Defrancia v. USA
ORDER DISMISSING SECTION 2255 PETITION re: 58 as to Jason K. Defrancia. Signed by CHIEF JUDGE J. MICHAEL SEABRIGHT on 3/22/2017. (afc)CR 12-00252-JMSCERTIFICATE OF SERVICEParticipants registered to receive electronic notifications received this document electronically at the e-mail address listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). Participants not registered to receive electronic notifications were served by first class mail on the date of this docket entry
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAII
JASON K. DEFRANCIA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Cr. No. 12-00252 JMS
Civ. No. 16-00374 JMS-RLP
ORDER DISMISSING SECTION
ORDER DISMISSING SECTION 2255 PETITION
Defendant/Petitioner Jason K. Defrancia (“Defrancia”) filed a July 1,
2016 Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence
By a Person in Federal Custody (the “Petition”). ECF No. 58.1 The court
previously determined that the Petition was time-barred under § 2255(f), construed
the Petition as a § 2241 Petition based on Defrancia’s claim of actual innocence,
and transferred the action to the Central District of California, where Defrancia
resided. See Defrancia v. United States, 2016 WL 5868068 (D. Haw. Oct. 6,
2016); ECF No. 67. The district court in the Central District of California, in turn,
transferred the action back to this court. ECF No. 69.
References to “ECF No.” relate to Cr. No. 12-00252 JMS.
The sole remaining issue before the court is whether Defrancia has
made the necessary showing of “actual innocence” under § 2255(e)’s escape hatch
to avoid the statute of limitations bar (and thus to proceed under § 2241 instead of
§ 2255). The court concludes that Defrancia has failed to do so, and thus
dismisses the Petition.
On September 11, 2012, Defrancia pled guilty to a single count
Indictment charging him with knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent
to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A). ECF No. 30. On February 22, 2013, the court
sentenced Defrancia to 120-months incarceration, to be followed by five years of
supervised release.2 ECF No. 46. Judgment was entered on February 27, 2013.
ECF No. 47. Defrancia filed a Notice of Appeal on March 8, 2013, and the Ninth
Circuit granted Defrancia’s Motion to Dismiss Appeal and issued its mandate by
Order dated April 17, 2013. ECF Nos. 50, 57.3 Defrancia, however, did not file
Defrancia was sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentence of ten years; based on an
offense level 31 and criminal history category III, his guideline range was 135 to 168 months.
Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) at ¶¶ 55-56, ECF No. 48. That is, the court varied
downward to the mandatory minimum sentence.
Defrancia signed a “Consent to Dismissal of Appeal” on April 9, 2013, stating that he
“hereby consents to the dismissal of the above-captioned appeal, and gives counsel the authority
the Petition until July 1, 2016 -- over three years after § 2255(f)’s one-year statute
of limitations expired.4 ECF No. 58-1.
In apparent recognition of the potential time bar, Defrancia argues a
claim of actual innocence. Petition at 4; Pet’r’s Supp. Mem. at 3-4, ECF No. 59.
As a result, the court directed the United States to limit its response to address
whether Defrancia made the necessary showing of actual innocence. ECF No. 61.
The United States filed its Response on July 14, 2016, and Defrancia filed a Reply
on September 20, 2016. ECF Nos. 62, 66. And after review, the court determined
that the Petition was time-barred under § 2255(f), construed Defrancia’s “actual
innocence” claim as one brought under § 2241, and transferred the Petition to the
Central District of California, where he resided. Defrancia, 2016 WL 5868068, at
But the Central District of California believed the Petition was
improperly transferred (a decision that this court does not address), and thus sent
to file a withdrawal of dismissal thereof in the instant case.” Def.’s Mot. to Dismiss, United
States v. Defrancia, No. 13-10120 (9th Cir. Apr. 16, 2013), ECF No. 5, at 5. In support of the
Motion to Dismiss, Defrancia’s counsel informed the Ninth Circuit that, because the court
sentenced Defrancia to the mandatory minimum sentence, there was no “good faith basis” to
appeal. Id. at 4.
Under the prison mailbox rule, the Petition is deemed filed on June 28, 2016, the date it
was placed in the prison mail.
the action back to the District of Hawaii. ECF No. 69. This court then permitted
the parties to file supplemental briefing on the actual innocence question. ECF
No. 71. On January 30, 2017, Defrancia filed a “Motion to Oppose Further
Briefing Pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 27(a)(1)” and on
February 6, 2017, the United States filed a supplemental response. ECF Nos. 72,
“The general rule is that a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is the
exclusive means by which a federal prisoner may test the legality of his detention,
and that restrictions on the availability of a § 2255 motion cannot be avoided
through a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.” Stephens v. Herrera, 464 F.3d 895,
897 (9th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). But under the “escape hatch” of § 2255(e),
a federal prisoner may file a § 2241 petition if, and only if, the remedy under
§ 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted). A prisoner may file a § 2241 petition under
the escape hatch when the prisoner “(1) makes a claim of actual innocence, and
(2) has not had an unobstructed procedural shot at presenting that claim.” Id. at
898 (internal quotation marks omitted).
“In this circuit, a claim of actual innocence for purposes of the
escape hatch of § 2255 is tested by the standard articulated by the Supreme Court
in Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614[, 623], 118 S. Ct. 1604, 140 L. Ed. 2d
828 (1998).” Stephens, 464 F.3d at 898. And actual innocence “means factual
innocence, not mere legal insufficiency.” Bousley, 523 U.S. at 623. Thus, “[a]
petitioner is actually innocent when he was convicted for conduct not prohibited
by law.” Alaimalo v. United States, 645 F.3d 1042, 1047 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing
Reyes Requena v. United States, 243 F.3d 893, 904 (5th Cir. 2001)).
A. Defrancia Had an Unobstructed Procedural Shot at Presenting His Claims
To support his claim of actual innocence, Defrancia makes several
claims. In summary, he argues that:
• The government used a confidential informant (CI) to target him,
the government failed to disclose that the CI was in the United States illegally, and
his conviction was based “on the testimony of [the CI], without any other
evidence.” Pet’r’s Supp. Mem. at 4-5.
• The search warrant executed on a locker at Defrancia’s workplace
violated his Fourth Amendment rights and was otherwise defective. Id. at 5-13.
• There was a lack of evidence linking Defrancia to the pail (i.e., a
bucket) located in his locker (which was determined to contain 411 grams of
methamphetamine). Id. at 13.
• His counsel “violated every conceivable issue ever addressed under
the Sixth Amendment,” including failing to seek discovery, challenge the search
warrant, investigate the CI, permit the government to constructively amend the
indictment to charge a ten-year mandatory minimum, and schedule a change of
plea without Defrancia’s knowledge or consent. Id. at 13-14.
“In determining whether a petitioner had an unobstructed
procedural shot to pursue his claim, we ask whether
petitioner’s claim did not become available until after a
federal court decision. In other words, we consider:
(1) whether the legal basis for petitioner’s claim did not
arise until after he had exhausted his direct appeal and
first § 2255 motion; and (2) whether the law changed in
any way relevant to petitioner’s claim after that first
§ 2255 motion.”
Harrison v. Ollison, 519 F.3d 952, 960 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). And in making this determination, “[i]t is the inefficacy of
the remedy, not the personal inability to use it, that is determinative.” Cradle v.
U.S. ex rel. Miner, 290 F.3d 536, 538-39 (3d Cir. 2002) (per curiam) (citing
Garris v. Lindsay, 794 F.2d 722, 727 (D.C. Cir. 1986)).
Defrancia has failed to establish that he has not had an “unobstructed
procedural shot” at presenting his claim -- he could have done so in a timely
§ 2255 petition, but simply did not. See Henricks v. Ives, 588 F. App’x 574, 574
(9th Cir. 2014) (Mem.) (“Henricks cannot establish that he has not had an
‘unobstructed procedural shot’ at presenting this claim because he could have
raised it in a timely section 2255 motion.”); Cradle, 290 F.3d at 539 (explaining
that Section 2255 is not inadequate or ineffective, however, merely because the
prisoner has failed to file his § 2255 motion within the one-year statute of
limitations period); Charles v. Chandler, 180 F.3d 753, 758 (6th Cir. 1999)
(“[T]he § 2255 remedy is . . . not undermined simply because [the defendant] has
allowed the one-year statute of limitations to expire.”); Hill v. Morrison, 349 F.3d
1089, 1091 (8th Cir. 2003) (same); Blanche v. United States, 2015 WL 391724, at
*3 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 27, 2015) (same and collecting cases).
The various claims that Defrancia now raises could have been -- but
were not -- raised in a timely § 2255 petition. He thus has failed to establish that
he has not had an “unobstructed procedural shot” at presenting his claims in a
timely filed § 2255 petition. And as a result, he cannot invoke the escape hatch to
bring a § 2241 petition.
B. Defrancia Has Failed to Show Actual Innocence
But even if Defrancia could show that he was denied an unobstructed
procedural shot at raising his claims, he has failed to show actual innocence. That
is, he has failed to show that, in light of all the evidence, he was convicted for
conduct not prohibited by law or that he is factually innocent. And to be clear,
this is not a case where a change in the law or newly discovered evidence raises
questions of guilt.
Most importantly, Petitioner’s claim of actual innocence is fully
inconsistent with his plea of guilty, which is entitled to a strong presumption of
truth. See Muth v. Fondren, 676 F.3d 815, 821-22 (9th Cir. 2012) (finding that
petitioner was not entitled to application of the § 2255 escape hatch where his
claim of actual innocence was belied by his guilty plea); see also Blackledge v.
Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 73-74 (1977) (“[T]he representations of the defendant [at a
plea hearing] . . . constitute a formidable barrier in any subsequent collateral
proceedings. Solemn declarations in open court carry a strong presumption of
verity.”); United States v. Ross, 511 F.3d 1233, 1236 (9th Cir. 2008) (“Statements
made by a defendant during a guilty plea hearing carry a strong presumption of
veracity in subsequent proceedings attacking the plea.”).
During his guilty plea proceeding, Defrancia stated under oath that it
was his intention to enter a plea of guilty,5 that he was satisfied with his counsel,
and that he was pleading guilty of his own free will because he was guilty. Tr. at
2-4, ECF No. 68. He then admitted that on March 6, 2012, he knowingly
possessed over fifty grams of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute to
another person. Id. at 10.
The government then provided a proffer of the evidence it would
present if the case went to trial: law enforcement learned that Defrancia was
involved in trafficking methamphetamine and that he was employed at Borthwick
Norman’s Mortuary on Maui. Id. at 12. With the permission of the mortuary’s
owner, authorities searched the premise and found a storage locker to which
Defrancia and others had access. Id. On March 6, 2012, after a police dog alerted
on a plastic pail in that area, a search warrant was obtained for the pail. Id. The
search disclosed what was later determined by a DEA lab to be approximately 397
grams of pure methamphetamine. Id. The majority of the methamphetamine was
replaced with pseudo-methamphetamine, and the pail was left in the locker. Id.
Defrancia claims that a transcript of the change of plea proceeding “would have
supported the Petitioner’s claim that his Counsel, without his consent, scheduled this hearing to
unilaterally change his plea; and in fact the Petitioner clearly wanted to go to trial.” Reply at 8.
Based on this allegation, the court ordered a copy of the transcript. ECF No. 68. And in fact, the
opposite is true -- Defrancia never expressed any concern about entering a plea of guilty, but
instead entered a knowing and voluntary plea. Id.
Later that day, Defrancia was notified that someone had broken into the locker.
On March 7, he came to work, removed the pail from the locker, took
some plastic wrapping out of the pail, placed it in the trash, and then placed the
pail in his vehicle. Id. at 12-13. The court then asked Defrancia if he had “any
reason to disagree with any of the proffered statement[s] by the U.S. Attorney,” to
which he stated, “No, sir.” Id. at 13.6
Given these representations, Defrancia cannot meet his burden to
demonstrate actual innocence. He admitted guilt, and cannot so easily now ask for
a do-over, making claims fully inconsistent with his under-oath statements to the
court. Buyer’s remorse doesn’t equate to actual innocence.
And many of Defrancia’s claims are simply false. For instance, his
statement that “[t]here was no evidence linking the Petitioner to the bucket,”
Pet’r’s Supp. Mem. at 13, is demonstrably false. Under oath, Defrancia admitted
that, after search of the pail by law enforcement, he “remov[ed] the pale (sic) from
the locker, [took] some plastic wrapping out of the pale (sic), plac[ed] it in the
The PSR contains a fuller description of the events on March 7: (1) after its search, law
enforcement placed serchie powder on the pseudo-methamphetamine packaging; (2) after
Defrancia removed the pail from the locker, he examined the pseudo-methamphetamine, placed
the pale in his truck, and drove away; (3) he was then stopped by law enforcement, where he
denied knowledge of the content of the pale; and (4) he was also found to have serchie powder
on his palms and fingers post arrest. PSR ¶¶ 10-12.
trash, and then plac[ed] the pale (sic) inside his vehicle.” Tr. at 12-13. In short, he
knowingly possessed the pail. Further, Defrancia’s claim that his counsel
“allowed the Government to constructively amend the indictment in order to get
the Petitioner an increased sentence,” Pet’r’s Supp. Mem. at 14, is likewise simply
wrong. He appears to argue that, because law enforcement removed some of the
methamphetamine from the pail, he should only have been charged with the
amount of methamphetamine left in the pail. But there is simply no support for
this claim. At his guilty plea, Defrancia admitted that he possessed the
methamphetamine in the pail. And he does not obtain relief for the amount of
methamphetamine that law enforcement removed from the pail prior to his arrest.
But even absent the guilty plea, Defrancia simply does not raise the
sort of arguments that undermine his guilt. Mistakes in the state-issued search
warrant, for example, are simply not relevant to factual innocence. And whether
the search warrant neglected to state that the CI was in the United States illegally
and was working with the Maui Police Department to avoid removal from the
country is again not material to factual innocence. Even if true, these facts fail to
support a claim of actual innocence.
Defrancia’s Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or
Correct Sentence By a Person in Federal Custody is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: Honolulu, Hawaii, March 22, 2017.
/s/ J. Michael Seabright
J. Michael Seabright
Chief United States District Judge
Defrancia v. United States, Cr. No. 12-00252 JMS and Civ. No. 16-00374 JMS-RLP; Order
Dismissing Section 2255 Petition
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