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Boylen v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 7, 2019




         Before the Court is the pro se motion of petitioner Adam Boylen (“Boylen”) to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. No. 38 [“Mot.”].) Respondent United States of America (the “government”) opposes the motion. (Doc. No. 44 [“Res.”].) For the reasons that follow, Boylen's motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         On February 7, 2017, the government filed a four-count indictment against Boylen charging him with discharging a pollutant from a point source into United States waters without a permit, in violation of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), 33 U.S.C. § 1319(c)(2)(A). (Doc. No. 1 (Indictment).) According to the indictment, Boylen was a truck driver employed by an Ohio-based trucking company and was assigned the task of transporting industrial facility wastewater to a designated facility in Pennsylvania for proper disposal. Instead of driving the wastewater to Pennsylvania, it was alleged that on several occasions between April 18, 2016 and May 4, 2016 Boylen illegally dumped the wastewater into waters of the United States located in Central Ohio. (Id. ¶¶ 13-19.)

         On May 18, 2017, Boylen pled guilty, with the benefit of a plea agreement, to the charges in the indictment. (Minutes 5-18-17; Doc. No. 19 (Plea Agreement).) The plea agreement contained a broad waiver provision restricting Boylen's appellate rights including his right to take a direct appeal and a collateral attack of his sentence. With respect to the later, the waiver provision generally precluded the filing of a “proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.” (Id. ¶ 20.) Carved out of the waiver was the right to appeal: “(a) any punishment in excess of the statutory maximum; or (b) any sentence to the extent it exceeds the maximum of the sentencing imprisonment range determined under the advisory Sentencing Guidelines[.]” (Id.) The waiver further provided that “[n]othing in the [waiver] shall act as a bar to [Boylen] perfecting any legal remedies [Boylen] may otherwise have on appeal or collateral attack with respect to claims of ineffective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct.” (Id.)

         Boylen was sentenced on September 5, 2017. After applying a three-level reduction under the Sentencing Guidelines for acceptance of responsibility and calculating the appropriate sentencing range, the Court sentenced Boylen to a low-end guidelines sentence of 42 months imprisonment.[1] (Doc. No. 26 (Judgment).) The Court also waived the fine but imposed restitution and a $400 special assessment. (Id.)

         Boylen took a timely appeal from the Court's judgment. In a decision dated June 15, 2018, the Sixth Circuit dismissed the appeal as barred by the waiver provision in Boylen's plea agreement. (Doc. No. 42 (Order).) In so ruling, the Sixth Circuit examined the plea colloquy and determined that the Court complied with the requirements of Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(b)(1)(N), ensuring that Boylen's plea and waiver was voluntary and knowing. (Id. at 292-93.)

         In his § 2255 motion, Boylen raises several issues relating to the constitutionality of the CWA and his convictions thereunder. Specifically, Boylen claims that: (1) the CWA has no application to the facts of the case; (2) that he is not a “person” under the CWA; (3) that the CWA violates the principles of federalism; (4) that the CWA fails to provide fair notice; and (5) that a strict interpretation should be applied to the CWA under which he could not have been convicted. (Mot. at 264.) He also maintains that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. (Id.) The government insists that the first five grounds for relief are barred by the waiver provision in the plea agreement, and that the record does not support Boylen's ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

         II. Standard of Review

         A federal prisoner may attack the validity of his sentence by filing a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the district court where he was sentenced. Section 2255 sets forth four grounds upon which a federal prisoner may state a claim for relief: “[1] the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or [2] that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or [3] that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or [4] [the sentence] is otherwise subject to collateral attack[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

         A petitioner who entered a guilty plea must show an error of constitutional magnitude that had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the proceedings. Griffin v. United States, 330 F.3d 733, 736 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637, 113 S.Ct. 1710, 123 L.Ed.2d 353 (2003)). A court may only grant relief under § 2255 if the petitioner demonstrates “‘a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.'” Id. at 736 (quoting Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 346, 94 S.Ct. 2298, 41 L.Ed.2d 109 (1974)). A petitioner further bears the burden of articulating sufficient facts to state a viable claim for relief under § 2255. Vague and conclusory claims which are not substantiated by allegations of specific facts with some probability of verity are not enough to warrant relief. A § 2255 motion may be dismissed if it only makes conclusory statements without substantiating allegations of specific facts and fails to state a claim cognizable under § 2255. Green v. Wingo, 454 F.2d 52, 53 (6th Cir. 1972); O'Malley v. United States, 285 F.2d 733, 735 (6th Cir. 1961).

         When a defendant challenges the validity of a plea, the representations of the defendant, his lawyer, the prosecutor, and the judge “constitute a formidable barrier in any subsequent collateral proceedings.” Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 74, 97 S.Ct. 1621, 52 L.Ed.2d 136 (1977). Such “[s]olemn declarations in open court carry a strong presumption of verity.” Id. Subsequently-presented conclusory allegations that fly in the face of the record are subject to summary dismissal. Id.

         A court should hold an evidentiary hearing “[u]nless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). Thus, “no hearing is required if the petitioner's allegations ‘cannot be accepted as true because they are contradicted by the record, inherently incredible, or conclusions rather than statements of fact.'” Arredondo v. United States, 178 F.3d 778, 782 (6th Cir. 1999) (quoting Engelen v. United States, 68 F.3d 238, 240 (8th Cir. 1995)); see also Napier v. United States, No. 93-5412, 1993 WL 406795, at *2 (6th Cir. Oct. 8, 1993) (“To be entitled to a hearing, the prisoner must set forth detailed factual allegations which, if true, would entitle him to relief under § 2255.”) (citing, among authorities, Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 496, 82 S.Ct. 510, 7 L.Ed.2d 473 (1962)); cf. Valentine v. United States, 488 F.3d 325, 334 (6th Cir. 2007) (finding that the burden is met where the petitioner “offers more than a mere assertion . . . he presents a factual narrative of the events that is neither contradicted by the record nor ‘inherently incredible'”). Where (as here) the judge considering the § 2255 motion also presided over the sentencing hearing, the judge may rely on his or her recollections of those proceedings. See Blanton v. United States, 94 F.3d 227, 235 (6th Cir. 1996).

         The Court finds that an evidentiary hearing is not warranted in the present case. The allegations offered in support of the present motion are either contradicted by the record, conclusively waived, or amount to vague conclusions that fail ...

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