United States District Court, D. Montana, Helena Division
ORDER DENYING § 2255 MOTION AND DENYING
CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
L. Christensen, Chief Judge United States District Court
case comes before the Court on Defendant/Movant Trent
Scentail Smith's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct
his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Smith is a
federal prisoner proceeding pro se.
the United States is required to respond, the Court must
determine whether "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); see
also Rule 4(b), Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings
for the United States District Courts. A petitioner "who
is able to state facts showing a real possibility of
constitutional error should survive Rule 4 review."
Calderon v. United States Dist. Court, 98 F.3d 1102,
1109 (9th Cir. 1996) (“Nicolas”)
(Schroeder, C.J., concurring) (referring to Rules Governing
§ 2254 Cases). But the Court should "eliminate the
burden that would be placed on the respondent by ordering an
unnecessary answer." Advisory Committee Note (1976),
Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, cited in
Advisory Committee Note (1976), Rule 4, Rules Governing
§ 2255 Proceedings.
February 4, 2016, a grand jury indicted Smith on one count of
conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to
distribute a substance containing methamphetamine, a
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count 1); six counts of
distributing methamphetamine, violations of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1) (Counts 2-7); and one count of possessing
methamphetamine with intent to distribute it, a violation of
21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count 8).
2 through 8 consisted of monitored transactions in which
Smith sold or fronted escalating quantities of
methamphetamine to two confidential informants and an
undercover officer. Smith was arrested on July 22, 2015, with
cocaine and about 1.3 kilograms of methamphetamine in his
vehicle. He waived his Miranda rights and made
self-incriminating statements to law enforcement officers,
including an admission to transporting methamphetamine from
California to Montana to sell it. See Offer of Proof
(Doc. 79) at 3-7 ¶¶ 1-13.
26, 2016, Smith entered an open plea of guilty to all counts.
sentencing, Smith was found responsible for 1.717 kilograms
of actual methamphetamine. The base offense level was 36.
Smith received a two-point upward adjustment for possession
of a firearm and a three-level downward adjustment for
acceptance of responsibility for a total adjusted offense
level of 35. See Presentence Report ¶¶
31-40. With a criminal history category of II, see
Id. ¶¶ 43-54, his advisory guideline range
was 168 to 235 months. See Statement of Reasons
(Doc. 114) § I(A), III. Smith was sentenced to serve 210
months in prison, to be followed by a three-year term of
supervised release. See Judgment (Doc. 113) at 2-3.
appealed. New counsel was appointed to represent him. He
challenged the firearm enhancement and asserted his sentence
was enhanced due to sentencing entrapment and manipulation.
On December 8, 2017, the Court of Appeals affirmed his
sentence. See 9th Cir. Mem. (Doc. 139) at 1-3,
United States v. Smith, No. 16-30277 (9th Cir. Dec.
petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of
certiorari, but his petition was denied on February 20, 2018.
See Clerk Letter (Doc. 142).
conviction became final on February 20, 2018. See
Gonzalez v. Thaler, 565 U.S. 134, 150 (2012). He
timely filed his § 2255 motion on February 19, 2019.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1).
Claims and Analysis
claims his counsel were ineffective in various respects.
These claims are governed by Strickland v.
Washington,466 U.S. 668 (1984). At this stage of the
proceedings, Smith must allege facts sufficient to support an
inference (1) that counsel's performance fell outside the
wide range of reasonable professional assistance,
Id. at 687-88, and (2) that there is a reasonable
probability that, but ...