D.N.M.: Def’s IAC claim was frivolous

Defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim, including his Fourth Amendment claim, raised at sentencing was essentially frivolous. Defense counsel negotiated a time served disposition that defendants rejected. The minimum punishment after the guilty verdict was life. The Fourth Amendment claims were extensively litigated and lost. United States v. Wahhaj, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59915 (D.N.M. Apr. 1, 2024)*:

At sentencing, when Defendants made their statements, they trashed their defense lawyers asserting that they were ineffective and even complained that their lawyers tried to pressure them into accepting the United States’ time-served plea offers. On a personal note, while the undersigned has over 29 years of judicial experience presiding over felony criminal cases in the federal and state courts, the undersigned never served as a criminal defense lawyer representing defendants charged with felony level crimes. Consequently, the undersigned never suffered the indignity of a criminal defendant trashing the quality of a criminal defense lawyer’s services and representation at a sentencing hearing. While the Court agrees with the United States that the time-served plea offers extended to Defendants were not relevant at sentencing, two conclusions can be drawn from those time served plea offers. First, counsel for Defendants were extraordinarily effective in negotiating such favorable plea offers for their respective clients. Second, in a felony criminal case where the Government can easily meet its burden of proof, any experienced criminal defense lawyer would strenuously attempt to convince a client to take a time-served plea offer instead of proceeding to trial—whereupon conviction, the statutorily required sentence of life in prison must be imposed. Furthermore, the extraordinarily effective assistance provided by counsel for Defendants in this case did not end with plea negotiations. Defense counsel aggressively and zealously represented their clients and were successful in obtaining not guilty verdicts on the two counts charging Defendants with providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists (Docs. 1011 & 1014). The jury’s guilty verdicts on the two kidnapping Counts, based on overwhelming evidence of guilt, does not diminish the extraordinary legal representation provided to Defendants by their defense counsel. Simply stated, in terms of representing these Defendants, defense counsel left it all on the field.

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