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Ramirez-Arroyo v. United States

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

March 6, 2014

ANGEL RAMIREZ-ARROYO, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL W. MOSMAN, District Judge.

A jury found Petitioner Angel Ramirez-Arroyo guilty [223] of one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine on April 2, 2010. I sentenced him [410] to a term of confinement of 240 months. Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo now moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [437]. For the reasons set forth below, I DENY his motion.

BACKGROUND

On May 14, 2008, a grand jury issued an indictment charging Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo and five others with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. (Indictment [1] at 1.) Evidence presented at Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo's trial established that codefendant Oscar Macias-Ovalle supplied him with methamphetamine. (Tr. [272] at 103:18-104:1.) Additionally, law enforcement officers found 3168 grams of actual methamphetamine in a safe within Mr. Macias-Ovalle's house. (Tr. [299] at 207:20-208:9; [300] at 479:19-485:6.) Two witnesses testified that they purchased more than 500 grams of methamphetamine from Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo. (Tr. [299] at 236:12-237:11; [300] at 534:5-22.) The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and found that one of the objects of the conspiracy to which Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo belonged was to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of a mixture containing methamphetamine. (Verdict [223].)

I conducted Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo's sentencing hearing on November 2, 2010. Based on the large amount of drugs found at Mr. Macias-Ovalle's house, I adopted a base offense level of 38. (Sent. Tr. [410] at 21:6-9.) I found that enhancements for possession of a firearm, occupying a leadership role, and obstruction of justice applied, yielding a total offense level of 44. Id. at 21:10-22:19. I also concluded that Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo's criminal history category was one. Id. at 22:20. Based on my weighing of the factors listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), however, I concluded that the advisory guidelines sentence of life imprisonment was excessive, and instead imposed a sentence of 240 months. Id. at 22:21-25:4.

Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit shortly after his sentencing, raising the denial of his motion to suppress evidence as his sole assignment of error. (Mem. Op. [419-1] at 1.) The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Id. at 2.

DISCUSSION

Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo claims that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in two ways: (1) failure to notice that I had not explained the basis for the sentence I imposed; and (2) failure to object when I adopted an incorrectly calculated base offense level. He also alleges that the Government failed to disclose material exculpatory evidence.

To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a § 2255 petitioner must show (1) that counsel's performance was "deficient" and (2) that the deficient performance "prejudiced the defense." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). "Failure to satisfy either prong of the Strickland test obviates the need to consider the other." Rios v. Rocha, 299 F.3d 796, 805 (9th Cir. 2002).

To satisfy the deficiency prong, a petitioner must demonstrate that his attorney's actions "were outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690. To satisfy the prejudice prong, a 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." Id. at 694. A reasonable probability is "a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id.

I. Failure To Explain the Sentence

Though the choice of the sentence to impose is committed to the district court's discretion, the court must exercise that discretion according to a well-established statutory procedure. First, a sentencing judge must determine the appropriate range of sentences called for in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. See United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 259-60 (2005). The judge may then either select a sentence within the guidelines range or depart upward or downward, based on consideration of the factors listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). See Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 53 (2007). The judge must explain the reasons for the sentence imposed sufficiently to make apparent "a reasoned basis for exercising his own legal decisionmaking authority." Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338, 356 (2007).

Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo alleges that I did not explain how I arrived at his sentence, and implies that his counsel was deficient in failing to raise this failure on direct appeal. (Mot. [437] at 17-18.) Mr. Ramirez-Arroyo's assertion is false. During his sentencing hearing, I set forth the facts that led me to arrive at a guidelines sentence of life imprisonment and my reasons for departing downward to a sentence of 240 months. (Sent. Tr. [410] at 21:6-25:4.) Because I explained the basis for ...


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