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United States v. Baughman

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

November 21, 2018




         Currently before the Court are Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 74) filed by Defendant/Petitioner Glen Baughman in this case. On October 11, 2016, Mr. Baughman filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 58). The Government responded on November 11, 2016, (Doc. 62), to which Mr. Baughman filed his Reply on January 6, 2017, (Doc. 65).[1] Magistrate Judge Wiedemann issued her Report and Recommendation ("R&R") denying Mr. Baughman's Motion in full on June 8, 2018 (Doc. 71). Mr. Baughman subsequently filed his Objections thereto, requesting dismissal of the R&R and an evidentiary hearing to present his claims. (Doc. 74).

         When a defendant makes specific objections to portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court must review the contested findings or recommendations de novo. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court may then "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id. Here, Mr. Baughman objected to the R&R on two grounds. As such, the Court has undertaken a de novo review of the Defendant's objections and rules on each in turn.

         I. DISCUSSION

         Mr. Baughman originally asserted six separate grounds for relief in his Brief in Support of his Motion to Vacate. (Doc. 59). The R&R addresses these claims individually, and two of them are the subject of Mr. Baughman's Objections addressed below. Mr. Baughman's first objection concerns his counsel's alleged ineffective assistance as to three events, each of which occurred prior to Mr. Baughman deciding to enter a guilty plea. His second and final objection alleges further ineffective assistance during Mr. Baughman's sentencing. For the reasons provided below, both of Mr. Baughman's objections to the R&R are OVERRULED because neither can overcome the two-part test laid out in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984).

         A. Alleged Ineffective Assistance Occurring Prior to Guilty Plea

         After entering a guilty plea, the focus of collateral attack is limited to the nature of counsel's advice and the voluntariness of the plea. See Bass v. United States, 739 F.2d 405, 406 (8th Cir. 1984) (citing Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 266 (1973)). To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must prove not only that his attorney's performance was deficient, but that he was prejudiced by that deficiency. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. In the context of a guilty plea, a defendant asserting ineffective assistance of counsel must prove that he would not have pleaded guilty absent his attorney's errors. United States v. Prior, 107 F.3d 654, 661 (8th Cir. 1997). The ultimate focus when determining this issue is the "fundamental fairness of the proceeding whose result is being challenged." Id. at 696.

         The basic principle governing Mr. Baughman's claim is that "a guilty plea represents a break in the chain of events which has preceded it in the criminal process." 7b//etf, 411 U.S. at 267. Furthermore,

When a criminal defendant has solemnly admitted in open court that he is in fact guilty of the offense with which he is charged, he may not thereafter raise independent claims relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred prior to the entry of a guilty plea. He may only attack the voluntary and intelligent character of the guilty plea by showing that the advice he received from counsel was not within the standard.


         Mr. Baughman argues that his guilty plea was not knowing or voluntary due to ineffective assistance of counsel. In asserting his claim, Mr. Baughman points to his counsel's failure to investigate: (1) the nature of the search of his bedroom, (2) the nature of his interview with law enforcement prior to that search, and (3) the sufficiency of the Government's evidence identifying the minor named in Count 2 of Mr. Baughman's Indictment.[2] He argues that each event falls below the objective standard of reasonableness for effective assistance and prejudiced his case by pressuring him to seek a plea agreement rather than proceed to trial (Doc. 74, p. 2).

         First, the Court finds that neither counsel's advice against pursuing suppression of evidence gathered from the search of Mr. Baughman's room nor counsel's decision to forgo a motion to dismiss one of his felony counts indicates deficient performance or resulted in prejudice. Nothing in the record suggests that Mr. Baughman's property seized from his room could have been suppressed. As the Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR") reveals, a federal search warrant was issued after a special agent ("SA") with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force downloaded more than two thousand images of child pornography using file sharing software from a computer the SA traced back to the residence where Mr. Baughman was residing. Mr. Baughman contends that he was a renter and therefore maintained a reasonable expectation of privacy which required the police to obtain a separate warrant to search his room inside the house. The record contradicts Mr. Baughman's assertion that he was a renter, see Doc. 62-1, p. 1. Law enforcement searched the home where Mr. Baughman was residing only after securing a valid search warrant, which rendered the search entirely reasonable. As the warrant relied upon by law enforcement was based on sufficient probable cause, Mr. Baughman's Fourth Amendment rights were not violated, and any challenge to the contrary on the part of his attorney would have been futile.

         Mr. Baughman also argues that his counsel was deficient for not moving to dismiss the second count of his indictment because there was insufficient evidence of the identity of the minor (Doc. 74, p. 2). He asserts that when conferencing with counsel, it was Mr. Baughman's position that a mother's identification alone would be insufficient to identify the victimized minor. This argument was premised on Mr. Baughman's belief that a mother could not identify her child when presented with an image that only displayed the child's genitalia.

         Here, counsel's alleged "failure" to move to dismiss the indictment does not rise to the level of deficient representation. "Often the interests of the accused are not advanced by challenges that would only delay the inevitable date of prosecution . . . ." Tollett, 411 U.S. at 266 (citing Brady v. United States397 U.S. 742, 751-752 (1970)). Furthermore, the entry of a guilty plea bars any allegation that a defense attorney failed to file certain motions or make other challenges prior to the entry of that plea. Id. at 267. It is the job of attorneys to advise their clients on the merits of various potential arguments and, at times, to dissuade them from pursuing losing ones. Mr. Baughman's ...

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