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United States v. Ferguson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 2, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CALVIN JAMES FERGUSON, Defendant.

          David P. Steinkamp, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for plaintiff.

          Calvin J. Ferguson, pro se.

          ORDER

          Patrick J. Schiltz United States District Judge.

         Defendant Calvin Ferguson pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 46 months' imprisonment. Ferguson did not appeal. Ferguson now moves under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate his conviction on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. For the reasons that follow, Ferguson's motion is denied. Because the record conclusively demonstrates that Ferguson is not entitled to relief, no hearing is necessary. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); Noe v. United States, 601 F.3d 784, 792 (8th Cir. 2010).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 23, 2016, at approximately 1:50 am, Trooper Lee McClure of the Minnesota State Patrol was finishing up a traffic stop in Minneapolis. ECF No. 70 at 14- 16. As he was walking back to his squad car, Trooper McClure “heard a vehicle accelerate very quickly and hard.” Id. at 20. He turned around, saw two vehicles “quickly accelerating, ” got into his squad car, and started pursuing the two vehicles “to get a radar reading.” Id. at 20-21. He locked in on a Dodge Charger being driven by Ferguson and clocked him going 92 miles per hour. Id. at 22. Trooper McClure continued to pursue Ferguson and witnessed Ferguson extinguish his car's headlights, run a red light, and almost crash into a city bus. Id. at 24; ECF No. 33 at 1. At that point, Trooper McClure turned on his lights and sirens in an attempt to get Ferguson to pull over, but Ferguson refused. ECF No. 70 at 24-26. Eventually, Ferguson slowed his car near a fire station in south Minneapolis, jumped out of the car while it was still in gear, and fled from Trooper McClure on foot. Id. at 26; ECF No. 33 at 1. Ferguson's car continued rolling and crashed into the fire station. Id.

         Trooper McClure was able to arrest a passenger of Ferguson's (after the passenger tripped while fleeing on foot), but Ferguson got away. ECF No. 70 at 27. After securing the passenger, Trooper McClure examined Ferguson's abandoned car and spotted a gun stashed in a sock on the driver's side of the car between the seat and front console. Id. at 27-31. (The gun was later tested and found to contain Ferguson's DNA. ECF No. 49 at ¶ 12.)

         Ferguson was eventually apprehended and charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. ECF No. 1. Ferguson's attorney, Reynaldo Aligada, moved to suppress evidence of the gun, arguing that the search of Ferguson's car was unlawful. Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel held a hearing on the motion to suppress on December 7, 2016. See ECF No. 70. At the hearing, Trooper McClure testified to the facts described above. Id. at 14-53. Aligada submitted a brief after the hearing, arguing that the property inside the car was not abandoned, that the search of the car could not be justified as an inventory search, and that the search of the car was not lawful under the plain-view doctrine. ECF No. 28. Before Judge Noel ruled on the motion to suppress, the parties reached a plea agreement. ECF No. 29. Aligada withdrew the motion to suppress and all other pretrial motions. Id.

         On January 18, 2017, Ferguson pleaded guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. See ECF No. 80. At his change-of-plea hearing, the Court accepted Ferguson's plea after thoroughly questioning him. Id.

         Ferguson was sentenced on May 23, 2017 to 46 months' imprisonment, the bottom of the range recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines. ECF Nos. 47, 48. Ferguson did not appeal his sentence. See ECF No. 57 at 1-2. A year later, Ferguson filed the pending § 2255 petition, arguing that his conviction should be vacated because he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

         Ferguson complains about two aspects of Aligada's representation. First, Ferguson alleges that Aligada refused to answer his questions regarding the law that governed his suppression motion, leaving Ferguson unable to make a fully informed decision about whether that motion should be withdrawn and the government's plea offer accepted. ECF No. 58 at 2-3. Second, Ferguson alleges that Aligada provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to challenge what Ferguson characterizes as the “traffic stop.” See ECF No. 83 at 4-5, 10-11. The Court will address Ferguson's arguments in turn.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a defendant serving a federal sentence may move “to vacate, set aside or correct [his] sentence” if “the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Ferguson alleges that his sentence was imposed in violation of the Sixth Amendment, because he was denied effective assistance of counsel. To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, Ferguson must satisfy the familiar two-part Strickland standard, establishing both deficient performance and prejudice. Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 54-57 (1985); Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). That is, Ferguson must show both that his “counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness” and “that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688, 694.

         A. Aligada's (Lack of) Advice During the ...


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