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United States v. Carpenter

United States District Court, D. Oregon

October 18, 2019


          Billy J. Williams United States Attorney District of Oregon Leah K. Bolstad Hannah Horsley Assistant United States Attorneys Attorneys for Plaintiff

          Jeramy Theodore Carpenter USP ATWATER Pro Se Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER


         Defendant Jeramy Theodore Carpenter moves to vacate or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, arguing that trial counsel was ineffective during plea negotiations and at sentencing. Defendant also argues that the Court erred at sentencing in failing to consider §§ 5H1.3 and 5K2.13 of the Sentencing Guidelines. For the reasons below, the Court denies the motion.


         On January 22, 2018, Defendant entered a guilty plea to Count One of an indictment charging him with Conspiracy to Possess with the Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine under 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A). Indictment, ECF 1; Plea Hr'g Mins., ECF 59. The remaining charges for various gun and drug offenses were dismissed. Plea Pet. & Order Ent. Plea (“Plea Pet.”), ECF 60; Plea Agrmt., ECF 61. Defendant entered his guilty plea under a plea agreement pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(B). Plea Agrmt. ¶ 14; Plea Pet. ¶ 9. Defendant acknowledged in both the plea agreement and the plea petition that the Court was not bound by the recommendation of the parties:

[A]lthough the judge will consider the recommendations and agreements of both the prosecution and defense attorneys concerning sentencing, the judge is not obligated to follow those recommendations or agreements. If the judge imposes a sentence different from what I expected to receive under the terms of my Plea Agreement with the prosecutor, I do not have a right to withdraw my plea.

         Plea Pet. ¶ 9; see also Plea Agrmt. ¶ 14 (“The Court is not bound by the recommendations of the parties[.]”). Under the plea agreement, Defendant agreed to a two-level increase for the use of violence. Plea Agrmt. ¶ 11. Defendant's base offense level was 35 with an estimated criminal history category of IV or V. Id. As part of the agreement, the Government agreed to “recommend as a reasonable sentence under the factors listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), a 180-month sentence” based on the mitigation materials presented by defense regarding Defendant's mental health history. Id. at ¶ 12.

         In the course of representing Defendant, Thomas Price-Defendant's lawyer-discussed possible outcomes of the case, including the additional time Defendant could serve because of his pending probation revocation. Price Decl. ¶ 3, ECF 97-5. According to Mr. Price's records, he met with Defendant for two hours to review the final version of the plea agreement and for an additional hour prior to sentencing to review Defendant's Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) and other documents. Id. at ¶ 4. Mr. Price asserts that Defendant was never advised that a three-level reduction was “locked-in.” Id. at ¶ 5. Instead, he states Defendant was advised that the Court had the discretion to impose a sentence that neither party anticipated. Id. Mr. Price recalls attempting to obtain a plea agreement under Rule 11(c)(1)(C), a request which was rejected by the Government. Id. at ¶ 7. Mr. Price asserts that he “repeatedly met with [Defendant], in person, to discuss and convey all of this information to him in detail” and told Defendant that they could not achieve a “locked in” sentence. Id. at ¶ 8. He does, however, recall giving Defendant an estimate of what the judge would do. Id. at ¶ 11.

         Defendant, by contrast, asserts that Mr. Price “told [him] over and over that [he] would receive a 3 level reduction for Diminished Capacity under the U.S.S.G. At no time was it made clear to [him] that it was discretionary; and if [sic] fact [Mr. Price] told [Defendant] that [he] was ‘locked in' for the 3 level reduction.” Carpenter Decl. ¶ 2, ECF 88-1. Defendant asserts that he understood that he would receive only a 10- to 15-year sentence if he pleaded guilty due to his “mental circumstances, ” and he and would not have pleaded if he had known he would not necessarily receive the three-level reduction. Id. at ¶ 3.

         At the plea hearing, the Court reviewed the plea petition with Defendant. Plea Hr'g Tr., 5:3-10, ECF 84. The Court confirmed Defendant had read and understood the petition and plea agreement, id. at 5:3-10, 12:8-17, and that Mr. Price had explained the implications of his Rule 11(c)(1)(B) plea, id. at 8:22-9:8. The Court acknowledged that pursuant to the plea agreement the Government would be seeking a 180-month sentence and that Defendant could argue for anything down to 120 months. Id. at 12:19-25. The Court went on to explain that it would be “up to [the Court] to figure out what sentence to impose, ” to which Defendant replied: “Yes, sir. I understand that.” Id. at 13:1-3. Defendant acknowledged that he could not withdraw his plea even if he did not like the sentence and that his probation violation could result in a separate, additional sentence. Id. at 13:4-9, 18:19-25.

         In anticipation of sentencing, Mr. Price submitted a sentencing memorandum and supplement to the PSR. Def. Sent. Mem., ECF 72; Conf. Suppl. PSR, ECF 73. Mr. Price wrote that Defendant's criminal activity and drug use occurred during a mental breakdown caused, in part, by untreated and undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Conf. Suppl. PSR 1-2. He argued for a downward departure due to Defendant's mental illness. Id. at 7 (citing § 3553(a)(2)(B) and U.S.S.G. §§ 5K2.13, 5H1.3). Mr. Price included a letter from Defendant and a report from a psychiatrist discussing Defendant's mental health issues and childhood history of abuse. Id. at Encl. 1, 6.

         Because the sentencing guidelines are advisory and “the authority given to judges under the sentencing guidelines is generally narrow as opposed to broader authority under § 3553(a), ” Mr. Price chose to present arguments in favor of mitigation as variances under the sentencing statute. Price Decl. ¶ 20. According to Mr. Price, the statute “tends to be more generous in allowing judicial discretion to mitigate punishment.” Id. He further indicates that he did not argue for diminished capacity under § 5K2.13 because there was evidence of violent behavior in Defendant's case. Id. at ¶ 21. Mr. Price recalls Defendant hoping that the sentencing recommendation from the Government would limit the Court and explaining to Defendant that the Court was not bound by their agreement. Id. at ¶ 15.

         The PSR also addressed Defendant's history of abuse and mental illness. PSR ¶¶ 74-85, 89-91, ECF 71. The PSR stated that Defendant's childhood environment of extraordinary neglect and abuse might warrant a sentence outside the Guidelines range. Id. at ¶ 119. The PSR also noted that the Government was moving for “an additional 3-level reduction . . . . from 35 to 32, with a criminal history category of IV, ” resulting in a guideline range of 168 to 210 months. Id. at ¶ 117

         At sentencing, Mr. Price addressed Defendant's mental health issues. Sent. Hr'g. Tr. 7:4- 22, ECF 85. As required by the parties' plea agreement, the Government acknowledged Defendant's mitigation evidence and agreed to a three-level reduction to a below-guideline recommendation of 180 months. Id. at 4:22-5:2. As the Court clarified, however, the Government was not seeking a departure but was instead asking the Court to “vary from the recommended sentence of 235 to 293 and impose a 180-month sentence.” Id. at ...

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