United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S § 2255
MOTION, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
H. CLELAND, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Amanda Lynn Mitchell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to
manufacture and distribute methamphetamine in violation of 21
U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1). (ECF Nos. 205, 264.)
Defendant was sentenced to 188 months imprisonment. (ECF No.
363.) She has filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to
vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence. (ECF No. 429.)
The government filed a response. (ECF No. 444.) Defendant did
not file a reply but later filed a Motion for Default
Judgment. (ECF No. 471.) For the reasons explained below, the
court will deny both of Defendant's motions.
§ 2255, a prisoner sentenced by a federal court may
“move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate,
set aside or correct the sentence” on the grounds
“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.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255(a). This statute “is not a substitute for a
direct appeal, ” and “a prisoner must clear a
significantly higher hurdle than would exist on direct
appeal” to merit relief. Regalado v. United
States, 334 F.3d 520, 528 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing
United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 166-68
bases two of her claims upon ineffective assistance of
counsel. To establish ineffective assistance of counsel under
the Sixth Amendment, Defendant must satisfy the two-prong
test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S.
668 (1984). First, Defendant must show that her counsel's
performance was deficient, which “requires a showing
that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not
functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the
defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. at 687.
Next, Defendant “must show that the deficient
performance prejudiced the defense.” Id.
“It is very difficult for a defendant to surmount
Strickland's high bar.” McMullan v.
Booker, 761 F.3d 662, 673 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing
Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 190 (2011)).
Defendant “must show that counsel's representation
fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.”
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-88.
§ 2255 motion lists four grounds for relief. The first
and fourth grounds argue that she was deprived effective
assistance of counsel because her counsel failed to file an
appeal-even though she did not ask her attorney to do so- and
did not move for application of the safety valve provision of
§ 5C1.2 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines (USSG) at her
sentencing. (ECF No. 429, PageID.3585, 3589.) The second and
third grounds argue that the court erred at sentencing by
failing to reduce her sentence pursuant to Blakely v.
Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004) and Booker v.
Washington, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), as well as failing to
grant her a minor role reduction pursuant to USSG §
3B1.2. (Id., PageID.3586-87.) The court will
consider each argument in turn.
first ground is that her counsel was ineffective because he
did not file an appeal or consult with her about doing so.
(ECF No. 429, PageID.3585.) This argument is without merit.
In her plea agreement, Defendant waived the right to appeal
her sentence so long as it did not exceed the recommendation
of 188 months, which it did not. (ECF No. 205, PageID.905.)
When a criminal defendant “waive[s] [her] right to
appeal as part of a plea agreement, ” “[o]nly
challenges to the validity of the wavier itself will be
entertained on appeal.” United States v. Beal,
698 F.3d 248, 255 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting United States
v. Swanberg, 370 F.3d 622, 625 (6th Cir. 2004);
United States v. Toth, 668 F.3d 374, 377 (6th Cir.
2012)). Here, Defendant does not dispute (and the plea
colloquy evidences) that her plea was knowingly and
voluntarily made. (ECF No. 264, PageID.1348.) Nor does she
claim that she asked her counsel to file an appeal. (ECF No.
429, PageID.3595-96.) Therefore, her counsel did not perform
deficiently by failing to file an appeal and Defendant was
not prejudiced as a result.
support of this first ground Defendant also cites Roe v.
Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470 (2000), for the proposition
that her counsel was deficient for failing to consult her
about filing an appeal. Specifically, Defendant claims that
“it is reasonable thst [sic] she would want to appeal
because she was sentenced to 15 years.” (ECF No. 429,
PageID.3596.) In Flores-Ortega, the Supreme Court
held that “counsel has a constitutionally imposed duty
to consult with the defendant about an appeal when there is
reason to think . . . that a rational defendant would want to
appeal.” Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. at 480. The
fact that a defendant pleaded guilty is “a highly
relevant factor in this inquiry, ” and “the court
must consider such factors as whether the defendant received
the sentence bargained for as part of the plea and whether
the plea expressly reserved or waived some or all appeal
rights.” Id. Here, Defendant pleaded guilty
and waived her right to appeal. Although Defendant claims
“that a sentence of 15 years was not what [she]
bargained for with the plea deal, ” (ECF No. 429,
PageID.3597), the plea agreement recommended a sentence of
188 months-the sentence she received. (ECF No. 205,
PageID.903.) Defendant alleges no facts suggesting her
counsel was deficient under Flores-Ortega.
second ground for Defendant's § 2255 motion is that
her sentence should be reduced based upon Blakely
and Booker. (ECF No. 429, PageID.3586.)
Specifically, she argues that “her sentence, albeit
well below the low end of the applicable guidelines range, is
substantially unreasonable and ‘greater than
necessary' to achieve the goals of sentencing because the
court failed to consider several relevant section 3553(a)
factors.” (Id.) Further, Defendant states that
she “was plainly prejudiced by the Court's use of
mandatory guidelines to sentence her.” (Id.,
PageID.3599.) These arguments are without merit because the
court did not treat the Sentencing Guidelines as mandatory.
The court explained this to Defendant when she pleaded
guilty, and Defendant makes no factual allegations suggesting
the court treated the Guidelines as mandatory. Defendant also
does not point to any specific § 3553(a) factors she
alleges were ignored by the court. This ground, too, fails.
Defendant claims she should have been granted a “minor
role” reduction based on USSG § 3B1.2. (ECF No.
429, PageID.3587.) She argues that “she was not a major
player in the offense” and that the probation office
did not analyze her role under Amendment 794. (Id.,
PageID.3599, 3602.) In her plea agreement, however, Defendant
admitted to going to a variety of drug stores and buying
large quantities of Sudafed to be used in the manufacture and
distribution of methamphetamine, as well as helping to cook
the methamphetamine, from approximately 2014 to 2017. (ECF
No. 264, PageID.1358-62.) These admissions are not consistent
with Defendant playing merely a “minor role” in
the conspiracy to manufacture or distribute methamphetamine.
Indeed, in the government's list provided to the
probation department categorizing the members of the
conspiracy according to their level of culpability, Defendant
was in the second tier. Because Defendant makes no
allegations supporting her assertion that she played a
relatively minor role in the conspiracy, this ground does not
Defendant argues that her counsel was ineffective for failing
to move for the application of the safety-valve provision of
USSG § 5C1.2 based upon her criminal history, the fact
that she did not possess a weapon, and her not being a leader
in the offense. (ECF No. 429, PageID.3589.) Under §
5C1.2, “the court shall impose a sentence in accordance
with the applicable guidelines without regard to any
statutory minimum sentence, if the court finds that the
defendant meets” five specific criteria. The first
criterion is that “the defendant does not have more
than 1 criminal history point.” USSG §
5C1.2(a)(1). The government avers that Defendant possessed
more than one criminal history point, and Defendant does not
claim otherwise. (ECF No. 444, PageID.3676.) Since Defendant
does not qualify for the safety-valve provision, it was
neither deficient nor prejudicial for her counsel not to
argue for its application. Ground four fails.
each of Defendant's four arguments for relief under
§ 2255 fail, the court will deny her motion. The court
will also deny a certificate of appealability because jurists
of reason would not debate the court's analysis with
respect to Defendant's claim. 28 U.S.C. §
2253(c)(2); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 483-84
also filed a Motion for Default Judgment. (ECF No. 471.) It
appears to be based upon the government's failure to file
its response to her § 2255 motion by April 27, 2018,
when it was due. The ...