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Geddes v. United States

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 29, 2018

RYAN GEDDES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          RULING ON AMENDED MOTION FOR RELIEF PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 2255

          JANET BOND ARTERTON, U.S.D.J.

         Ryan Geddes, Petitioner, moves to vacate his conviction and sentence on two counts pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's Motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         On April 28, 2015, Petitioner pled guilty to Count One of the Indictment charging Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud in relation to mortgage applications, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; to Count Three charging Conspiracy to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud in relation to title insurance, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1349; and to Count Seven charging Conspiracy to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud in relation to bankruptcy creditors, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1349. On April 11, 2016, Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Second Circuit, arguing that this Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Count One of the Indictment. In his direct appeal, Petitioner contended that because one of the two banks in question was not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company or chartered by the United States, it was not a violation of federal law to conspire to defraud it. Petitioner argued that despite the fact that he agreed in his plea agreement not to appeal or collaterally attack his conviction in any court, that agreement did not, and could not, waive the Court's lack of jurisdiction over Count One. The direct appeal did not dispute the facts or jurisdiction with respect to Counts Three or Seven.

         On April 28, 2017, the Second Circuit found that Petitioner's direct appeal was barred by the waiver of appellate rights contained in his plea agreement and guilty plea and dismissed the appeal. The Second Circuit held that Petitioner "has not demonstrated that the waiver of his appellate rights is unenforceable under United States v. Gomez-Perez, 215, F.3d 315, 319 (2d Cir. 2000) [, ]" and that because "[t]he indictment charged all of the statutory elements of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, ... the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over Count One." US v. Geddes, No. 16-1138 (2d Cir. April 28, 2017) (citing United States v. Yousef, 750 F.3d 254, 259 (2d Cir. 2014)).

         On July 31, 2017, Petitioner filed his First § 2255 Motion, requesting that the Court vacate the judgment and sentence in his criminal case on the basis that his "guilty plea was the result of ineffective assistance of counsel. . . and the result of violation of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to procedural and substantive . . . due process and to be charged and sentenced by a Court with proper subject matter jurisidiction [sic] to enter the judgment." ([Doc. #1].) Petitioner identified two grounds for relief: the claimed lack of subject matter jurisdiction on Count One, and ineffective assistance of counsel.

         After the Government responded to Petitioner's First § 2255 Motion, Petitioner filed an Amended § 2255 Motion accompanied by a Motion to Amend. ([Doc. #8].) After the Government opposed the Amended § 2255 Motion, substantively addressing the contents of the amended petition, the Court granted Petitioner's Motion to Amend, ([Doc. # 13]), and now focuses upon Petitioner's Amended § 2255 Motion.

         Petitioner's Amended § 2255 Motion incorporates his First § 2255 Motion while also "seeking to extend the ineffective assistance arguments to cover the execution of the plea agreement. . . and to Count Seven . . . ." ([Doc. # 8-2] at 1.) Petitioner claims, in effect, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at the plea negotiation stage because of his counsel's failure to recognize the insufficiency of evidence to sustain his conviction on Counts One and Seven. (Id. at 1-2.) Petitioner does not challenge his conviction on Count Three.

         II. Discussion

         The Government argues that Petitioner waived his right to challenge his conviction, and that he is procedurally barred from collaterally challenging his conviction because he failed to raise these grounds on direct appeal.

         Petitioner's plea agreement explicitly waives his right to collaterally attack his conviction, with the exception of claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. And "[i]n general, a defendant is barred from collaterally challenging a conviction under § 2255 on a ground that he failed to raise on direct appeal. . . . An exception applies, however, if the defendant establishes (1) cause for the procedural default and ensuing prejudice or (2) actual innocence." United States v. Thorn, 659 F.3d 227, 231 (2d Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).

         While Petitioner styles his Amended § 2255 Motion as based upon claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, Petitioner does not credibly identify any specific actions his counsel took or failed to take, or any decisions that his counsel made, that constitute constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel, or that prejudiced Petitioner. Rather, the record and Petitioner's own arguments in his Amended § 2255 Motion reveal that the gravamen of his complaint is with the sufficiency of the evidence that could have been used to convict Petitioner at trial.

         In his Amended § 2255 Motion, Petitioner argues with respect to Count Seven that "the sentencing transcript, the defects in the plea process, and the incomplete presentation of facts by the Government. . . fail[] to make out a crime when taken in context with the allegations in the Counts and the Petitioner's colloquy . . . ." (Am. Mot. at 1.) Petitioner further argues that "there was no factual basis for the plea," and that "there were no actual probative material facts to support the conspiracy" charge. (Id. at 2 (emphasis added).) Similarly, Petitioner argues that "his plea to Count Seven was tainted and [not] supported by any evidence . . . the available evidence did not establish guilt...." (First Am. Mem. Supp. Mot Relief [Doc. # 8-1] at 2.) Petitioner also contends that he "was coerced into [the] plea agreement," (Am. Mot. at 3), and that he pled "guilty to what he thought was a favorable plea agreement... while maintaining innocen[c]e on Counts One and Seven[, ]" (First Am. Mem. Supp. Mot. Relief at 3).

         With respect to Count One, Petitioner recites his previous argument on subject matter jurisdiction, which has already been rejected by the Court of Appeals, and also argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney failed "to explain the gaps [between the indictment and the evidence] before Petitioner entered into a plea agreement[.]" (First Am. Mem. Supp. Mot. Relief at 4.) Petitioner argues that his counsel "made no effort to challenge the sufficiency of ...


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