Ridley v. USA
ORDER DENYING 1 Motion to Vacate/Set Aside/Correct Sentence (2255) filed by Donald C. Ridley. Signed by Judge David R. Herndon on 8/8/2017. (kmb2)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
DONALD C. RIDLEY,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
HERNDON, District Judge:
Before the Court is pro se petitioner Donald Ridley’s (“Ridley”) Motion to
Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 1). The
government opposes (Doc. 9). Based on the following, the motion is DENIED.
On April 18th, 2013, Ridley was indicted on felony charges related to
participation in a 2008 bank robbery. See Indictment, United States v. Johnson,
et al., No. 13-30084-GPM (S.D. Ill. Apr. 18, 2013), ECF No. 1.
subsequently found him guilty of Armed Bank Robbery, Brandishing a Firearm in
Relation to a Crime of Violence, two-counts of Making a False Statement to
Federal Law Enforcement Officers, and Obstruction of Justice. See id., Jury
Verdict, at ECF No. 93. He was sentenced to 246-months imprisonment. See id.,
Judgment, at ECF No. 108. On February 18, 2015, Ridley filed a Notice of Appeal
challenging sufficiency of evidence, see id., Notice of Appeal, at ECF No. 110; and,
on June 13, 2016, the Seventh Circuit affirmed this Court’s judgment. See United
States v. Ridley, 826 F.3d 437 (7th Cir. 2016).
Subsequently, Ridley filed the instant pro se section 2255 motion arguing
far-reaching claims of ineffective assistance of counsel (“IAC”) (Doc. 1).
Specifically, Ridley contends defense counsel was ineffective for: (1) failing to
investigate cell phone tower evidence; (2) failing to object to maps produced from
cell tower data; (3) failing to object to the issue of aiding and abetting in light of
Rosemond v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 1240 (2014); (4) failing to move for
dismissal of his § 924(c) count in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct.
2551 (2015); 1 and, (5) failing to introduce shoeprint evidence (Doc. 1-1).
relief, Ridley requests the Court grant a finding of IAC, as well as any additional
relief the Court deems just and proper (Id. at 27).
In response, the government argues Ridley’s section 2255 motion fails to
meet both performance and prejudice prongs under Strickland v. Washington,
466 U.S. 668 (1984), and therefore should be denied (Doc. 9 at 10). Additionally,
the government requests the denial of an evidentiary hearing because facts of the
case along with his section 2255 motion conclusively show no entitlement to relief
(Id. at 11-12).
II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR IAC CLAIMS
“The benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether
counsel’s conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial
process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result.”
Ridley erroneously cites to “United States v. Johnson” (Doc. 1-1 at 2).
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 686 (emphasis added); see also Koons v. United States,
639 F.3d 348, 351 (7th Cir. 2011) (defendant must overcome presumption that
under circumstances challenged action is considered sound trial strategy). As the
government has stated, claims of IAC must be analyzed under Strickland;
therefore, Ridley must demonstrate: (1) defense counsel’s performance was
deficient—in that errors made were so serious, counsel was not functioning as
“counsel” as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment; and (2) defense counsel’s
deficient performance prejudiced the defense—in that errors made were so
serious, they constituted deprivation of a fair trial, the result of which is deemed
See Strickland, 466 at 687.
“Unless a defendant makes both
showings, it cannot be said that the conviction [. . .] resulted from a breakdown of
the adversary process that renders the result unreliable.” Id. With that being
said, the Court finds Ridley can demonstrate neither requirement.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to effective
assistance of counsel in all criminal prosecutions. See Blake v. United States,
723 F.3d 870, 878 (7th Cir. 2013). However, “[i]t does not guarantee the right to
counsel who knows and exploits every tactical advantage—unrelated to guilt or
innocence—on his client’s behalf.” Prewitt v. United States, 83 F.3d 812, 818 (7th
Cir. 1996) (emphasis added) (citing Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 134 (1982) and
explaining Constitution guarantees criminal defendant only fair trial and
competent counsel, not that every conceivable claim will be raised).
As a result, the Court concludes Ridley presents insufficient grounds for an
IAC claim, and moreover, fails to satisfy either of the two required prongs under
Ridley’s reasoning for what he believes constituted
ineffectiveness is irrelevant under the Strickland analysis, as “strategic choices
made after thorough investigation of law and facts relevant to plausible options
are virtually unchallengeable.” See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690. Put differently,
“an attorney need not investigate every possible factual scenario,” only a
reasonable investigation is required under the Constitution. See Long v. United
States, 847 F.3d 916, 922 (7th Cir. 2017).
A. Cell Tower Objection Arguments Do Not Satisfy Strickland
Ridley’s arguments regarding lack of investigation into the government’s cell
tower evidence at both trial and appellate levels, and lack of objection to maps
produced from cell tower data are erroneous and do not meet the Strickland
standard for establishing IAC—as he failed to demonstrate how his claims
deprived him of a fair proceeding regarding these issues.
As stated by the
government, even if all cell phone evidence was disregarded, the totality of
remaining evidence exceedingly weighs against him. And the lack of legitimacy to
doubt his counsel’s reasonable professional judgment does not sufficiently
undermine confidence in the outcome of his trial.
B. All Other Claims Fail
Similarly, Ridley’s IAC claims regarding failure to object—at both trial and
appellate levels—to the aiding and abetting jury instruction under Rosemond,
failure to move to dismiss the § 924(c) count pursuant to Johnson, and failure to
introduce “shoe-print evidence” do meet the Strickland standard.
Rosemond, a jury would need to find Ridley had advanced knowledge of intended
firearm use during the bank robbery in order to find him guilty of aiding and
abetting his co-defendant’s use of a firearm in the crime of violence under §
924(c). See United States v. Armour, 840 F.3d 904, 911 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing
Rosemond, 134 S.Ct. at 1251-52).
The Rosemond-standard was sufficiently
attained when the government submitted evidence that Ridley not only organized
the entire bank robbery and directed his co-defendant to bring firearms, but also
brandished a firearm himself during the robbery. See United States v. Ridley,
826 F.3d 437, 442 (7th Cir. 2016) (stating jury had sufficient grounds to credit
testimony of two eye witnesses to find that Ridley possessed and brandished a
firearm during robbery).
Next, the claim regarding failure to object to dismissal of the § 924(c) count
in light of Johnson is immaterial because Ridley’s enhanced sentence stemmed
from the 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) conviction—Carrying, Using, and Brandishing
a Firearm in Relation to a Crime of Violence; Ridley was not convicted under 18
U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)—The Armed Career Criminal Act. See Johnson, 135 S.Ct.
at 2563 (holding increased sentence under residual clause of § 924(e)(2)(B)—
Armed Career Criminal Act—violates due process).
Finally, the assertion that
defense counsel failed to introduce “shoe-print evidence” is also inconsequential
because “ ‘[t]rial tactics are a matter of professional judgment, and [a reviewing
court] will not play ‘Monday or Tuesday morning quarterback’ when reviewing
claims that an attorney rendered constitutionally deficient representation in
making decisions on how to best handle a case.’ ” See United States v. Lathrop,
634 F.3d 931, 937 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal citation omitted). The decision to not
introduce this evidence generally cannot support claims of IAC if a strategic
reason for a sound decision is apparent. See Yu Tian Li v. United States, 648
F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2011).
In this case—as the government notes—the
sensible decision not to introduce shoe-print evidence was made due to the expert
crime scene investigator’s testimony in that he could not determine shoe size from
the impressions that were lifted at the crime scene. As such, and in this case,
“favorable” shoe-print evidence would have not been dispositive, as the totality of
the evidence accurately identified Ridley as a participant in the bank robbery.
C. No Certificate of Appealability Issued
Ridley’s sentence and conviction are legal. He has not demonstrated his
sentence was “imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United
States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that
the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise
subject to collateral attack[.]” § 2255.
The Court notes that letting Ridley’s
conviction and sentence stand would not result in a fundamental miscarriage of
justice. See Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 495-96 (1986).
Under Rule 11(a) of the RULES GOVERNING § 2255 PROCEEDINGS, “[t]he
district court must issue or deny a certificate of appealability when it enters a final
order adverse to the applicant.” Thus, the Court must determine whether Ridley’s
claim warrants a certificate of appealablity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
See id. “If the court denies a certificate, a party may not appeal the denial but
may seek a certificate from the court of appeals under Federal Rule of Appellate
Procedure 22.” Id.
A habeas petitioner does not have an absolute right to appeal a district
court’s denial of his habeas petition; he may appeal only those issues for which a
certificate of appealablity has been granted. Sandoval v. United States, 574 F.3d
847, 852 (7th Cir. 2009).
A habeas petitioner is entitled to a certificate of
appealability only if he can make a substantial showing of the denial of a
constitutional right. See § 2253(c)(2); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336
(2003). Under this standard, Ridley must demonstrate that “reasonable jurists
could debate whether (or, for that matter, agree that) the petition should have
been resolved in a different manner or that the issues presented were adequate to
deserve encouragement to proceed further.” Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473,
484 (2000) (internal citations omitted).
Where a district court denies a habeas petition on procedural grounds, a
certificate of appealability should be issued only if: (1) jurists of reason would find
it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the denial of a
constitutional right, and (2) jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the
district court was correct in its procedural ruling. See id. at 485.
Here, the Court finds that reasonable jurists would not debate that the
petition does not present a valid claim of the denial of a constitutional right, or
that this Court is barred from reviewing the merits of Ridley’s claims. Reasonable
jurists could not debate that the petition should have been resolved in a different
manner, as Ridley’s claims of IAC do not present evidence of constitutionally
deficient attorney performance; nor do they demonstrate resulting prejudice.
Therefore, the Court DECLINES to certify any issues for review pursuant to
Based on the foregoing, the Motion to Vacate (Doc. 1) is DENIED.
Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE this cause of action. The Court DIRECTS
the Clerk of the Court to enter judgment directing the same. Further, the Court
DECLINES to issue a certificate of appealability.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed this 8th day of August, 2017.
Digitally signed by
Judge David R.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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