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Martin v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 14, 2018

Andrew Charles Martin, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
United States of America, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued: January 24, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. Nos. 1:12-cr-00574-1; 1:15-cv-00547-Christopher A. Boyko, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Christian J. Grostic, KUSHNER, HAMED & GROSTIC CO., LPA, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Alejandro A. Abreu, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Christian J. Grostic, KUSHNER, HAMED & GROSTIC CO., LPA, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Henry F. DeBaggis, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

          Before: GIBBONS, WHITE, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          JANE B.STRANCH, Circuit Judge.

          Andrew Martin filed a § 2255 motion to vacate his sentence, arguing that his attorneys' ineffective assistance cost him a three-point sentencing reduction for acceptance of responsibility. The district court denied Martin's motion without holding an evidentiary hearing. Because the district court abused its discretion by declining to hold an evidentiary hearing, we REVERSE the district court's order and REMAND for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2011, a probate court appointed Joy Comey administrator of the estate of her brother, George Warehime. Later that year, Andrew Martin and his co-conspirator David Simons fraudulently took ownership of Warehime's property. Martin, then a nurse, accessed Warehime's medical records without authorization so that Simons could fabricate a story about a relationship with Warehime that would make the putative property transfer look legitimate. A dispute over the house followed in probate court.

         During that time, Martin attempted to recruit a patient to "take [Comey] out." The patient purported to agree, but then contacted the police. Before the Government brought federal criminal charges against Martin, Comey filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment in probate court, naming Martin and Simons as defendants and alleging fraudulent transfer of Warehime's property. The probate court entered judgment against Martin and Simons.

         On April 18, 2013, Martin pled guilty in federal court to using interstate commerce facilities with the intent to commit murder-for-hire, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958; conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; and obtaining individually identifiable health information, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1320d-6. He was represented by attorneys Edward La Rue and Christopher Thomarios. There was no plea agreement, but Martin and the Government jointly filed a Statement of Guilty Plea. The statement provided, among other things, that the Government would move for a three-level reduction in the Guidelines "[i]f the defendant continues to demonstrate that he has accepted responsibility for the offense conduct in this matter."

         In the time between his guilty plea and sentencing hearing, Martin filed a Rule 60(b) motion to vacate the judgment in probate court. In the motion, Martin presented a factual narrative of the conduct underlying his civil and criminal cases that contradicted aspects of the guilty plea statement. He denied "voluntarily or knowingly attempt[ing] to take fraudulent means or actions against" the victims, asserting that "[a]t no time did [he] attempt to defraud or maliciously act" against them. The Government brought Martin's motion to the district court's attention at the sentencing hearing, arguing that it was "inconsistent with acceptance of responsibility." La Rue argued that the 60(b) motion was out of character for Martin, that Martin filed it in a misguided attempt to mitigate the damage done to his family, and that Martin nevertheless demonstrated an acceptance of responsibility by pleading guilty and in his allocution at the sentencing hearing.

         The court was unpersuaded and declined to grant any reduction for acceptance of responsibility. Without the reduction, Martin's total offense level was 32, which, given Martin's criminal history category of I, resulted in a guideline range of 121-151 months in prison. Had Martin received the three-level reduction, his guideline range would have been 87-108 months. The court imposed a sentence of 144 months, three years of supervised release, and $83, 401.29 in restitution, which we affirmed on appeal. United States v. Martin, 572 Fed.Appx. 334, 334 (6th Cir. 2014).

         Martin then filed this pro se § 2255 motion to vacate, arguing that his trial attorneys provided ineffective assistance of counsel, in part because they advised him to file the Rule 60(b) motion in his civil case, causing him to lose the three-point reduction for acceptance of responsibility and therefore receive a longer prison sentence. Martin alleged that his counsel, Thomarios, insisted that Martin include language in the 60(b) motion that was contradictory to his guilty plea statement, and, when Martin asked whether it would affect his criminal case, his attorneys "assured him it wouldn't." In support of ...


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