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Willie Troy Mason, Jr. v. United States of America

November 3, 2011

WILLIE TROY MASON, JR.
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



ORDER

This cause comes before the Court on Petitioner Willie Troy Mason, Jr.'s motion to vacate, set aside, or correct an allegedly illegal sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (CV Doc. No. 1; CR Doc. No. 150). Because review of the motion and the file in the case conclusively shows that Petitioner is not entitled to relief, the Court will not cause notice thereof to be served upon the United States Attorney but shall proceed to address the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

I. Background

On July 20, 2009, Petitioner pled guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to three charges:

(1) Count One - conspiracy to commit robbery, (2) Count Two - robbery, and (3) Count Three -carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence or aiding and abetting another in doing so.*fn1 (CR Doc. No. 72). On December 11, 2009, Petitioner was sentenced to 87 months on Counts One and Two, to run concurrently, and 84 months on Count Three, to run consecutively, for a total of 171 months of imprisonment.*fn2 (CR Doc. No. 121).

Thereafter, Petitioner directed his counsel to file an appeal on his behalf and to raise the following four issues: (1) that his guilty plea was not voluntary, (2) that his sentence was not fair, (3) that his guilty plea was not knowingly and intelligently made, and (4) that his counsel had a conflict of interest. (CV Doc. No. 1). On appeal, Petitioner's counsel moved to withdraw from further representation during the appeal and filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967). (CR Doc. No. 149). On September 27, 2010, the Eleventh Circuit granted Petitioner's counsel's motion to withdraw and affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence stating "Our independent examination of the entire record reveals no arguable issues of merit." (CR Doc. No. 149).

Petitioner did not file a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. (CV Doc. No. 1). Instead, on October 24, 2011, Petitioner timely submitted the instant § 2255 motion to the prison mailing system for filing with this Court.*fn3 (CV Doc. No. 1).

II. Motion to Vacate Sentence

Petitioner raises four grounds in his motion to vacate. In Ground One, Petitioner argues that his guilty plea was not voluntary, and thus his counsel was ineffective, because his counsel misrepresented the length of the sentence that he would receive if he entered into the plea agreement. In Ground Two, Petitioner argues that his guilty plea was not knowingly and intelligently entered into, and thus his counsel was ineffective, because his counsel refused to let him read the plea agreement before entering the guilty plea. In Ground Three, Petitioner argues that his counsel was ineffective, because he represented Petitioner before this Court and on appeal, and as a result, counsel refused to raise the issues of his own ineffectiveness on appeal, as directed by Petitioner. In Ground Four, Petitioner argues that he received an unfair sentence, because the sentence was longer than what his counsel promised him that his sentence would be.

However, as explained below, the Court rejects these arguments, because they directly contradict the plea agreement and the statements that Petitioner made during the guilty plea hearing.

A. Standard of Review

In Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984), the Supreme Court created a two- part test for determining whether a defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel:

First, the movant must show that counsel's performance was deficient. . . . Second, the movant must show that counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the defense. To prove prejudice, the movant must show that there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of the proceedings would have been different but for counsel's unprofessional errors.

Patel v. U.S., 252 Fed. Appx. 970, 972 (11th Cir. 2007)(internal citations omitted).

The Court notes that "[t]here is a strong presumption that statements made during the plea colloquy are true." Patel, 252 Fed. Appx. at 975 (citation omitted). As a result, Petitioner "bears a heavy burden to show that his statements under oath were false." Id. (citation omitted).

B. Ground One - Voluntariness of Plea

In Ground One, Petitioner argues that his guilty plea was not voluntary, and thus his counsel was ineffective, because his counsel misrepresented the length of the sentence that he would receive if he entered into the plea agreement. Specifically, Petitioner contends that: (1) shortly before July 10, 2009, counsel told Petitioner in a phone conversation that if he pled guilty, the Court would only sentence him to seven years; (2) when counsel brought Petitioner the plea agreement, counsel would not let him read it; and (3) on the day of the guilty plea hearing and on the day of sentencing, counsel told him to agree to everything the judge said or he would risk losing the seven year sentence. However, as explained below, the Court rejects Petitioner's argument that his guilty plea was not voluntary, because such an argument conflicts with the terms of the plea agreement and the statements made by Petitioner, under oath, during the plea colloquy.

1. Terms of the Plea Agreement

The terms of the plea agreement clearly provided the following: (1) Count One (conspiracy to commit robbery) carried a sentence of up to 20 years of imprisonment; (2) Count Two (robbery) carried a sentence of up to 20 years of imprisonment; (3) Count Three (carrying a firearm during the robbery) carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years of imprisonment (up to life imprisonment), and the sentence on this count would run consecutive to any other sentence imposed; (4) the Government would recommend to the Court that Petitioner be sentenced at the high end of the final, adjusted applicable Guidelines range and Petitioner agreed not to oppose such a sentence; (5) Petitioner waived his right to appeal or challenge his sentence collaterally on any ground*fn4 (with three exceptions not implicated by the grounds raised in the instant § 2255 motion); and (6) Petitioner agreed that he was entering into the plea agreement freely, voluntarily, and not in exchange for any promises other than those contained in the plea agreement.

2. Guilty Plea Hearing

At the guilty plea hearing, the Court carefully reviewed the plea agreement with Petitioner as well as his decision to enter a guilty plea. Specifically, the Court went over the following with Petitioner:

THE COURT: Does [your initials on each page of the plea agreement] indicate that you and your lawyer have gone over each page of the plea agreement?

DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: After you and your lawyer went over each page of the plea agreement, did you understand each ...


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