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United States v. Ramsey

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio

December 13, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
PHILON RAMSEY, Defendant-Petitioner.



         Petitioner Philon Ramsey moves to vacate his federal sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.[1]Specifically, Ramsey alleges that his counsel, Paul Adamson, was ineffective when Adamson failed to appeal Ramsey's sentence, after Ramsey arguably told Adamson to do so.

         The Court held an evidentiary hearing. After considering the evidence and argument presented at that hearing, the Court DENIES Ramsey's motion.

         I. Background

         On January 6, 2016, Petitioner Ramsey pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and heroin.[2] In that plea agreement, Ramsey “expressly and voluntarily” waived his right to appeal or collaterally attack his conviction and sentence in all but a few limited scenarios.[3]

         Before sentencing, the Probation Department prepared a Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) detailing its findings regarding Ramsey's role in the offense, including a suggested drug quantity finding and a Sentencing Guidelines calculation based on that finding.[4] On March 4, 2016, this Court sentenced Ramsey to 100 months of imprisonment.[5]

         This Court previously denied most of Ramsey's habeas petition.[6] Ramsey's only remaining claim is for ineffective assistance of counsel. In support of that claim, Ramsey alleges that he instructed his trial counsel, Paul Adamson, to file a direct appeal, but Adamson failed to do so. On November 15, 2017, the Court held an evidentiary hearing to decide this issue.

         II. Legal Standard

         In Strickland v. Washington, [7] the Supreme Court created a two-pronged test that a defendant must satisfy to show ineffective assistance of counsel. First, the petitioner must show that counsel's performance was deficient.[8] Second, the petitioner must show that counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the defense.[9] If a petitioner fails to make either showing, his ineffective assistance claim fails.[10]

         Counsel must file an appeal if his client requests one.[11] Even when, as here, a defendant has waived his right to appeal, counsel's failure to file an appeal “amounts to a per se violation of the Sixth Amendment . . . regardless of the merits of [the defendant's] substantive claims.”[12]

         III. Analysis

         Ramsey alleges that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his counsel ignored his instruction to file a direct appeal. After considering the testimony and argument at the November 15, 2017 evidentiary hearing on this issue, the Court determines that Ramsey never made a request to file an appeal.

         As an initial matter, the Court does not credit Ramsey's testimony. Ramsey initially testified that he told his counsel that he wanted to appeal his sentence immediately after the sentencing hearing.[13] Further questioning revealed that although Ramsey may have mentioned appealing his sentence, what he really wanted to do was to rescind his plea agreement and go to trial.[14]

         His counsel advised against either appealing or rescinding his plea, and told Ramsey to think about his options for a few days.[15] Ramsey testified that although both he and his family called his counsel after the sentencing hearing, he acknowledges that he never actually mentioned that he wanted to appeal either directly or in a voicemail.[16] Ramsey also never wrote to counsel about his wish to appeal.[17]

         Attorney Adamson testified that he advised Ramsey about his appellate rights immediately after the sentencing hearing, and that Ramsey did not express a desire to appeal at that time.[18] Recall, with his plea, Ramsey indicated that he would give up his appeal rights. Adamson also testified that he recommended against an appeal because Ramsey received a below-Guidelines sentence, Adamson did not see any appealable issues, and Ramsey waived most of his appellate rights in his plea agreement.[19]

         The Court credits Adamson's version of events. Indeed, even if the Court credited Ramsey's testimony, Ramsey at most equivocally mentioned an appeal and then took no further action to clarify whether he wanted to pursue that path.

         Beyond this, the circumstantial evidence also bolsters Adamson's version of events. Ramsey waived the vast majority of his appellate rights in his plea agreement.[20] The plea agreement also explicitly states that the Plea Guidelines ...

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