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A woman serving 20 years in federal prison for her role in a Roane County methamphetamine conspiracy is trying to fight her sentence.
Kristi Miller filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence.
“It does not plainly appear from the face of the motion that it should be summarily dismissed,” Chief U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Collier wrote.
Collier ordered the U.S. Attorney’s Office to file a response to Miller’s motion, which it did on Dec. 3.
Miller was one of 21 people indicted in the methamphetamine conspiracy by a federal grand jury in 2010. The 264-count indictment was the result of a multi-agency investigation into meth-making in Roane County.
According to the response filed by Assistant United States Attorney Jay Woods, Miller joined the conspiracy and agreed to manufacture meth, a process she learned from one of her co-conspirators.
During the investigation, agents learned that Eugene Trent was supplying meth cooks with iodine from his Carriage Hill Feed Store in Lenoir City. Iodine was one of the ingredients the cooks used to make meth.
“Initially, petitioner (Miller) obtained large quantities of iodine from Carriage Hill Feed Store, as well as other precursor chemicals from other sources,” Woods wrote. “Eventually, petitioner recruited others to obtain precursor chemicals that she used to manufacture methamphetamine. Petitioner also assisted other co-conspirators in manufacturing methamphetamine and traded chemicals with other co-conspirators.”
Miller was sentenced in May 2011. Out of all the people involved in the conspiracy, she received the most time at 20 years.
In the motion, which was mailed to the U.S. District Court in Chattanooga from a federal prison in Tallahassee, Fla., Miller listed four grounds on why the sentence should be tossed out:
* Ineffective assistance of counsel
* Was defendant’s criminal history incorrectly applied to calculation of plea?
* Judicial misconduct on behalf of defendant’s attorney
* Reasonableness of sentence
Attorney Steven Moore represented Miller. She accuses him of about a dozen missteps, including failure “to properly advise of calculated guidelines based on completed PSR (presentence investigation report) prior to plea negotiations.”
Miller also accuses Moore of misleading her, coercion and claiming his “own ineffectiveness after sentencing.”
Woods disputes Miller’s claims.
“The record shows that petitioner received a substantial benefit from the plea agreement negotiated on her behalf by counsel, in that 14 counts against her were dismissed,” Woods wrote. “That fact alone also undermines petitioner’s claims that counsel provided ‘improper advice’ regarding her plea.”
Regarding Miller’s claims about the presentence investigation report, Woods said she ignored the fact that the report was not prepared until after she pleaded guilty.
“A ‘completed PSR’ is never available for a defendant to consult when contemplating a guilty plea, and counsel cannot be deemed ineffective for failing to obtain something that did not exist,” Woods wrote.
Miller was convicted of promoting manufacture of methamphetamine in Blount County in 2008. Woods said that caused her sentence in the federal case to be enhanced to 20 years due to statutory mandatory minimum guidelines.
“Despite petitioner’s attempt to characterize her prior conviction as irrelevant, she was plainly convicted of a prior drug felony, and the statutory enhancement was thus rightly applied,” Woods wrote.
Woods also points out that Miller was questioned by a judge at her plea hearing.
“Petitioner denied having been coerced or otherwise forced to plead guilty,” Woods wrote. “The magistrate judge thus found that her plea was ‘made voluntarily and free from any force, threats, or promises, apart from the promises in the plea agreement.’”
Judge Collier has yet to issue a ruling on Miller’s motion.