United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves United States District Judge.
Isai Pedraza was convicted at trial of conspiring to
distribute cocaine, money laundering, conspiracy to commit
promotional money laundering, and possession of a machine
gun. [Record Nos. 160-176] He was later sentenced to a
262-month term of imprisonment, followed by a five-year term
of supervised release. [Record Nos. 208, 216] The United
States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the
defendant's conviction and sentence. United States v.
Orozco, 716 Fed.Appx. 390 (6th Cir. 2017); [Record No.
272]. The United States Supreme Court denied Pedraza's
petition for a writ of certiorari. Pedraza v. United
States, 138 S.Ct. 1313 (2018); [Record No. 275]. The
matter is now pending for consideration of Pedraza's
pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his
sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Record No. 284]
§ 2255 motion was referred to a United States magistrate
judge for review and issuance of a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B). Following briefing, United States Magistrate
Judge Matthew A. Stinnett recommended that Pedraza's
motion be denied. [Record No. 296]
Court must make a de novo determination of those
portions of the magistrate judge's recommendations to
which specific objections are made. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(C). However, “[w]here no objections are made,
or the objections are vague or conclusory, the Court is not
required to review under a de novo, or any other,
standard.” United States v. Hale, No.
15-018-DLB, 2017 WL 6606861, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Dec. 26, 2017)
(citations omitted). Additionally, “[a]n objection that
does nothing more than state a disagreement with a
magistrate's suggested resolution, or simply summarizes
what has been presented before, is not an objection as that
term is used in this context.” United States v.
Bowers, 2017 WL 6606860, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Dec. 26, 2017)
(internal quotations and citations omitted).
objections present the same arguments that Magistrate Judge
Stinnett has already considered and rejected. [Record No.
297] However, the Court has examined the record and, having
made a de novo determination, agrees with the
magistrate judge's analysis.
prevail, a defendant/petitioner “must establish an
error of constitutional magnitude which had a substantial and
injurious effect or influence on the proceedings.”
Watson v. United States, 165 F.3d 486, 488 (6th Cir.
1999) (citing Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619,
637-38 (1993)). One claim satisfying an error of
constitutional magnitude is for ineffective assistance of
counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
presents five grounds in support of his § 2255 motion,
all asserting various claims of ineffective assistance of
counsel. [Record No. 284] The objections to the R&R
address four of the five grounds in his § 2255 motion
asserting that his counsel was ineffective. [Record No. 297]
Pedraza bears the burden of proving his allegations by a
preponderance of the evidence. See Pough v. United
States, 442 F.3d 959, 964 (6th Cir. 2006).
succeed on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim,
Pedraza must show two elements. Strickland, 466 U.S.
at 687. First, he must demonstrate that his counsel's
performance was deficient. This “requires showing that
counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not
functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed by the
Sixth Amendment.” Id. Next, Pedraza must show
that his counsel's deficient performance prejudiced him.
Id. To meet this element, Pedraza must “show
that there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different.” Id. at
must demonstrate both elements of the Strickland
analysis, but the Court need “not address both
components of the inquiry ‘if the defendant makes an
insufficient showing on one.'” Campbell v.
United States, 364 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2004);
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697. “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.” Strickland,
466 U.S. at 686.
Alleged Educational Deficiency
first claims that trial counsel Joseph Eggert's
performance was deficient because Eggert failed to
investigate and acknowledge Pedraza's “low levels
in math, english [sic], reading, social studies, science,
[and] vocabulary.” [Record No. 284-1] Pedraza goes on
to state that he had no “clear comprehension of what
information he was told by his counsel through an
interpreter.” [Id.] Further, he contends that
if Eggert investigated Pedraza's comprehension levels, he
could have requested a “specialized interpreter to
administer a Spanish test and present the results to the
Court. Where the Court would have been aware of such poor
mental capacity.” [Id.] Pedraza does not
assert that the Court's knowledge of his alleged poor
mental capacity would have changed the outcome of the
objections rely on the Presentence Investigation Report
(“PSR”) in claiming that it “displays an
indication to counsel Eggert” that Pedraza has a
“poor education level which results in poor language
and comprehension levels of understanding to what information
is being said to him.” [Record No. 297] But the PSR
ultimately refutes this claim for two reasons: (1) the PSR
was completed and entered after Pedraza's conviction, and
(2) the PSR indicates that Pedraza became a U.S. citizen
through naturalization in 2012, he attended school in
Kentucky but dropped out in the 11th grade “due to a
language barrier since his native ...