In 2011, a grand jury sitting in the Middle District of Florida returned a thirty-eight-count indictment, charging Copeland with eleven counts of mail fraud violating 18 U.S.C. § 1341, (Counts One through Eleven), sixteen counts of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (Counts Twelve through Twenty-Seven), nine counts of aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A (Counts Twenty-Eight through Thirty-Six), and two counts of making false claims against the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287 (Counts Thirty-Seven and Thirty-Eight). Read Mr. Copeland’s Petition: Copeland Brief.
Copeland entered into a written plea agreement with the Government. Id. Per the plea agreement, Copeland would plead guilty to Counts Twenty-Seven, Thirty-Six, and Thirty-Seven of the indictment. Id. at 3a. Subsequently, the Government would dismiss the remaining counts in the indictment. Id. Importantly, the Government stated that Copeland should receive a downward departure and a reduced sentence under U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1 for acceptance of responsibility. Id. Given this notion, Copeland believed it was in his best interest to agree to enter a guilty plea. Id.
On June 18, 2012, Copeland was sentenced to a total of 264 months imprisonment. App. 3a. Importantly, the PSI findings, which were ultimately adopted by the trial the judge, included two pre-indictment incidents. Carlos Dawson was a witness for the Petitioner at sentencing, however, he was prevented from offering mitigating evidence on behalf of the Petitioner. App. 36c. Both of these led to the PSI, including a U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1 enhancement for obstruction of justice. Id. Moreover, the PSI did not include the U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1 adjustment as promised by the Government. Id. The PSI stated that this § 3E1.1 adjustment was not initially included because Copeland did not truthfully admit all of his conduct nor did he voluntarily assist authorities in the investigation of the crimes charged. Id. at 37c.
Soon thereafter, Copeland appealed the sentence to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stating that the Government breached the terms of the plea agreement by failing to recommend a three-level guideline reduction under U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1. Id. United States v. Copeland, 520 F. App’x. 822, 823 (11th Cir. 2013). The Eleventh Circuit agreed and remanded the case for resentencing before a different judge. App. 3a; United States v. Copeland, 520 F. App’x. at 828.
Remand and Resentencing
Prior to the resentencing hearing, the Probation office revised the Presentence Investigation Report. App. 3a. Once again, the § 3C1.1 adjustment due to pre-indictment incidents. App. 4a. However, the promised § 3E1.1 downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility was applied, which resulted in a 235-293 sentencing range. Id. Ultimately, the court varied down to a total term of imprisonment of 204 months. Id. Copeland appealed his sentence once more to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the court erred by applying the 3C1.1 enhance for obstruction of justice stemming from pre-indictment incidents. App. 5a.
On March 19, 2015, the Court of Appeals dismissed Copeland’s appeal stating that:
Because Copeland did not challenge the district court’s initial decision to apply the enhancement when the opportunity existed in his first appeal, that decision is law of the case, and Copeland is deemed to have waived his right to challenge the enhancement on resentencing and in this appeal (Cites omitted).
Copeland’s Habeas Corpus Petition under § 2255.
On June 7, 2016, Copeland, pro se, filed a petition for habeas corpus relief under § 2255. App 35c. Specifically, Copeland argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment. App 38c. First, Copeland argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel promised an unrealistic sentence in order to induce a guilty plea that he would have otherwise not entered. Id. As a result, Copeland argued that he entered a plea unknowingly, involuntarily, and unintelligently. App. 42c. Specifically, Copeland informed the court that his previous counsel advised him that the maximum sentence he could receive under the plea agreement was 84 months imprisonment. App. 44c. However, according to his trial counsel, it was more likely that Copeland was going to receive closer to 60 months imprisonment given prior cases. Id. Importantly, Copeland testified to these facts in his sworn affidavit. App. 33-34c.
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