Published on:

No ineffective assistance because the defendant could not prove he would have pled guilty to the mandatory minimum sentence

In Osley v. United States, the Eleventh Circuit rejected the defendant’s section 2255 claim that his counsel failed to advise him he faced a mandatory sentence, because he had turned down a plea offer prior to trial that would have given him only 70 months. Osley was convicted of multiple counts commercial sex trafficking of a minor by means of force fraud and coercion, including a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591. Following the Miami federal criminal trial Osley was sentenced to 365 months and his sentence and conviction were affirmed. He filed a motion to vacate sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255 claiming (1) his counsel was ineffective for failing to inform him of the mandatory minimum 15 year sentence for violating § 1591, (2) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge an obvious double counting violation of his sentencing guidelines, and (3) counsel failed to advise him he faced life term of supervised release.

Prior to trial his counsel discussed the possibility of a plea agreement. Both counsel and the prosecutor agreed that the guidelines calculation would be 97 to 121 months. At a status hearing held by the district court the prosecutor also informed the court there was no mandatory sentence under the sentencing guidelines and if found guilty he would be facing 97 to 121 months. The defendant had previously rejected a plea offer of 80 months. Osley chose a trial where the government’s star witness was a 17 year old victim was a run-away from home who said Osley promised to buy her ticket to Miami and discovered that she would have to become a prostitute for him, and described how he threatened her with a gun because she did not bring in enough money. After the trial and an during the Presentence Investigation interview, the probation officer informed the defendant and his counsel that the statute had been amended by Congress prior to the date Osley violated the statute, making the penalty a 15 year mandatory minimum sentence. The PSI also recommended a four level enhancement for uncharged conduct, giving him a range of 210 to 260 months. The judge also imposed a variance up by three levels.

While the Eleventh Circuit had serious doubts about whether counsel’s performance satisfied the standard of reasonableness required by the Sixth Amendment, it found that the defendant could not meet the prejudice pronged of Strickland. It rejected the Osley’s claim that he would have taken the 15 year mandatory sentence had he known he was facing 262 months under the guidelines, because Osley had rejected the government’s offer of 70 to 87 months. The 15 year deal that the defendant claims he would have taken was substantially more time than the deal he rejected. The court did not accept his claim that he would have taken 15 year deal even if he had known he would be facing a guideline range of up to 262 months. Furthermore, the defendant’s denial of guilt was a factor in determining whether he would have accepted the government’s plea offer.

The court found no ineffective assistance for failing to advise that the sentence carried a lifetime supervised release since the defendant was informed that the court could impose a maximum sentence of life in prison, and no ineffective assistance for failure to raise the double counting argument and because the court was not convinced that applying the four levels enhancement was error.

In my opinion this case should have been reversed because the defendant was not fully informed he faced an upside risk of 262 months. Knowing that risk would he have rolled the dice with a trial even though the plea offer was 180 months? Its seems he met the prejudice requirement.