United States v. Saad, Cr. No. 16-035-JJM-PAS

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
Writing for the CourtJOHN J. McCONNELL, JR., Chief United States District Judge
Citation512 F.Supp.3d 297
Parties UNITED STATES v. Daniel SAAD, Defendant.
Docket NumberCr. No. 16-035-JJM-PAS
Decision Date12 January 2021

512 F.Supp.3d 297

UNITED STATES
v.
Daniel SAAD, Defendant.

Cr. No. 16-035-JJM-PAS

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island.

Signed January 12, 2021


512 F.Supp.3d 303

William J. Ferland, Lauren Sandler Zurier, United States Attorney Office, Providence, RI, for United States.

William C. Dimitri, William C. Dimitri & Associates, Providence, RI, for Defendant.

Daniel E. Saad, Danbury, CT, pro se.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN J. McCONNELL, JR., Chief United States District Judge

Daniel Saad has petitioned this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his judgment of conviction, entered after he was found guilty of two counts of wire fraud, one count of use of fire to commit wire fraud, and one count of arson of a building. He now claims that the Court should vacate his conviction because he is actually innocent of three of the charges, he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and law enforcement engaged in misconduct. The Court has determined that no hearing is necessary. The Court finds that Mr. Saad's Motion to Vacate (ECF No. 92) lacks merit and thus DENIES his petition.

FACTS

A federal grand jury sitting in the District of Rhode Island indicted Mr. Saad on two counts of wire fraud (Counts 1-2), one count of using fire to commit wire fraud (Count 3), and one count of arson of a building involving interstate commerce (Count 4). Mr. Saad was arrested and arraigned two days later. The charges, and Mr. Saad's arrest, stemmed from a fire at Snow's Clam Box, a restaurant Mr. Saad owned in Glocester, RI, on November 30, 2014.

Subsequently, a jury convicted Mr. Saad on all four charges. The Court sentenced him to three sixty–month terms of imprisonment for Counts 1, 2, and 4, to run concurrently, a consecutive 120–month term of imprisonment on Count 3, and one year of supervised release as to each Count, to run concurrently. Mr. Saad appealed the judgment, which the First Circuit affirmed. He did not seek further review.

Mr. Saad timely filed this Motion to Vacate.

LAW

A. Section 2255

Section 2255 provides for post-conviction relief only if the court sentenced a petitioner in violation of the Constitution or lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence, if the sentence exceeded the statutory maximum, or if the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. United States v. Addonizio , 442 U.S. 178, 185, 99 S.Ct. 2235, 60 L.Ed.2d 805 (1979) ; David v. United States , 134 F.3d 470, 474 (1st Cir. 1998). In trying to collaterally attack his sentence, the petitioner bears the burden of proving "exceptional circumstances" that warrant redress under § 2255. See Hill v. United States , 368 U.S. 424, 428, 82 S.Ct. 468, 7 L.Ed.2d 417 (1962) ; Mack v. United States , 635 F.2d 20, 26-27 (1st Cir. 1980). For example, an error of law must constitute a "fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice." Hill v. United States , 368 U.S. at 428, 82 S.Ct. 468 ; accord David , 134 F.3d at 474.

512 F.Supp.3d 304

B. Procedural Default

"Where a defendant has procedurally defaulted a claim by failing to raise it on direct review, the claim may be raised in habeas only if the defendant can first demonstrate either ‘cause’ and actual ‘prejudice,’ or that he is ‘actually innocent’ of the crimes for which he was convicted." Bousley v. United States , 523 U.S. 614, 622, 118 S.Ct. 1604, 140 L.Ed.2d 828 (1998) (internal citations omitted); see also Coleman v. Thompson , 501 U.S. 722, 750, 111 S.Ct. 2546, 115 L.Ed.2d 640 (1991) ; Murray v. Carrier , 477 U.S. 478, 496, 106 S.Ct. 2639, 91 L.Ed.2d 397 (1986). "Cause" consists of "some objective factor external to the defense[.]" Carrier , 477 U.S. at 488, 106 S.Ct. 2639 ; see also Coleman , 501 U.S. at 753, 111 S.Ct. 2546 (noting that, in Carrier , "[w]e explained clearly that ‘cause’ under the cause and prejudice test must be something external to the petitioner, something that cannot fairly be attributed to him"). To demonstrate prejudice, the "habeas petitioner must show ‘not merely that the errors at ... trial created a possibility of prejudice, but that they worked to his actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with error of constitutional dimensions.’ " Carrier , 477 U.S. at 494, 106 S.Ct. 2639 (quoting United States v. Frady , 456 U.S. 152, 170, 102 S.Ct. 1584, 71 L.Ed.2d 816 (1982) ) (alteration in original); see also Derman v. United States , 298 F.3d 34, 45 (1st Cir. 2002) ("The showing of prejudice needed to cure a procedural default generally requires a habeas petitioner to demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that the result of the trial would have been different absent the error. The question is not whether the petitioner, qua defendant, would more likely have received a different verdict had the error not occurred, but whether he received a fair trial, understood as a trial worthy of confidence, notwithstanding the bevue.") (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The defendant must show both cause and prejudice. Carrier , 477 U.S. at 494, 106 S.Ct. 2639 ; Derman , 298 F.3d at 45 (noting that petitioner bears burden of demonstrating both cause and prejudice).

The "actual innocence" standard established by the Supreme Court in Carrier "requires the habeas petitioner to show that a constitutional violation has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent." Schlup v. Delo , 513 U.S. 298, 327, 115 S.Ct. 851, 130 L.Ed.2d 808 (1995). To establish the requisite probability, "a petitioner must show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have found petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. at 327, 115 S.Ct. 851. A credible claim of actual innocence "requires petitioner to support his allegations of constitutional error with new reliable evidence—whether it be exculpatory scientific evidence, trustworthy eyewitness accounts, or critical physical evidence—that was not presented at trial"). Id. at 324, 115 S.Ct. 851. The standard is "demanding and permits review only in the ‘extraordinary’ case." House v. Bell , 547 U.S. 518, 538, 126 S.Ct. 2064, 165 L.Ed.2d 1 (2006) (quoting Schlup , 513 U.S. at 327, 115 S.Ct. 851 ). " ‘[A]ctual innocence’ means factual innocence, not mere legal insufficiency." Bousley , 523 U.S. at 623, 118 S.Ct. 1604 (citing Sawyer v. Whitley , 505 U.S. 333, 339, 112 S.Ct. 2514, 120 L.Ed.2d 269 (1992) ). "In cases where the Government has forgone more serious charges in the course of plea bargaining, petitioner's showing of actual innocence must also extend to those charges." Id. at 624, 118 S.Ct. 1604.

C. Strickland

The Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants the right to effective assistance

512 F.Supp.3d 305

of counsel. Lema v. United States , 987 F.2d 48, 51 (1st Cir. 1993) (citing Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984) ). That said, "[t]he Constitution does not guarantee a defendant a letter-perfect defense or a successful defense; rather, the performance standard is that of reasonably effective assistance under the circumstances then obtaining." United States v. Natanel , 938 F.2d 302, 309-10 (1st Cir. 1991).

A defendant who claims that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel must prove:

(1) that his counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and

(2) a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.

Strickland , 466 U.S. at 687-88, 104 S.Ct. 2052 ; United States v. Manon , 608 F.3d 126, 131 (1st Cir. 2010). In assessing the adequacy of counsel's performance, a defendant " ‘must identify the acts or omissions of counsel that are alleged not to have been the result of reasonable professional judgment,’ and the court then determines whether, in the particular context, the identified conduct or inaction was ‘outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance.’ " Manon , 608 F.3d at 131 (quoting Strickland , 466 U.S. at 690, 104 S.Ct. 2052 ). As for the second prong, or the prejudice requirement under Strickland , a "reasonable probability is one sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome. In making the prejudice assessment, [the court] focus[es] on the fundamental fairness of the proceeding." Id. (internal citation omitted). Unless the petitioner makes both showings, the court cannot say that the conviction resulted from a "breakdown in the adversary process that renders the result unreliable." Strickland , 466 U.S. at 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052 ; see also Reyes-Vejerano v. United States , 117 F. Supp. 2d 103, 106 (D. P.R. 2000) ("The petitioner has the burden of proving both prongs of this test, and the burden is a heavy one."). In sum, "[t]he benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result." Strickland , 466 U.S. at 686, 104 S.Ct. 2052.

Strickland instructs, "[j]udcicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential." Id....

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2 practice notes
  • Frese v. MacDonald, Civil No. 18-cv-1180-JL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • January 12, 2021
    ...did not pass muster under Rule 12(b) based on the arguments and case authority it had presented in its first motion to dismiss. See 512 F.Supp.3d 297 Frese, 425 F. Supp. 3d at 82.49 At that time, the State focused on the criminal defamation statute's scienter requirement rather than the sta......
  • Rogers v. Lilley, 19-CV-0166 (EK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 28, 2022
    ...likely to fail (and perhaps likely to call additional attention to a strong argument for the other side). See United States v. Saad, 512 F.Supp.3d 297, 310 (D.R.I. 2021) (finding no Strickland violation in attorney's “strategic choice” not to object to prosecutor's reference to his client a......
2 cases
  • Frese v. MacDonald, Civil No. 18-cv-1180-JL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • January 12, 2021
    ...did not pass muster under Rule 12(b) based on the arguments and case authority it had presented in its first motion to dismiss. See 512 F.Supp.3d 297 Frese, 425 F. Supp. 3d at 82.49 At that time, the State focused on the criminal defamation statute's scienter requirement rather than the sta......
  • Rogers v. Lilley, 19-CV-0166 (EK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 28, 2022
    ...likely to fail (and perhaps likely to call additional attention to a strong argument for the other side). See United States v. Saad, 512 F.Supp.3d 297, 310 (D.R.I. 2021) (finding no Strickland violation in attorney's “strategic choice” not to object to prosecutor's reference to his client a......

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