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United States v. Matthews

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

November 27, 2013

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Jimmy Earl Matthews, Defendant. Civil No. 13-2753(JNE)

ORDER

JOAN N. ERICKSEN, District Judge.

A grand jury indicted Jimmy Earl Matthews for interfering with commerce by robbery (Count 1), possessing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence (Count 2), and being a felon in possession of a firearm (Count 3). Matthews pleaded guilty to Count 2. At sentencing, the Court granted the government's motion to dismiss Counts 1 and 3. The Court sentenced Matthews to 262 months' imprisonment. He did not appeal. The case is before the Court on Matthews's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence.[1] See 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Supp. V 2011). Because the record conclusively shows that he is not entitled to relief, the Court denies the motion without a hearing. See Engelen v. United States, 68 F.3d 238, 240 (8th Cir. 1995).

Ineffective assistance of counsel

Matthews claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his attorney failed to contest whether his prior convictions constituted crimes of violence that subjected him to sentencing as a career offender. To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a criminal defendant must show (1) that his "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, " and (2) "that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688, 694 (1984). "Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential." Id. at 689. In assessing the reasonableness of counsel's conduct, a court must apply "a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Id.

In the plea agreement, Matthews agreed that he "was convicted in Hennepin County, Minnesota, of Murder in the Second Degree" in or about 1999 and that, "for sentencing purposes, this is a crime of violence." He also agreed that he "was convicted in Hennepin County, Minnesota, of Aggravated Robbery" in or about 1997 and that, "for sentencing purposes, this is a crime of violence." The parties agreed that Matthews was a career offender and that U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 applied. The parties explained that Matthews's "stipulation that his two Hennepin County convictions... constitute violent felonies is consideration for the Government's agreement to dismiss Counts One and Three of the Indictment." If Matthews disputed whether either conviction constituted a violent felony, of if the Court determined that either conviction did not constitute a violent felony, then the parties agreed that the government was not bound by the plea agreement and that the government could proceed to trial on all counts of the Indictment. If the Court found that Matthews was not a career offender, then the parties agreed that he could withdraw his guilty plea.

At the change-of-plea hearing, the Court asked Matthews whether he understood the agreement that he was a career offender and whether he had enough time to talk his lawyer about it. Matthews responded affirmatively. The Court asked Matthews's lawyer to explain the parties' agreement. His lawyer responded:

One of the big considerations for this plea agreement is that the government agrees not to file the life enhancement. So if I contest any part of his criminal history, the government wants to be able to proceed with the mandatory life enhancement under [18 U.S.C. §] 3559(c)....
So in order to avoid that enhancement, I have agreed that it is - he does have two prior crimes of violence, and as such, the government has agreed not to file anything, and I won't be challenging the two prior crimes of violence.

After the Court had commented that the two convictions appeared to be crimes of violence, Matthews's lawyer stated, "I did look at the plea transcripts and made sure they were within the time limits, so I have researched both of his prior convictions." Later, the Court noted that it was "highly unlikely, " given the nature of Matthews's two prior convictions, that he would not be found to be a career offender. The Court ultimately sentenced him as a career offender.

Matthews has not demonstrated that his attorney's performance was deficient. See King v. United States, 595 F.3d 844, 852-53 (8th Cir. 2010). His attorney's decision not to challenge whether the two prior convictions constituted crimes of violence avoided a potential life enhancement. Moreover, Matthews has not demonstrated that he was prejudiced by the alleged deficiency. The convictions do constitute crimes of violence. Matthews's arguments to the contrary are not persuasive.

With respect to his conviction for aggravated robbery, he claims that his civil rights were "automatically restored." But he has not shown that his civil rights were actually and effectively restored, see United States v. Sonczalla, 561 F.3d 842, 844 (8th Cir. 2009); his civil rights were not actually and effectively restored, see Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1 (2012) (amended 2013); Sonczalla, 561 F.3d at 844-45; and the conviction was properly counted as a prior felony conviction for a crime of violence, see United States v. Chapman, No. 15-1552, 2013 WL 6017337, at *1 & n.2 (8th Cir. Nov. 14, 2013) (per curiam) ("We further conclude that Iowa's restoration of Chapman's civil rights following the discharge of his sentence on the controlledsubstance offense does not immunize the controlled-substance sentence from receiving criminal history points."); United States v. Gonzalez, 93 F.Appx. 101, 102 (8th Cir. 2004) (per curiam).

As to the conviction for second-degree murder, Matthews claims that it is not a crime of violence because it is not listed in Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5 (2012). The premise of Matthews's argument is incorrect: Minnesota's second-degree murder statute, Minn. Stat. § 609.19 (2012), does appear in section 624.712's definition of "crime of violence." In any case, as the Court previously concluded, Matthews's conviction for second-degree murder is a crime of violence.[2]

In short, Matthews has not shown that attorney's performance was deficient. Nor has he shown prejudice from any alleged deficiency. The Court rejects his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel based on his attorney's failure to challenge whether his prior convictions constituted ...


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