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Brooks v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 24, 2014

Gary Lee Brooks, Petitioner - Appellant
v.
United States of America, Respondent - Appellee

Submitted September 12, 2014.

Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Sioux City.

Gary Lee Brooks, Petitioner - Appellant, Pro se, Yankton, SD.

For Gary Lee Brooks, Petitioner - Appellant: Douglas Lee Roehrich, Sioux City, IA.

For United States of America, Respondent - Appellee: Sean R. Berry, U.S. Attorney's Office, Cedar Rapids, IA.

Before BYE, COLLOTON, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

In this proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Gary Brooks claims ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The district court[1] denied Brooks's petition, and we affirm.

In April 2008, Brooks bought methamphetamine from Laura Gamboa. Officers searched Brooks and his vehicle and found scales, baggies, and 33.97 grams of actual methamphetamine. In a motel room rented by Gamboa and another woman, officers later found 62.28 grams of actual methamphetamine.

Brooks was indicted on two counts: (1) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fifty or more grams of actual methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a playground and (2) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five or more grams of actual

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methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a playground. See 21 U.S.C. § § 841, 846, 860(a). The Government contended that Brooks had conspired with Gamboa to distribute methamphetamine and thus that Brooks was responsible for both the 33.97 grams found in his vehicle and the 62.28 grams from Gamboa's motel room.

On the advice of counsel, Brooks entered an Alford plea on both counts. See North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 37, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970). Because Brooks's plea on the first count involved more than fifty grams of methamphetamine, Brooks faced and ultimately received a mandatory minimum sentence of 120 months' imprisonment. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). We affirmed his sentence. United States v. Brooks, 415 F.App'x 731 (8th Cir. 2011) (per curiam).

Brooks now brings this habeas challenge, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. He claims that Gamboa sold him the 33.97 grams of methamphetamine for personal use and that he did not conspire to distribute the 62.28 grams from the motel. Brooks argues that had he gone to trial, a jury was unlikely to have convicted him on the fifty-gram count. Thus, Brooks asserts, trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective in recommending an Alford plea on that count. In this proceeding, however, counsel explained his belief that a jury likely would have convicted Brooks on the fifty-gram count. Counsel decided Brooks should avoid that risk and enter an Alford plea so that Brooks might decrease his sentence by cooperating with the ...


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