United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings 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 Safara Echo
Shortman's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his
sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Shortman is a
federal prisoner proceeding pro se.
transcripts of the change of plea hearing, held April 26,
2018, and the sentencing hearing, held July 17, 2018, are
needed to decide the issues Shortman presents. The United
States will be required to order these transcripts for the
record and to deliver a copy to Shortman. See 28
U.S.C. § 753(f).
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.
three monitored transactions, Shortman sold four ounces of
methamphetamine to a confidential informant. The
methamphetamine was at least 95% pure. Without a plea
agreement, Shortman pled guilty to one count of conspiring to
possess 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine with
intent to distribute it, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846
(Count 1); and one count of possessing the same with intent
to distribute it, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1)
(Count 2). She was sentenced to serve 120 months in prison,
the statutory mandatory minimum, see 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(b)(1)(A)(viii), to be followed by a five-year term
of supervised release. See Minutes (Docs. 21, 27);
Judgment (Doc. 29) at 2-3.
timely filed her § 2255 motion on December 20, 2018
Claims and Analysis
3, 2019, the Court briefly described the requirements of
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88, 694
(1984), and ordered Shortman to explain the factual basis of
her claims more clearly. She responded on July 18, 2019.
Mandatory Minimum Sentence
alleges that her guilty plea was involuntary because she did
not understand she faced a ten-year mandatory minimum
sentence. See Mot. § 2255 (Doc. 31) at 4. She
also alleges that "[s]he was never informed about the
federal sentencing guidelines, and that her felony offense
would render nothing less than a mandatory minimum of 10
years." Resp. to Order (Doc. 34) at 2. And she avers
that a mandatory minimum "is not explained to most
defendant in a federal criminal case must be advised of any
mandatory minimum sentence. See Fed. R. Crim. P.
11(b)(1)(H), (I). The record of the change of plea hearing in
Shortman's case shows she knew about both the guidelines
and the mandatory minimum sentence.
says she "may have opted to go to trial" had she
understood that ten years was "the 'only'
available sentence." Resp. to Order at 3. But ten years
was not the only available sentence. It was the
minimum available sentence. Shortman could have been
sentenced to more than 120 months if, for instance, trial
gave the United States an opportunity to call witnesses who
could testify that Shortman was responsible for more than 150
grams of actual methamphetamine. See, e.g., U.S.S.G.
§ 2D1.1(c)(4), (5) (Nov. 1, 2016); Presentence Report
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