The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ralph R. Erickson, District Judge United States District Court
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO VACATE SENTENCE UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255
Before the Court are a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and a Motion to Amend filed by Petitioner Adan Martinez (Docs. #258, #286). The United States has filed briefs in opposition (Docs. #266, #290).
On July 12, 2006, Martinez was indicted on eight counts related to distribution of controlled substances. Count One charged him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Counts Two, Three, Four, Thirteen, and Fourteen charged him with distribution of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Count Fifteen charged him with distribution of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Count Eighteen charged him with possession with intent to distribute marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).
Martinez eventually reached a plea agreement with the United States and requested that the matter be set on for a change of plea hearing. On December 6, 2006, Martinez appeared before the Court and entered a plea of guilty to Count One of the Superseding Indictment. Prior to entry of the plea, the Court informed Martinez of the maximum penalties he faced on Count One. COP Tr. 4, Dec. 6, 2006. The Court also informed Martinez that because the parties had stipulated to a prior felony drug conviction, he faced a minimum mandatory 20-year term of imprisonment. COP Tr. 4; see also Plea Agreement ¶ 13 ("The parties agree that the defendant has one prior drug felony conviction certifiable pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Section 851.").
In response to questioning from the Court, Martinez stated that he had discussed the law of sentencing with his attorney, and that at the end of those discussions, he felt like he understood the possible sentence he would be facing. COP Tr. 16. Martinez also stated that his attorney had answered all his questions about the plea agreement, and that he felt like he understood what he was being asked to sign. COP Tr. 17. The Court found that Martinez understood the charge against him, as well as the potential penalties he faced. COP Tr. 18.
The Court then reviewed particular terms of the plea agreement with Martinez, including the maximum penalties as set forth therein. COP Tr. 19. Paragraph seven of the plea agreement provided as follows*fn1
Defendant understands that these Counts carry the following maximum penalties: Count: One Imprisonment: life/20 years minimum mandatory Fine: $4,000,000 Supervised Release: 5 years Special Assessment: $100 Plea Agreement ¶ 7. The Court again asked Martinez whether he understood the penalties he was facing on Count One.
THE COURT: And you understand that that carries a maximum term in prison of life and a mandatory minimum 20-year prison term?
COP Tr. 19. The Court also noted that the plea agreement did not contemplate any cooperation with the United States. COP Tr. 23.
On January 29, 2007, about two months after the change of plea hearing, the United States filed a notice of prior conviction under 21 U.S.C. § 851(a), certifying Martinez's prior felony conviction for possession with intent to distribute in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Martinez appeared before the Court for sentencing on March 23, 2007. At the beginning of the hearing, the Court overheard Martinez complaining to his counsel that a 20-year sentence was too long. Sent. Tr. 3, Mar. 23, 2007. The Court informed the parties that it would be willing to continue sentencing if Martinez wanted to discuss with his counsel the possibility of either cooperating with the United States or moving to withdraw his plea. Sent. Tr. 4-5. Martinez stated that he understood there was a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years, and that he wanted to move forward with sentencing that day. Sent. Tr. 5-6. After performing a guideline calculation and considering the recommendations of the parties, the Court sentenced him to 240 months (20 years) imprisonment. Sent. Tr. 10.
On January 31, 2008, Martinez timely filed the instant Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). In his motion, Martinez argued that he had been illegally sentenced because the United States did not certify his prior felony drug conviction until after entry of his plea, and therefore ...