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7th Circuit rejects ineffective trial assistance claim

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the denial of a defendant’s motion to vacate his guilty plea, claiming ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The judges found the record foreclosed any claim that the man’s attorney was constitutionally ineffective or that the man didn’t otherwise knowingly and voluntarily plead guilty.

Police received a tip that Andrew Koons had a stolen vehicle. Police went to his home, where the stolen car was parked, but Koons wasn’t home. A neighbor told police that Koons had participated in a firearms transaction with him. Police then went to Koons’ workplace, where Koons voluntarily offered to go home with the officers and retrieve the guns. He allowed the officers into his home to do so.

Koons was charged with being a felon in possession and at no point during his change-of-plea hearing or during his sentencing hearing did Koons dispute the evidence or testimony presented. After he was sentenced, Koons filed a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 2255 to vacate his conviction and sentencing, claiming his trial counsel was constitutionally deficient because he failed to investigate the potential Fourth Amendment claim Koons first brought up in this petition.

It wasn’t until his petition to vacate his conviction that Koons alleged the police told him at his workplace that they had a warrant to search his home and he had to return home and let them in. Koons also argued that the officer brandished a weapon when Koons expressed unwillingness.

The District Court denied the motion, and the 7th Circuit affirmed in Andrew C. Koons v. United States of America, No. 09-3025. They found no evidence that his attorney’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, as defined in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686 (1984).

Except for his petition, the evidence unequivocally supports the government’s version of the events that Koons voluntarily consented to the search and had no viable Fourth Amendment claim. Koons never informed the court that the officer allegedly showed a weapon to coerce him into returning home, or claimed to have a warrant, wrote Judge Joel Flaum.

In fact, Koons’ petition is the first time on record that he raises those claims. He never informed his attorney of the facts giving rise to the alleged Fourth Amendment violation. The judges found the trial counsel’s investigation, which included meeting with Koons 17 times and interviewing witnesses that the government intended to call, was adequate.

The judges also affirmed the District Court’s denial of Koons’ motion for an evidentiary hearing.

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