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Jimenez-Valdez v. Warren

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

January 10, 2020

MANUEL JIMENEZ-VALDEZ, Petitioner,
v.
PATRICK WARREN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND (3) GRANTING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          ARTHUR J. TARNOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Manuel Jimenez-Valdez (“Petitioner”) filed this habeas case under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner was convicted in the Ingham Circuit Court after he pled guilty to two counts of delivery/manufacture of between 50 to 449 grams of cocaine. MICH. COMP. LAWS § 333.7401(2)(a)(iii)). Petitioner was sentenced as a third-time habitual felony offender to 204 months to 40 years imprisonment.

         The petition raises one claim: Petitioner is entitled to withdraw his plea because the trial judge told his counsel prior to the plea proceeding that he would impose a 99-month sentence. For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny the petition and deny a certificate of appealability. The Court will, however, grant Petitioner leave to appeal in forma pauperis should he chose to appeal this decision.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was originally charged with five felony narcotic offenses. On September 6, 2017, Petitioner pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to the offense indicated above. (ECF No.8-3, PageID.5.) In exchange for his plea, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the remaining four charges and to reduce the fourth-time habitual fourth offender charge. Id. at 5.

         During the plea hearing, which was conducted with the assistance of a Spanish-speaking translator, Petitioner's trial counsel noted, “the court gave a preliminary indication, not a Cobbs, that the court would be inclined to sentence to the bottom of the range, which is 99 months in the Michigan Department of Corrections.” Id. The trial court replied, “Right. I made no agreement.” Id. Trial counsel then again indicated that there was no agreement as to Petitioner's sentence. Id. The trial court further noted that it would determine Petitioner's sentence during his sentencing hearing, after the Court was fully informed. Id. at 6. Petitioner confirmed that was his understanding of the agreement as well, and he denied that any other promises or threats were made to him and that it was his own choice to plead guilty. Id. at 6, 10-11.

         Regarding Petitioner's sentence, the court explained to Petitioner that there had been no agreement:

The Court: There's a recommendation as to what your sentence should be, and that is between 999 - - I'm sorry, 99 months to 240 months on the minimum.
Petitioner (through Interpreter): Okay
The Court: I've had a discussion with counsel and your attorney has made a case to me that should I sentence within the minimum - - or on the minimum side of that 99 months and maybe a bit higher but he's asked me to sentence you on the low end rather than on the higher end of the 240 months, but I've not made a promise to do that. I will decide your case and what I do at the time of sentencing when I'm fully informed. Do you understand that?
Petitioner (through Interpreter): Yes, yes.
The Court: And has anyone told you what else I will do at sentencing?
Petitioner (through Interpreter): No, no. No, I don't have idea.
The Court: Because I don't know either. I don't know enough about ...

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