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US v. Washington, No. 08-3313

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By FindLaw Staff on October 01, 2010 11:03 AM

In US v. Washington, No. 08-3313, a cocaine base distribution prosecution, the court reversed the denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. section 2255 motion to vacate, correct, or set aside his sentence, holding that 1) counsel's failure to understand the basic mechanics of the sentencing guidelines and, in particular, his failure to advise petitioner regarding the impact of relevant conduct on his potential sentence prior to meeting with the probation officer, amounted to constitutionally deficient performance under Strickland; and 2) petitioner was prejudiced as a result of the above failures because the facts he conceded at his presentence interview disqualified him from obtaining a two-level reduction pursuant to the 2007 Crack Cocaine Amendments.

As the court wrote:  "Petitioner Patrick E. Washington requests reversal of the district court's
denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion to vacate, correct, or set aside his sentence, claiming the district court erred in not holding his counsel's performance constitutionally deficient. We conclude that counsel's failure to understand the basic mechanics of the sentencing guidelines and, in particular, his failure to advise Mr. Washington regarding the impact of relevant conduct on his potential sentence prior to meeting with the probation officer, amounted to constitutionally deficient performance under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). We also conclude that Mr. Washington was prejudiced as a result of the above failures because the facts he conceded at his presentence interview disqualified him from obtaining a two-level reduction pursuant to the 2007 Crack Cocaine Amendments, U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c), App. C, Amend. 706, 711 (2007) (Amendment 706). We therefore reverse."

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