United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Bradley M. Endicott, DOJ-USAO counsel for plaintiff.
Pacheco Estudillo defendant pro se.
S. Doty, Judge
matter is before the court upon the pro se motion by
defendant Jesus Pacheco Estudillo to vacate, set aside, or
correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Based upon
a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for
the following reasons, the court denies the motion and denies
a certificate of appealability.
March 3, 2016, Estudillo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to
distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, in violation of 21
U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846. During
the plea hearing, defendant acknowledged that he understood
that he faced a statutory minimum sentence of ten years'
imprisonment and that he might qualify for application of the
safety valve, 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)(1)-(5), which would
allow the court to sentence him below the mandatory
minimum. Plea H'rg Tr. at 5:10-17, 6:6-7:24. At
sentencing, the court determined that Estudillo was not
eligible for the safety valve - despite his counsel's
argument to the contrary - because the record did not support
a finding that he had provided the government with truthful
information concerning the offense. Sentencing H'rg Tr. at
5:5-8, 11:24-12:8; ECF No. 267. Accordingly, the court
determined that Estudillo's guideline range was 120-135
months and sentenced him to the mandatory minimum of 120
months' imprisonment. ECF Nos. 270, 271. Estudillo did
not appeal his sentence.
January 2018, Estudillo filed the instant motion, arguing
that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective for three
reasons: (1) his counsel at sentencing failed to file a
notice of appeal; (2) his counsel at the time of the guilty
plea inaccurately advised him that he would receive a
three-point reduction for acceptance of responsibility; and
(3) his counsel at sentencing failed to argue for application
of the safety valve. He argues that an evidentiary hearing is
necessary to resolve the issues. The government opposes the
motion and request for an evidentiary hearing.
2255 provides a federal inmate with a limited opportunity to
challenge the constitutionality, legality, or jurisdictional
basis of a sentence imposed by the court. This collateral
relief is an extraordinary remedy, reserved for violations of
constitutional rights that could not have been raised on
direct appeal. United States v. Apfel, 97 F.3d 1074,
1076 (8th Cir. 1996). When considering a § 2255 motion,
a court may hold an evidentiary hearing. See 28
U.S.C. § 2255(b). A hearing is not required, however,
when “(1) the petitioner's allegations, accepted as
true, would not entitle the petitioner to relief, or (2) the
allegations cannot be accepted as true because they are
contradicted by the record, inherently incredible, or
conclusions rather than statements of fact.”
Sanders v. United States, 341 F.3d 720, 722 (8th
Cir. 2003) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Here, no hearing is required because all of Estudillo's
claims are patently meritless.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, Estudillo
must meet both prongs of the test set forth in Strickland
v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 694 (1984). See United
States v. Williams, 562 F.3d 938, 941 (8th Cir. 2009).
First, Estudillo must show that his counsel's performance
was so deficient that it was objectively unreasonable.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-88. Because
“[t]here are countless ways to provide effective
assistance in any given case” and different attorneys
“would not defend a particular client in the same way,
” the court reviews the performance of defense counsel
with significant deference. Id. at 689. There is a
“strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls
within the wide range of reasonable professional
assistance.” Id. Second, Estudillo must
demonstrate prejudice by showing “a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceedings would have been
different.” Id. at 694. Neither prong is met
Notice of Appeal
first argues that his counsel at the time of sentencing,
Shannon Elkins, was ineffective in failing to file a notice
of appeal. The record establishes, however, that he declined
to appeal his sentence. Ms. Elkins's contemporaneous
notes establish that she met with Estudillo immediately
following sentencing and explained that there was no basis
for appeal given that the court sentenced him to the
mandatory minimum. Elkins Aff. ¶ 7; id. Ex. A.
Estudillo agreed and chose not to appeal. Elkins Aff. ¶
7; id. Ex. A. Estudillo's recent statements to
the contrary are not credible in light of this compelling