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United States v. Nunez-Reynoso

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 21, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
(19) AGUSTIN NUNEZ-REYNOSO, Defendant-Petitioner. Civil No. 14-124 (MJD)

Steven L. Schleicher, Assistant United States Attorney, Counsel for Plaintiff-Respondent.

Agustin Nunez-Reynoso, pro se.


MICHAEL J. DAVIS, Chief District Judge.


This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Agustin Nunez-Reynoso's pro se Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody. [Docket No. 852] Petitioner has also filed a First Supplemental Amendment to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion. [Docket No. 872] The Court considers both of these documents together.

Petitioner has also filed the following pro se motions: Motion for Discovery and Inspection [Docket No. 867]; Motion for a New Trial [Docket No. 877]; Motion for Default Judgment [Docket No.880]; and another Motion for Discovery and Inspection [Docket No. 886].


On March 18, 2010, an Indictment was filed in the District of Minnesota charging Walter Ochoa and 14 others in a drug conspiracy case. [Docket No. 29] A Second Superseding Indictment was returned by the Grand Jury on November 17, 2010. [Docket No. 524] The Second Superseding Indictment charged Petitioner, from on or about January 2008 and continuing through on or about March 2010, with Count 1: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and MDMA ("Ecstasy"), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), 841(b)(1)(C), and 846. [Docket No. 524]

Petitioner was tried by a jury before this Court, and on April 14, 2011, the jury found Petitioner guilty as to Count 1 of the Indictment. [Docket No. 656] He was represented at trial and at sentencing by Arthur Martinez. (See, e.g., Docket Nos. 645, 732.) The jury found the following with respect to drug quantities involved in the conspiracy: 5 kilograms or more of cocaine; 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing methamphetamine; less than 100 kilograms of marijuana; and 1000 tablets or more of Ecstasy. (Id.)

At sentencing on September 20, 2011, The Court determined that the applicable Guidelines were as follows:

Total Offense Level: 38 Criminal Category: II Imprisonment Range: 262 to 327 months Supervised Release: 5 years Fine Range: $25, 000 to $4 million Special Assessment: $100

(Sentencing Tr., Docket No. 788, at 4.) The Court sentenced Petitioner to a term of 240 months. [Docket No. 760]

Petitioner was represented on appeal by Leon A. Trawick, who filed a Notice of Appeal on September 21, 2011, and also simultaneously moved to withdraw while filing a brief pursuant to Anders v. California , 386 U.S. 738 (1967). [Docket No. 759] On January 2, 2013, the Eighth Circuit held that there was sufficient evidence to support Petitioner's conviction as well as the Court's drug quantity calculation applied at sentencing. United States v. Nunez-Reynoso, 508 F.Appx. 588, 589 (8th Cir. 2013). The Eighth Circuit also granted Trawick's motion to withdraw. Id.

Petitioner has now filed a pro se Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Docket No. 852] as well as several other motions [Docket Nos. 867, 877, 880, 886] that are addressed in a separate Order from this Court.

A. Petitioner's Stated Grounds for Relief

Petitioner lists one central ground for his habeas petition: that he received ineffective assistance of counsel throughout his case. Petitioner claims that counsel's errors at trial, sentencing, and on appeal, and his counsel's cumulative errors prejudiced Petitioner to the point of violating his constitutional rights. Petitioner requests that the Court vacate his sentence and order a new trial or dismiss all charges against Petitioner.


A. Request for Recusal

Initially, Petitioner requests that the undersigned judge recuse himself from this case, claiming that the Court exhibited bias and discrimination based on Petitioner's ethnic origin or socioeconomic status. The Court denies Petitioner's recusal request. A court should recuse itself if the court's "impartiality might reasonably be questioned." 28 U.S.C. § 455. However, there is no basis for recusal "absent a showing of personal bias or prejudice arising from an extrajudicial source." Rossbach v. United States , 878 F.2d 1088, 1089 (8th Cir. 1989). "Decisions on recusal or disqualification motions are committed to the district court's sound discretion." Larson v. United States , 835 F.2d 169, 172 (8th Cir. 1987).

Petitioner has failed to identify any personal bias or prejudice arising from an extrajudicial source. His affidavit cites only conduct that arose in the course of Petitioner's case: particularly, the Court's decisions to admit certain evidence during trial and its decisions regarding Petitioner's representation. The conduct Petitioner complains of does not reflect bias or prejudice, and Petitioner's questioning of the Court's impartiality on these grounds is not reasonable. Accordingly, there is no basis for recusal, and the Court denies Petitioner's request.

B. Standard for Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) provides:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground 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 ...

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