Covington v. United States, No. 12-2561 (8th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Defendant pleaded guilty for charges related to his involvement, as the Superintendent of the Street Department, in a scheme to defraud the city. Defendant later petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2255, arguing that his counsel was ineffective for failing to assert during plea negotiations and at sentencing that U.S.S.G. 2C1.1, instead of U.S.S.G. 2B1.1, did not apply to his 18 U.S.C. 1341 convictions for mail fraud. Assuming that counsel was deficient during plea negotiation by agreeing to the application of an improper Guidelines section, defendant failed to show that this deficiency prejudiced him; assuming that defendant's counsel was deficient at sentencing, defendant failed to show prejudice where an objection by counsel to the application of section 2C1.1 would have breached the plea agreement; and breach of the plea agreement by defendant would have released the government from its obligations under the plea agreement and would have allowed the government to proceed in any manner it desired with respect to defendant's charges. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.
Court Description: Prisoner case - habeas. Assuming that counsel was deficient during plea negotiations by agreeing to application of Guidelines Sec. 2C1.1 instead of Sec. 2B1.1, Covington failed to show this deficiency prejudiced him; further, counsel could not argue the issue at sentencing without breaching the plea agreement and exposing defendant to possible prejudice; as a result, Covington could not demonstrate that he was prejudiced by counsel's failure to object to application of the section at sentencing.