Bauzó-Santiago v. United States, Civil No. 18-1847 (FAB)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
Citation435 F.Supp.3d 357
Docket NumberCriminal No. 12-602 (FAB),Civil No. 18-1847 (FAB)
Parties Jamie BAUZÓ-SANTIAGO, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES of America, Respondent.
Decision Date27 January 2020

435 F.Supp.3d 357

Jamie BAUZÓ-SANTIAGO, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES of America, Respondent.

Civil No. 18-1847 (FAB)
Criminal No. 12-602 (FAB)

United States District Court, D. Puerto Rico.

Signed January 27, 2020

435 F.Supp.3d 362


BESOSA, District Judge.

Petitioner Jamie Bauzó-Santiago ("Bauzó") moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence in Criminal Case No. 12-602 (FAB) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 2255 (" section 2255"). (Docket No. 12.)1 For the reasons set forth below, Bauzó's section 2255 motion is DENIED .

I. Background

On July 24, 2012, Puerto Rico Police Department ("PRPD") officers Eduardo Santos-Dávila ("Officer Santos") and Ricardo González-Cirino ("Officer González") conducted a "Control and Contention" patrol at approximately 11:00 p.m. in "La Cerámica," a housing development in Carolina, Puerto Rico. (Crim. Docket No. 220 at pp. 34, 66-69.)2 Officer Santos observed Bauzó standing adjacent to a black Mercedes-Benz SUV, remove a nickel-plated pistol from his waistband, toss the firearm inside the SUV, and walk to a nearby house. Id. After exiting his patrol car, Officer Santos asked Bauzó whether he had a firearm license. Id. at pp. 72-75.3 Bauzó answered "no." Id. Officer Santos requested that Bauzó accompany him to the SUV. Id. Subsequently, Officer Santos opened the unlocked driver-side door of the SUV and recovered a loaded Taurus .380 caliber pistol. Id. at pp. 75-76. Officer Santos then arrested Bauzó. Id. at p. 76.

At the police station, after receiving the Miranda warnings, Bauzó stated that he possessed the firearm for his safety because he sold jewelry and clothing. Id. at pp. 84-85. Indeed, PRPD officers recovered jewelry and clothing from the SUV during an inventory search. Id.

On August 2, 2012, a grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Bauzó with being a felon in possession of a

435 F.Supp.3d 363

firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 922(g)(1) (" section 922(g)"). (Crim. Docket No. 9.) Assistant Federal Public Defenders Carlos Vázquez-Álvarez ("Vázquez") and Thomas Trebilcock-Horan ("Trebilcock") appeared on Bauzó's behalf. (Crim. Docket Nos. 8 and 26.)

Bauzó moved to suppress the pistol and his post-arrest statements, asserting that "the facts as presented by the government are incorrect." (Crim. Docket No. 27 at p. 4.) According to Bauzó, he stood "on the sidewalk in front of a home speaking to [its] residents" when PRPD officers approached him. Id. at p. 4. He asserts that the PRPD officers fabricated evidence by "planting the weapon inside [his] vehicle in an attempt to extort money." (Civil Docket No. 12, Ex. 1 at p. 4.)

Judge Carmen C. Cerezo ("Cerezo") referred the suppression motion to a magistrate judge for a report and recommendation ("R & R"). (Crim. Docket No. 34.) Officer Santos, Bauzó and Evelyn Berríos-Marrero, a neighbor who witnessed the intervention and arrest, testified at the suppression hearing. (Crim. Docket No. 46.) Magistrate Judge Camille Vélez-Rivé issued an R & R, "[finding] the version of facts as testified by [Officer Santos] to be too incredible to believe." (Crim. Docket No. 48 at p. 19.) The R & R recommended that the Court grant Bauzó's motion to suppress. Id.

Judge Cerezo held a de novo hearing, finding that "the testimony of Police Officer Santos-Davila was credible." (Crim. Docket No. 81 at p. 5.) Consequently, the Court rejected the R & R and denied Bauzó's motion to suppress. Id.

The attorney-client relationship deteriorated following the denial of Bauzó's motion to suppress. Vázquez and Trebilcock met with Bauzó at the Metropolitan Detention Center ("MDC") in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico to discuss "the results of [their] meetings with potential witnesses and prepare him for trial (including to prepare him to testify were he to choose to do so)." (Crim. Docket No. 90 at p. 1.)4 Bauzó notified defense counsel that he mailed a letter to Judge Cerezo but refused to disclose the contents of this letter to Vázquez and Trebilcock. Id.

Two days before the commencement of trial, Vázquez and Trebilcock moved to withdraw. Id. at p. 3. The Court granted

435 F.Supp.3d 364

their motion, continued trial, and ordered the Clerk of the Court to appoint a panel attorney pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. section 3006A. (Crim. Docket Nos. 91 and 93.) Laura Maldonado-Rodríguez ("Maldonado") filed a notice of appearance on May 30, 2014. (Crim. Docket No. 96.)5

The Clerk of the Court received Bauzó's signed, handwritten letter two months after his meeting with Vázquez and Trebilcock. (Crim. Docket No. 94.) The letter states, among other things, that "I, Jaime Bauzó Santiago, number 40236-069, have always accepted my responsibility of guilt, the only thing that I ask is that it be a reasonable time for the weapons law crime." (Crim. Docket No. 173, Ex. 1.)6

Maldonado mounted a formidable pretrial defense on her client's behalf. She traveled to Georgia to interview and meet with Bauzó in person. (Crim. Docket Nos. 99, 100, 102 and 104.)7 Maldonado filed the following motions in anticipation of trial: (1) motion to appoint an investigator (granted by the Court), (2) ex parte motion requesting subpoenas to compel witness testimony and the production of documents (granted by the Court), (3) motion to strike surplusage from the indictment and objection to proposed jury instructions (denied by the Court), (4) motion in limine to preclude the United States from introducing Bauzó's pro se letter to Judge Cerezo at trial (denied by the Court), (5) notice of intent to solicit testimony from a forensic document examiner (denied by the Court), (6) motion in limine to preclude "high crime incidence area" testimony (granted by the Court), and (7) motion to dismiss (denied by the Court).8 Maldonado also pursued a plea offer from the United States for a stolen firearm charge, an attempt to shield Bauzó from the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence in section 922(g). (Crim. Docket No. 189 at p. 2.)

Despite Maldonado's vigorous pre-trial motion practice, Bauzó faulted her for failing to obtain a favorable plea agreement. (Crim. Docket No. 219 at p. 3.) Like Vázquez and Trebilcock, Maldonado moved to withdraw on the eve of trial. (Crim. Docket No. 189.) She requested that the Court hold an ex parte hearing to address Bauzó's "complaints against counsel." Id. at p. 3—4 (citing Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 134, 132 S.Ct. 1399, 182 L.Ed.2d 379 (2012) ).

Before conducting voir dire , the Court excused the United States from the courtroom. (Crim. Docket No. 219 at p. 2.) Bauzó stated that he was "dissatisfied" with Maldonado because she purportedly: (1) failed to obtain a "plea agreement to [his] liking," and (2) advised him of the risk associated with calling PRPD officers to the stand. Id. at pp. 3—12. Bauzó confirmed, however, that Maldonado informed him that the United States offered successive plea agreements and that no one told "[him] to reject the plea." Id. at p. 6. The Court denied Maldonado's motion to withdraw, requesting that the parties meet to discuss a potential plea agreement. Id. at p. 4. These discussions bore no fruit. Trial

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commenced on October 14, 2014. (Crim. Docket No. 197.)

PRPD Officer Santos was among the witnesses who testified for the prosecution. (Crim. Docket Nos. 200 and 203.) Jenny Coss-Berríos ("Coss") and Jorge Bermúdez-Claudio ("Bermúdez"), family friends of Bauzó and La Cerámica residents, testified for the defense as eye-witnesses. (Crim. Docket No. 203.) Bauzó exercised his Fifth-Amendment right not to testify. Over Maldonado's repeated objections, the Court permitted the United States to introduce a redacted version of Bauzó's pro se letter to Judge Cerezo. (Crim. Docket No. 220 at pp. 50-62.)

The jury found Bauzó guilty. (Crim. Docket No. 207.)9 Because Bauzó was convicted of at least three prior felonies for crimes of violence, the Court imposed a sentence of 188 months imprisonment pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). (Crim. Docket Nos. 245, 246 and 248.)10

Bauzó filed a timely notice of appeal. (Crim. Docket No. 244.) Jorge Rivera-Ortiz ("Rivera") served as appellate defense counsel. (App. Docket, Apr. 24, 2015.) Bauzó set forth two arguments on appeal. (App. Docket, June 7, 2016.) First, he argued that the Court erred in admitting the inculpatory statement contained in his letter to Judge Cerezo. Id. Second, Bauzó asserted that the Court miscalculated the number of his prior convictions. Id. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence. United States v. Bauzó-Santiago, 867 F.3d 13, 21-28 (1st Cir. 2017). The District Court "did not abuse its discretion in admitting the letter at trial," nor was it "clear or obvious error ... to count three of Bauzó's convictions as career-offender qualifiers." Id. at 21-28. Bauzó then filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to section 2255. (Civil Docket No. 12.)11

II. Section 2255

Section 2255 embodies the common law writ of habeas corpus , an extraordinary remedy for "convictions that violate fundamental fairness." Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507...

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