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Moon v. United States

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

August 16, 2016

JAMES MOON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING MOON'S MOTION UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255 TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE

          DERRICK K. WATSON United States District Judge.

         Pursuant to a Plea Agreement, Petitioner James Moon pled guilty to, and was sentenced to 168 months' imprisonment for, conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846. Relying on 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Moon now seeks to vacate his sentence, notwithstanding a broad waiver provision in his Plea Agreement that prohibits collateral attacks in most circumstances. After careful consideration of Moon's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence ("§ 2255 Motion"), the record, and the relevant legal authority, Moon's § 2255 Motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Indictment & Guilty Plea

         Moon and his co-defendant, Francisco Palma, III, were charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, and 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine (Count 1). Both defendants were also charged with possession with the intent to distribute “five hundred (500) grams or more, to wit, approximately eight and one-half (8 ½) pounds of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers and salts of its isomers and five hundred (500) grams or more, to wit, approximately four and one-half (4 1/2) pounds of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine . . .” (Count 3). In addition, Moon alone was charged with distribution of “five hundred (500) grams or more, to wit, approximately three (3) pounds of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers and salts of its isomers” (Count 2). Dkt. No. 13.

         On January 31, 2014, Moon pled guilty to Count 1 of the Indictment. Dkt. No. 57. The factual basis for the plea, to which Moon expressly admitted, was set forth in a Memorandum of Plea Agreement (“Plea Agreement”). Dkt. No. 109-1, Gov’t Exh. A. Moon acknowledged that the penalties for the offense to which he pled guilty included “a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of ten (10) years, [and] a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of life . . . .” Id. at ¶ 7.

         Paragraph 10 of the Plea Agreement contained the following stipulations concerning the sentencing guidelines:

10. Pursuant to CrimLR32.1(b) of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii and Section 6B1.4 of the Sentencing Guidelines, the parties stipulate to the following for the purpose of the sentencing of Defendant in connection with this matter:
a. The United States Attorney agrees that Defendant’s agreement herein to enter into a guilty plea constitutes notice of intent to plead guilty in a timely manner, so as to permit the government to avoid preparing for trial as to Defendant. Accordingly, the United States Attorney anticipates moving in the Government’s Sentencing Statement for a one-level reduction in sentencing offense level pursuant to Guideline § 3E1.1(b)(2), if defendant is otherwise eligible. The Defendant understands that notwithstanding its present intentions, and still within the Agreement, the prosecution reserves the rights (1) to argue to the contrary in the event of receipt of new information relating to those issues, and (2) to call and examine witnesses on those issues in the event that either the probation office finds to the contrary of the prosecution’s intentions or the Court requests that evidence be presented on those issues.
b. The parties agree that Defendant is an “organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor” as defined in Sentencing Guideline Section 3B1.1(c) and stipulate that Defendant’s base offense level shall reflect the two level increase pursuant to Section 3B1.1(c).
c. Defendant acknowledges that the prosecution could file a []Special Information as to Prior Drug Conviction Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. Section 851 (hereafter “Special Information”) for the purpose of seeking enhanced sentencing under 21 U.S.C. Section 851 based upon the Defendant’s prior conviction on or about February 2, 1994 in the Superior Court for the State of California, San Jose, Case No. 163303, for the transportation, sale or distribution of a controlled substance in violation of Section 11-352(a) of the California Health and Safety Code. In exchange for Defendant’s guilty plea to count 1 and the stipulation in paragraph 10(b), the prosecution agrees that it will not file a Special Information in this case regarding the Defendant’s prior felony drug conviction.

Id. at ¶ 10(a)-(c).

         Relevant to the issues before the Court, Moon expressly waived his right to appeal or otherwise challenge his sentence, except under limited circumstances:

12. The Defendant is aware that he has the right to appeal the sentence imposed under Title 18, United States Code, Section 3742(a). Defendant knowingly waives the right to appeal, except as indicated in subparagraph “b” below, any sentence within the maximum provided in the statute(s) of conviction or the manner in which that sentence was determined on any of the grounds set forth in Section 3742, or on any ground whatever, in exchange for the concessions made by the prosecution this plea agreement.
a. The Defendant also waives his right to challenge his sentence or the manner in which it was determined in any collateral attack, including, but not limited to, a motion brought under Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255, except that defendant may make such a challenge (1) as indicated in subparagraph “b” below, or (2) based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
b. If the Court imposes a sentence greater than the specified guideline range determined by the Court to be applicable to the Defendant, the Defendant retains the right to appeal the upward departure portion of his sentence and the manner in which that portion was determined under Section 3742 and to challenge that portion of his sentence in a collateral attack.

Id. at ¶ 12(a) & (b).

         Similarly, Moon “surrender[ed] his right to challenge any sentence within the statutory maximum, or the manner in which it was determined, including, but not limited to, a sentence that [Moon] perceive[d] to be an incorrect application of the Guidelines.” Id. at ¶ 13. In addition, Moon acknowledged that “no threats, promises, or representations [had] been made, nor agreement reached, other than those set forth in [the Plea] Agreement, to induce [Moon] to plead guilty.” Id. at ¶ 17.

         During the January 31, 2014 change of plea proceeding, Moon was represented by counsel. Dkt. No. 109-3, Gov’t Exh. C. Moon acknowledged during the plea colloquy that he understood and had spoken with his attorney about the Plea Agreement; that the Plea Agreement reflected his entire agreement with the Government; and that the Government had not made any promises to him that were not contained in Plea Agreement. Id. at 9-10. As to his sentence, Moon acknowledged that the maximum term of imprisonment was life and that there was a mandatory minimum term of ten years. Id. at 8-9. At the conclusion of its colloquy, the Court found that Moon “understands the factors that the Court will consider in imposing the sentence[, ] including the maximum possible punishment, and the mandatory minimum.” Id. at 32.

         II. ...


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