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Peila v. United States

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

November 16, 2018

AARON PEILA, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255 TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE

          DAVID NUFFER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Aaron Peila, a person in federal custody, filed a Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (“Motion”).[1] In the Motion, Peila requests an order reducing his sentence in United States v. Peila, No. 2:14-cr-00247-DN (D. Utah), (the “Criminal Case”) based on ineffective assistance of counsel.[2] Having reviewed and considered the Motion, the government's response, [3] and the files and records of the case, and for good cause appearing, the following findings are entered.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         1. On September 19, 2016, Peila entered into a plea agreement in the Criminal Case (the “Agreement”).[4] This was the only plea offer to Peila that was reduced to writing.

         2. Among other things, the Agreement provides:

7. If I plead guilty, I will not have a trial of any kind.
8. I know that 18 U.S.C. § 3742(c)(1) sets forth the circumstances under which I may appeal my sentence. However, fully understanding my right to appeal my sentence, and in consideration of the concessions and/or commitments made by the United States in this plea agreement, I knowingly, voluntarily and expressly waive my right to appeal as set forth in paragraph 12 below. . . . .
12. The only terms and conditions pertaining to this plea agreement between me and the United States are as follows: . . . .
1. Stipulated Sentence. Pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the sentence imposed by the Court will be 144 months' imprisonment), which I agree is a reasonable sentence. . . . .
d. Appeal Waiver.
(1) Fully understanding my limited right to appeal my sentence, as explained above in paragraph 8, and in consideration of the concessions and/or commitments made by the United States in this plea agreement, I knowingly, voluntarily, and expressly waive my right to appeal any sentence imposed upon me, except that I do not waive the right to appeal as set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3742(c)(1), which states that I may not file a notice of appeal unless the sentence imposed is greater than the sentence set forth in this agreement.
(2) I also knowingly, voluntarily, and expressly waive my right to challenge my sentence, unless the sentence imposed is greater than the sentence set forth in this agreement, in any collateral review motion, writ or other procedure, including but not limited to a motion brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, except on the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel.
I am satisfied with my lawyer.[5]

         3. During his plea hearing in the Criminal Case, Peila confirmed that he knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered into the Agreement; that he understood that he was waiving his rights as stated in the Agreement, including the right to examine witnesses at trial;[6] and that he was satisfied with the services of his lawyers.[7]

         4. Prior to sentencing in the Criminal Case, Peila sent a hand-written letter to the court, in which he wrote:

I am not writing to undermine my attorney's abilities in any way; for the help he has given me I am eternally grateful. . . . In the negotiation process I asked for a deal that had no beginning date, so we can argue for when it should begin. My attorney has been adamant about not being able to run time concurrent, and even when I've produced another case where they did, he feels that it somehow slipped through the cracks. The cases I've seen and heard about are nunc pro tunc cases. From what I've seen, heard, and understand the judge can set a date to begin the sentence nunc pro tunc and the date is set in stone and the BOP has to follow it. . . .[8]

         5. After reviewing this letter, I explained to Peila during the sentencing hearing in the Criminal case that I could not, as a matter of law, give him credit for any prior sentences, and that I was unwilling to do so in any event.[9]

         DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

         Peila argues that his counsel was ineffective in three ways. First, he asserts that his attorney failed to timely inform him of a potential plea deal “of 10 years concurrent starting from when it was offered [in] June 2015.”[10] Second, he asserts that his attorney allowed his trial to be delayed “until all co-defendants cooperated against” him.[11] And, third, he asserts that his attorney ...


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