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United States v. Feliz

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 23, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
SAMUEL STALIN LEBREAULT FELIZ, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Denise J. Casper United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Petitioner Samuel Stalin Lebreault Feliz (“Feliz”) has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 alleging ineffective assistance of counsel (the “Petition”). D. 159. The government opposes the Petition. D. 166. For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES the Petition.

         II. Standard of Review

         A prisoner may seek post-conviction relief under § 2255 if his sentence “(1) was imposed in violation of the Constitution; (2) was imposed by a court that lacked jurisdiction; (3) exceeded the statutory maximum; or (4) was otherwise subject to collateral attack.” David v. United States, 134 F.3d 470, 474 (1st Cir. 1998). It is the petitioner's burden to make out a claim for such relief. Id.

         III. Factual and Procedural Background

         After a jury trial, Feliz was convicted of two counts of passport fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1542, one count of false representations to the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(6) and one count of theft of public money pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 641. D. 120. On May 29, 2014, the Court sentenced Feliz to thirty-three months imprisonment, three years of supervised release, a mandatory special assessment of $400 and restitution (related to the theft of public funds charge) in the amount of $ 121, 077. D. 132. Feliz filed a timely notice of appeal and, on November 25, 2015, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment. D. 156; United States v. Feliz, 807 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2015).

         IV. Grounds for Relief

         In the Petition, Feliz seeks relief on the grounds that he received ineffective assistance of counsel from his trial attorney. Although several of his seven grounds overlap, at base, Feliz alleges that his trial counsel failed to prepare sufficiently for trial, failed to object to certain testimony, failed to prepare his necessity and duress defense and present same at trial, failed to challenge the government's case on the basis of alleged prosecutorial vindictiveness and failed to maintain sufficient communication with him. D. 159.

         V. Discussion

         A. Standard for Considering Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims

         To demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner must show that: “(1) ‘counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness' and (2) ‘there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.'” United States v. Constant 814 F.3d 570, 578 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688, 694 (1984)).

         Reasonableness is viewed “as of the time of counsel's conduct.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690. Judicial scrutiny of a counsel's representation and performance must be “highly deferential” and the Court should make “every effort . . . to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 698 (2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, even deficient representation does not violate the Sixth Amendment if there was no actual prejudice. See United States v. McGill, 11 F.3d 223, 226 (1st Cir. 1993).

         To demonstrate prejudice, the petitioner must show “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 694. A “reasonable probability” is one ‘sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.'” Johnston v. Mitchell 871 F.3d ...


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