United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION
UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255 TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT
G. EDMUNDS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
March 2013, the FBI began investigating a workspace for
distributing child pornography on the website box.com. A
cooperating defendant provided access to the workspace to FBI
agents in Alaska, which led to the identification of
Defendant- Petitioner Matthew Leon Vaughn as one of the users
of the box.com workspace. In May 2014, FBI agents in Detroit
executed a search warrant on Petitioner's Ypsilanti
apartment where agents seized multiple electronic devices,
cell phones, laptop computers, CD-ROMs, and removable hard
drives. Given the significant amount of electronic media
seized, the FBI released Petitioner pending review of the
evidence. Petitioner then moved to Toledo where he continued
to collect and download child pornography using peer-to-peer
arrested Petitioner on February 26, 2015 based on a criminal
Complaint filed on February 23, 2015. (Dkt. # 1; Dkt. # 9).
On March 10, 2015, a grand jury indicted Petitioner, charging
him with Receipt of Child Pornography and Possession of Child
Pornography. (Dkt. # 10). On October 1, 2015, Petitioner was
charged with three additional counts in a First Superseding
Indictment: Distribution of Child Pornography, Production of
Child Pornography, and Commission of a Felony Offense
Involving a Minor by a Registered Sex Offender. (Dkt. # 17).
On April 18, 2016, Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of
Production of Child Pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 2251(a), and one count of Commission of a Felony
Offense Involving a Minor by a Registered Sex Offender in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2260A pursuant to a Rule 11
Plea Agreement. (Dkt. # 25). The Court sentenced Petitioner
to be imprisoned for a term of 420 months, the mandatory
minimum sentence required for the crimes Petitioner pleaded
guilty to. (Dkt. # 30; Dkt. # 25). Petitioner did not file an
appeal in this matter.
17, 2017, Petitioner filed the instant pro se motion
to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 arguing that Defense Counsel was ineffective.
(Dkt. # 31). The Government filed a response on July 10,
2017. (Dkt. # 38). Petitioner filed a reply on August 1,
2017. (Dkt. # 41). Subsequently, the Court granted
Petitioner's motion requesting transcript materials,
provided him courtesy copies of several transcripts, and
granted his request for additional time to supplement his
motion. Petitioner then filed a supplemental brief on
November 27, 2017. (Dkt. # 42). For the reasons set forth
below, the Court now DENIES Petitioner's motion to
vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
28 U.S.C. § 2255, “[a] prisoner in custody under
sentence of a [federal] court . . . claiming the right to be
released . . . may move the court which imposed the sentence
to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.” To
prevail on a Section 2255 motion, the petitioner must allege:
“(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.” Mallett v. United
States, 334 F.3d 491, 496-97 (6th Cir. 2003) (internal
quotations omitted). Section 2255 motions filed pro
se are liberally construed. See Ratliff v. United
States, 999 F.2d 1023, 1026 (6th Cir. 1993).
prevail on an ineffective assistance claim, Petitioner must
show that his counsel's performance was both deficient
and prejudicial to his defense. Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). Deficient
performance requires a showing that “counsel made
errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the
‘counsel' guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.”
Id. In other words, Petitioner must show that his
counsel's representation “fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness.” Id. at 688.
“This standard is highly deferential, and there is a
‘strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls
within the wide range of reasonable professional
assistance.'” Mallett, 334 F.3d at 497
(quoting id. at 689). To prevail on the second, or
prejudice, prong of the Strickland standard, a
petitioner “must show there is a reasonable probability
that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result
of the proceeding would have been different.” 466 U.S.
at 694. When a defendant alleges that ineffective assistance
of counsel led to the acceptance of a plea agreement, the
defendant demonstrates prejudice by showing 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.” Hill v. Lockhart,
474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985).
Superseding Indictment and the Speedy Trial Act
first argues that Defense Counsel was ineffective because she
failed to move to dismiss the Superseding Indictment as
untimely, citing the Speedy Trial Act.The Government
responds that there was no Speedy Trial Act violation, and
therefore no reason for Defense Counsel to file such a
motion. The Government notes that the approximately 30, 000
images and 3, 000 videos of child pornography seized from
Petitioner's Ypsilanti apartment took a significant
amount of time for the FBI to review. That evidence led to
the filing of the Superseding Indictment on October 1, 2015,
approximately six and a half months after the original
Indictment. Petitioner further argues that Defense Counsel
was ineffective because she failed to move to dismiss the
case based on trial not commencing in a timely fashion and
agreed to continuances. The Government counters that the
seventy-day time limit under the Speedy Trial Act was not
exceeded because of the continuances granted by the Court and
that these continuances benefited Petitioner.
to the Speedy Trial Act, an indictment or information must be
filed within thirty days from the date of arrest or service
of a summons. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(b). Additionally, absent
a guilty plea, the defendant's trial must commence within
seventy days from the filing of the indictment or
information. Id. at § 3161(c)(1). The Speedy
Trial Act's time limitations are meant to “limit
the possibilities that long delay will impair the ability of
an accused to defend himself.” Dickey v.
Florida, 398 U.S. 30, 54 (1970) (quoting United
States v. Ewell, 383 U.S. 116, 120 (1966)). In making
these calculations, certain periods of time are excluded
including delays associated with “other proceedings
concerning the defendant” and continuances granted by
the judge based on “the ends of justice served by
taking such action outweigh[ing] the best interest of the
public and the defendant in a speedy trial.” 18 U.S.C.
§ 3161(h)(7)(A). When considering whether to grant a
continuance, courts consider “the reasonable time
necessary for effective preparation” by the government
and defense counsel, amongst other factors. See Id.
at § 3161(h)(7)(B)(iv). If the time limitations imposed
by the Speedy Trial Act are not met, the charges and
indictment shall be dismissed. Id. at §
government need not file an indictment within thirty days of
arrest for all crimes it has proof of. The Speedy Trial Act
“do[es] not require that every offense chargeable from
a criminal episode be dismissed for failing to comply with
the thirty-day time limit for indictments following an
arrest. Rather, [it] only requires the dismissal of the
offense charged in the complaint . . . .” United
States v. Nabors, 901 F.2d 1351, 1355 (6th Cir. 1990).
In Nabors, the only offense charged in the criminal
complaint was attempted murder. Id. at 1353. Nabors
was indicted on the thirty-third day after his arrest for
multiple offenses including attempted murder, felon in
possession of a firearm, and possession of cocaine.
Id. Because the second indictment was filed after
the thirty-day time limit, the district court dismissed the
attempted murder count only. Id. at 1355. Despite
Nabors arguing that the court should dismiss the entire
indictment, the court did not dismiss any other count, and
the Sixth Circuit affirmed. Id.
current case, the Government filed a criminal Complaint
charging Petitioner with the receipt and possession of child
pornography on February 23, 2015. (Dkt. # 1, Pg ID 1-7).
Petitioner was arrested and made his initial appearance
before the Court on February 26. (Dkt. # 9, Pg ID 16). Twelve
days later, on March 10, 2015, the grand jury indicted
Petitioner, charging him with the same crimes contained in
the Complaint. (Dkt. # 10, Pg ID 17-20). Therefore,
Petitioner was indicted within thirty days of his arrest and
within the Speedy Trial Act time limit. Likewise, the
Superseding Indictment was not filed in violation of the
Speedy Trial Act. Regardless of what evidence the Government
had in its possession during the thirty-day period following
Petitioner's arrest, the Government is not required to
file a superseding indictment by a certain time under the
Speedy Trial Act. See Nabors, 901 F.2d at 1355.
Therefore, Petitioner is incorrect when he claims that
“an indictment must be issued within 30 days of the
time in which the evidence  needed to issue the indictment
was in the government[']s
possession.” (Dkt. # 31, Pg ID 171).
based on the continuances this Court granted, the Speedy
Trial Act's seventy-day time limit between indictment and
the commencement of trial was not violated in the current
case. The filing of a superseding indictment adding new
charges has no effect on the Speedy Trial clock for existing
charges. Sylvester v. United States, 868 F.3d 503,
508 (6th Cir. 2017). Therefore, the Speedy Trial clock is
still calculated from the date of Petitioner's original
Indictment, March 10, 2015. From that date, fifty-five days
elapsed before the Court granted the first continuance, which
specified the period of May 4, 2015 to July 6, 2015 to be
deemed “excludable delay under the provisions of the
Speedy Trial Act.” (Dkt. # 14, Pg ID 28). The
excludable-delay period was extended to end on April 18, 2016
based on a series of continuances granted by the Court. (Dkt.
# 15-16, 20-23). Because April 18, 2016 was the day
Petitioner pleaded guilty, the Speedy Trial clock only ran
for fifty-five days in total, which falls short of the
seventy-day time limit.
has not shown that Defense Counsel's performance was
deficient or prejudicial based on her agreeing to these
continuances. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687.
Unlike in Dickey, there is evidence that delaying
the trial date in this case actually benefited Petitioner.
Cf. Dickey, 398 U.S. at 54. As previously mentioned,
there was a large amount of evidence Defense Counsel needed
to review. The evidence “span[ned] three different
jurisdictions over the course of several months.” (Dkt.
# 15, Pg ID 32). Given the sensitive nature of the materials,
the parties also had to coordinate to allow Defense Counsel
to review the evidence at a “secure law enforcement
facility.” Id. The Court granted this
continuance to provide Defense Counsel with a reasonable
amount of time to review the evidence in order to prepare for
a possible trial. See id. at Pg ID 31; 18 U.S.C.
§ 3161(h)(7)(B)(iv). Additionally, the continuances gave
Defense Counsel more time to negotiate a universal plea deal.
(Dkt. # 23, Pg ID 70-71). The eventual Plea Agreement
benefited Petitioner by resolving the current case as well as
additional charges the U.S. Attorney's Office in the
Northern District of Ohio was contemplating filing (based on
examination of evidence from Petitioner's other apartment
in Toledo). See id.; Dkt. # 25, Pg ID 85.
based on the deferential standard articulated in
Mallett and Strickland, Petitioner has not
shown that Defense Counsel's performance was deficient
regarding filing a motion to dismiss the Superseding
Indictment as untimely or regarding agreeing to the
continuances. Additionally, even if disagreeing to a
continuance was in the Petitioner's best interest,
Defense Counsel's agreement was not required for the
Court to grant a continuance. See 18 U.S.C. §
3161(h)(7)(A). The Court concludes that Petitioner was not
prejudiced by Defense Counsel agreeing to the continuances.
Plea Agreement and Plea Hearing
also argues that Defense Counsel was ineffective because she
failed to object to a difference between the sentence he
asserts he agreed to in his Plea Agreement and the sentence
that was ultimately presented to the Court. The Government
counters that by signing the Plea Agreement submitted to the
Court, Petitioner agreed to be bound by it. Petitioner
further argues that during his plea hearing the Government
committed prosecutorial misconduct by making him admit to an
offense that was not included in his Superseding Indictment
and that Defense Counsel should have objected.
Baker v. United States, 781 F.2d 85, 90 (6th Cir.
1986) (quoting United States v. Krasn, 614 F.2d
1229, 1233 (9th Cir. 1980)), plea agreements follow the
standards of contract law. In Baker, the Sixth
Circuit stated that “[t]o allow [a] defendant to
attempt to prove by affidavit that the [plea] agreement is
otherwise than it appears, unambiguously, on a thorough
record would violate established contract-law
standards.” Id. Additionally, criminal
defendants are bound by their responses given ...