United States v. Batamula, No. 12–20630.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtEDITH BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge, joined by STEWART, Chief Judge, and JOLLY, DAVIS, JONES, SMITH, PRADO, OWEN, ELROD, SOUTHWICK, HAYNES , HIGGINSON, and COSTA, Circuit Judges
Citation823 F.3d 237
Docket NumberNo. 12–20630.
Decision Date03 May 2016
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff–Appellee v. Innocent Rutahagara BATAMULA, Defendant–Appellant.

823 F.3d 237

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff–Appellee
v.
Innocent Rutahagara BATAMULA, Defendant–Appellant.

No. 12–20630.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

May 3, 2016.


823 F.3d 238

Katherine Lisa Haden, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Renata Ann Gowie, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Houston, TX, for Plaintiff–Appellee.

George William Vie, III, Mills Shirley, L.L.P., Galveston, TX, for Defendant–Appellant.

Angela Jennison Moore, Law Office of Angela J. Moore, George William Aristotelidis, San Antonio, TX, for Amicus Curiae.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before STEWART, Chief Judge, and JOLLY, DAVIS, JONES, SMITH, DENNIS, CLEMENT, PRADO, OWEN, ELROD, SOUTHWICK, HAYNES, GRAVES, HIGGINSON, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.

EDITH BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge, joined by STEWART, Chief Judge, and JOLLY, DAVIS, JONES, SMITH, PRADO* , OWEN, ELROD, SOUTHWICK, HAYNES *, HIGGINSON, and COSTA, Circuit Judges:

The court voted to rehear this case en banc to consider whether Innocent Rutahagara Batamula has made a sufficient showing of prejudice in his ineffective assistance of counsel claim to survive summary judgment. We hold that Batamula failed to allege a non-frivolous prejudice claim and accordingly we AFFIRM the district court.

I.

Batamula, a Tanzanian citizen, entered the United States on a student visa in 2001 and remained in the country after his visa expired. He married a United States citizen, applied for a change in his immigration status, and, in 2008, applied for and obtained a United States passport for his biological son, B.B.,1 a citizen and then-resident of Tanzania. To secure the passport, Batamula used his son's photograph along with the name and birth date of a different Tanzanian child, Z.M., who was a

823 F.3d 239

United States citizen. Approximately three years later, Z.M's parents applied for a passport for their son only to discover that a passport had already been issued, displaying the photograph of someone else's child. When questioned by federal agents, Batamula denied knowing the boy pictured in the fraudulent passport.

Batamula was indicted on a single count of making a false statement to a United States agent under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. By superseding criminal information, he was charged with making a false statement to a federal agent and an additional count of making a false statement in an application for a United States passport in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1542. Batamula pleaded guilty pursuant to a written plea agreement. During the plea proceeding, Batamula informed the court that he had spoken with his attorney about the charges approximately ten times and that he was “fully satisfied” with his attorney's advice and counsel. Before accepting the plea, the district court judge admonished both Batamula and a second defendant present at the proceedings, stating: “The offenses that you're pleading guilty to are felonies. That means that each of you will likely be deported after you serve your sentence.” The court found Batamula's guilty plea knowing and voluntary, accepted his guilty plea as to both counts, and sentenced him to time served, one year of supervised release, and a $2000 fine.

Batamula then moved to set aside his conviction and sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, claiming that his attorney provided ineffective counsel under Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 130 S.Ct. 1473, 176 L.Ed.2d 284 (2010), by failing to advise him that pleading guilty to both charges could result in his deportation. In support of his § 2255 motion, Batamula averred in a sworn affidavit that if his attorney had advised him of the mandatory deportation consequences of pleading guilty, then he would have refused to “make the plea,” would have pleaded not guilty, and would have insisted on going to trial “as that would have been [his] only alternative to avoid deportation.” Batamula attached an affidavit from his trial counsel, which stated that the attorney did not advise him that pleading guilty to both charges would make him mandatorily deportable. He also submitted an affidavit from his immigration attorney, which explained that his guilty plea rendered him presumptively deportable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii) because his convictions are considered crimes of moral turpitude.

The district court granted the Government's motion for summary judgment and denied Batamula's § 2255 motion without an evidentiary hearing, finding that Batamula had “shown no right to relief.”2 The court reasoned that “even if Batamula's attorney was deficient in failing to inform [him] of the immigration consequences of his guilty plea,” Batamula failed to show the deficiency prejudiced him. The court concluded that Batamula did know about the deportation consequences because “before accepting his guilty plea the court informed him that he would likely be deported after he served his sentence.” This court granted Batamula a COA, and in a per curiam opinion reversed the district court on the narrow question of whether a judicial warning of likely deportation alone forecloses a defendant's claim of prejudice. Thereafter, we granted en banc rehearing.

II.

We review de novo a district court's legal conclusions in denying a motion

823 F.3d 240

under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. United States v. Ghali, 699 F.3d 845, 846 (5th Cir.2012). We review factual findings for clear error. United States v. Cavitt, 550 F.3d 430, 435 (5th Cir.2008). “[W]e may affirm for any reason supported by the record, even if not relied on by the district court.” United States v. Gonzalez, 592 F.3d 675, 681 (5th Cir.2009).

Batamula's claim for relief turns on whether he affirmatively showed that counsel's deficient advice regarding the deportation consequences of his guilty plea resulted in prejudice.3 He alleges that: (1) instead of insisting on trial on the original one-count indictment, he pleaded guilty to the two charges; (2) his “plea made his deportation presumptively mandatory”; (3) his “lawyer did not advise him that [his] guilty plea ... would render his deportation presumptively mandatory”; and (4) had his lawyer “informed him about the immigration consequences of his plea, [he] would have plead[ed] not guilty and insisted on going to trial or sought to eliminate one count” in the plea deal. Batamula's allegations are supported by the affidavits he filed with his petition.

To avoid summary dismissal and obtain a hearing, however, Batamula had to allege a non-frivolous prejudice claim. See Guerra, 588 F.2d at 521. Establishing prejudice under Strickland, requires Batamula to show a reasonable probability that “but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59, 106 S.Ct. 366, 88 L.Ed.2d 203 (1985). In other words, Batamula has to demonstrate that going to trial under the one-count indictment would have given him a reasonable chance of obtaining a more favorable result. The court's prediction about whether the defendant had a reasonable chance of obtaining a more favorable result “should be made objectively, without regard for the ‘idiosyncrasies of the particular decisionmaker.’ ” Id. at 60, 106 S.Ct. 366 (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 695, 104 S.Ct. 2052 ); see also Pilla v. United States, 668 F.3d 368, 373 (6th Cir.2012) (“[Defendant] cannot [show prejudice] merely by telling us now that she would have gone to trial then if she had gotten different advice. The test is objective, not subjective[.]”).

We explained, in United States v. Kayode, that “[i]n assessing prejudice, we consider the totality of the circumstances.” 777 F.3d 719, 725 (5th Cir.2014).4 Unlike the defendant in Kayode, Batamula did “aver that he would have gone to trial had he known of the immigration consequences of his plea.” Id. at 725–26. On the other

823 F.3d 241

hand, Batamula did not attempt to show that he was likely to succeed at trial. Indeed, in response to the Government's argument that his chances at trial were slim, Batamula claimed that questioning the likelihood of success at trial was “beyond the prejudice prong of Strickland. ” And on this point, the record shows that at least two federal agents could testify at trial that Batamula lied to them by claiming not to recognize a picture of his own son. Batamula does not address the risks that he would have faced at trial, while the Government points to evidence that going to trial would have increased the length of his sentence. Batamula did not attempt to show that he had significant connections with the United States, and the record suggests that he does not have the depth of connection that we found favored the defendant in Kayode. Batamula did not move to withdraw his plea, and thus never mentioned that factor in his habeas petition. Most importantly, the district court admonished Batamula and another defendant that they were pleading guilty to felonies, and thus “each of [them] [would] likely be deported after you serve your sentence.” While the district court did not examine Batamula as thoroughly on the deportation...

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62 practice notes
  • Veasey v. Abbott, No. 14-41127
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 20, 2016
    ...frequently employ multi-factor, totality-of-the-circumstances analyses that are highly fact bound. See, e.g. , United States v. Batamula , 823 F.3d 237, 240–42 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc) (analyzing the totality of the circumstances to determine whether a defendant was prejudiced by a lack of......
  • Bayona-Montes v. United States, EP-18-CV-53-PRM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • March 26, 2019
    ...a more favorable result," such as an acquittal or an aggregate sentence less than that imposed by the Court. United States v. Batamula, 823 F.3d 237, 240 (5th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 236 (2016); see also Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 146-47 (2012) (stating that, to establish ......
  • State v. Nunez-Diaz, No. CR-18-0514-PR
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • July 16, 2019
    ...State relies on to support its argument were decided before Lee and their reasoning does not survive. Compare United States v. Batamula , 823 F.3d 237, 243 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc) (stating that, because defendant was already removable, he had not offered a rational reason 444 P.3d 255 for......
  • Summons v. United States, CAUSE NO. A-18-CV-795-SS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • February 21, 2019
    ...by showing he would have had a reasonable chance of obtaining an acquittal or a lesser sentence at trial. United States v. Batamula, 823 F.3d 237, 240 (5th Cir. 2016). Summons must affirmatively plead the actual prejudice resulting from his counsel's deficiencies. Hill, 474 U.S. at 60. The ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
60 cases
  • Veasey v. Abbott, No. 14-41127
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 20, 2016
    ...frequently employ multi-factor, totality-of-the-circumstances analyses that are highly fact bound. See, e.g. , United States v. Batamula , 823 F.3d 237, 240–42 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc) (analyzing the totality of the circumstances to determine whether a defendant was prejudiced by a lack of......
  • Bayona-Montes v. United States, EP-18-CV-53-PRM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • March 26, 2019
    ...a more favorable result," such as an acquittal or an aggregate sentence less than that imposed by the Court. United States v. Batamula, 823 F.3d 237, 240 (5th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 236 (2016); see also Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 146-47 (2012) (stating that, to establish ......
  • State v. Nunez-Diaz, No. CR-18-0514-PR
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • July 16, 2019
    ...State relies on to support its argument were decided before Lee and their reasoning does not survive. Compare United States v. Batamula , 823 F.3d 237, 243 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc) (stating that, because defendant was already removable, he had not offered a rational reason 444 P.3d 255 for......
  • Summons v. United States, CAUSE NO. A-18-CV-795-SS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • February 21, 2019
    ...by showing he would have had a reasonable chance of obtaining an acquittal or a lesser sentence at trial. United States v. Batamula, 823 F.3d 237, 240 (5th Cir. 2016). Summons must affirmatively plead the actual prejudice resulting from his counsel's deficiencies. Hill, 474 U.S. at 60. The ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Restructuring Public Defense After Padilla.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 74 Nbr. 1, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...immigrant, "appellant had no legitimate expectation that he would be allowed to remain in this country"); United States v. Batamula, 823 F.3d 237, 243 (5th Cir. 2016) (en banc) ("The record conclusively established that he was deportable before his guilty plea, and he remained so afterward.......

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