Submitted: October 21, 2016
from United States District Court for the District of South
Dakota - Sioux Falls
RILEY, Chief Judge, WOLLMAN and BENTON, Circuit Judges.
Guzman-Ortiz was convicted of conspiring to distribute 500
grams or more of a mixture or substance containing
methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1) and 846. This court affirmed his conviction and
sentence along with those of a co-defendant on direct appeal.
See United States v. Chantharath, 705 F.3d 295, 298
(8th Cir. 2013). Guzman-Ortiz then moved to vacate, set
aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2255(a). The district courtdenied his request for
post-conviction relief without granting an evidentiary
hearing. Guzman-Ortiz appeals, arguing (1) he was
unconstitutionally deprived of effective assistance of
counsel, and (2) at a minimum, the district court should have
held an evidentiary hearing. We disagree and affirm.
his March 2010 arrest, Guzman-Ortiz and nine co-defendants
were charged with knowingly and intentionally conspiring to
distribute a controlled substance. Guzman-Ortiz and
a co-defendant, Viengxay Chantharath, were tried jointly.
See Chantharath, 705 F.3d at 298.
trial, the government sought to prove the defendants were
members of the same conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
See id. at 298-300. In opening remarks, the
government explained the jury would not hear "that these
two defendants knew each other" because this "was
not a small conspiracy involving just two people, but instead
was a much larger conspiracy involving a variety of people,
not all of whom knew each other, a conspiracy that was forced
to evolve as members of that conspiracy were arrested."
Evidence demonstrated Chantharath, who was distributing
methamphetamine in Worthington, Minnesota, and Sioux Falls,
South Dakota, became acquainted with co-defendant Aurelio
Solorio in 2009 and began dealing to Solorio. See
id. at 298. Later, Solorio started obtaining
methamphetamine directly from Chantharath's supplier,
Mario Maldonado. See id. In summer 2009, law
enforcement began surveillance of a motel in Sioux Falls
where Chantharath had allegedly been selling methamphetamine.
See id. at 298-99. Chantharath was eventually
arrested in connection with that surveillance, but was
released in November 2009. Id. at 299. After his
release, Solorio helped Chantharath get back in business by
giving Chantharath methamphetamine to sell. Id.
Chantharath was arrested one month later when law enforcement
raided a motel room in Sioux Falls and Chantharath arrived at
the room with 12.1 grams of methamphetamine on him.
on the other hand, was distributing methamphetamine in St.
Cloud, Minnesota, and out of a "stash house" in
Monticello, Minnesota. Id. In January 2010,
Guzman-Ortiz met Solorio when Guzman-Ortiz happened to enter
a bathroom in a Minneapolis nightclub and came upon Solorio
using methamphetamine. Id. Guzman-Ortiz offered to
get Solorio methamphetamine, and Solorio accepted.
Id. Guzman-Ortiz and Solorio met again on three
separate occasions. See id. at 299-300. On their
final meeting, Guzman-Ortiz was following Solorio in a
separate vehicle out of Sioux Falls on their way to
Worthington when Guzman-Ortiz was pulled over. Id.
at 300. Law enforcement recovered from Guzman-Ortiz's
vehicle $29, 000 in cash and a scale with white, powdery
residue, and Guzman-Ortiz was arrested. Id. Later,
law enforcement executed search warrants in
Guzman-Ortiz's apartment and stash house and recovered a
9-millimeter pistol, a modified AK-47 rifle, an SKS rifle,
and a 9-millimeter rifle. Id.
jury found both defendants guilty of entering the charged
conspiracy. The district court sentenced Guzman-Ortiz to 262
months imprisonment-later reduced to 210
months. See U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c)(3).
On direct appeal, we affirmed the sufficiency of the evidence
supporting Guzman-Ortiz's conviction, the application of
a sentencing enhancement, and the substantive reasonableness
of his sentence. See Chantharath, 705 F.3d at
April 2014, asserting he was denied effective assistance of
counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment right under the
United States Constitution, Guzman-Ortiz filed a pro se
motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Guzman-Ortiz contended
his counsel's performance was unconstitutionally
deficient because his counsel failed to (1) cross-examine
Solorio competently, "the supposed linchpin between
Guzman-Ortiz and Chantharath, regarding the charge that
Guzman-Ortiz and Chantharath were part of the same
conspiracy"; (2) present a competent closing argument to
the jury; and (3) challenge the drug quantities attributed to
him at his sentencing hearing. As a result, Guzman-Ortiz claimed
the jury was left "with the incorrect but uncontested
impression that Guzman-Ortiz, as charged, was part of a
single and far larger drug trafficking conspiracy than was
actually the case, " and the district court sentenced
Guzman-Ortiz at a higher base offense level due to incorrect
drug quantity calculations.
counsel submitted a sworn affidavit denying
Guzman-Ortiz's claims. The government denied the
allegations set forth in the petition and moved to dismiss.
The petition was referred to a magistrate judge, who issued a
comprehensive report and recommendation proposing that the
district court deny the § 2255 motion without an
evidentiary hearing. Adopting the magistrate judge's
report and recommendation, the district court decided no
evidentiary hearing was necessary and denied
Guzman-Ortiz's claim to relief. Guzman-Ortiz subsequently
moved for a certificate of appealability, see id.
§ 2253(c)(2); Fed. R. App. P. 22(b)(1), which the
district court granted. Guzman-Ortiz appeals. See 28
U.S.C. §§ 1291, 2253(a) (appellate jurisdiction
over a final order in a § 2255 proceeding).
addressing post-conviction ineffective assistance claims
brought under § 2255, we review the ineffective
assistance issue de novo and the underlying findings of fact
for clear error." United States v. Regenos, 405
F.3d 691, 692-93 (8th Cir. 2005). A district court's
denial of an evidentiary ...