside the statutory limits; or (3) an error of fact or law that was so fundamental as to render the entire proceeding invalid.” U.S. v. Doyle, 631 F.3d 815, 817 (6th Cir. 2011). “Ineffective assistance of counsel claims fall within the first of these three categories.” Id.

         IV. Discussion

         Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his lawyer did not properly investigate evidence against him. Dkt. No. 128, pg. 4 (Pg. ID 545). Petitioner also argues that his lawyer did not appeal his case, even though Petitioner told his lawyer that he wanted to appeal. Id. at 5 (Pg. ID 546).

         To succeed on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a movant must show that “his counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness”; and that the performance prejudiced the movant's case. U.S. v. Doyle, 631 F.3d at 817.

         Failure to Investigate

         First, Petitioner claims that his lawyer failed to investigate evidence against him properly. Dkt. No. 128, pg. 4 (Pg. ID 545). To succeed, Petitioner must demonstrate that his lawyer's alleged failure to investigate fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Petitioner must also demonstrate that the alleged failure to investigate prejudiced his case.

         To show a lawyer's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness is a high burden. There is a strong presumption that an attorney's conduct was reasonable. McMullan v. Booker, 761 F.3d 662, 672 (6th Cir. 2014). In other words, there is a wide range of reasonable ...


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