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Majors v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

December 27, 2016

HERMAN MAJORS, Movant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM

          ALETA A. TRAUGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Movant Herman Majors, a prisoner in federal custody, brings this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to set aside, vacate and correct an allegedly illegal sentence and Judgment imposed by the Honorable Senior Judge John T. Nixon of this court. See United States v. Patterson et al., No. 3:09-cr-00047 (M.D. Tenn. June 25, 2011) (Judgment, Doc. No. 300). (References to the criminal case record will hereafter be designated as “Crim. Doc. No. .”) For the reasons set forth herein, the court finds that an evidentiary hearing is not required and that the movant is not entitled to relief.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In February 2009, Majors and others were charged in an Indictment filed in this court with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). (Crim. Doc. No. 9.) A Superseding Indictment was issued in September 2011, adding four additional counts against other defendants but not changing the substance of the charge against Majors. (Crim. Doc. No. 192.)

         Majors was represented by appointed counsel, Jordon D. Mathies, throughout the pretrial and trial proceedings and on appeal.[1] The two-week jury trial on Count One of the Superseding Indictment proceeded against Majors and one of his co-conspirators in February 2012. Judge Nixon presided at the trial.

         The jury returned a guilty verdict, and the court later sentenced Majors to 360 months of incarceration-the bottom of the Sentencing Guidelines range. The conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct review. United States v. Patterson, 587 F.App'x 878 (6th Cir. 2014), cert. denied, Majors v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 1273 (March 30, 2015).

         Majors filed his original Motion to Vacate in this court on July 20, 2015. (Doc. No. 1.) The matter was originally assigned to Judge Nixon, who appointed counsel. Appointed counsel filed an Amended Motion to Vacate on January 8, 2016. Thereafter, Judge Nixon recused himself, and the matter was reassigned to the undersigned.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Sixth Circuit summarized the procedural history and the evidence presented at trial, in relevant part, as follows:

Between 2004 and 2006, defendants [Adrian] Patterson and Majors participated in a drug trafficking conspiracy involving the possession and distribution of more than 150 kilograms of cocaine. Patterson purchased cocaine from dealers in Los Angeles, and arranged for it to be transported to Tennessee. Majors and other individuals traveled to and from Los Angeles with cash and drugs hidden in vehicles.
The conspiracy came to light over a period of years. In late 2004, while driving to Los Angeles, Majors and Cleo Patterson (a relative of Adrian Patterson's) were stopped for a traffic violation, and a search revealed 26 kilograms of cocaine in a hidden compartment of the vehicle. Both men were arrested. [The Oklahoma Indictment against Majors was dismissed without prejudice, but Cleo Patterson was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 360 months.] ¶ 2006, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles and Nashville began collaborating on an investigation of a multi-kilogram cocaine transaction that was to take place in Tennessee. The Los Angeles agents had learned from a wiretap that a cocaine supplier would be traveling from Los Angeles to meet a buyer in Clarksville, Tennessee. The Nashville agents identified Adrian Patterson as buyer. With the participation of officers from the Clarksville Police Department, the agents established surveillance of the expected meeting site, which was located at 2211 Ladd Drive.
Soon thereafter, Tim Anderson of the Clarksville Police Department sought and obtained a warrant to search for evidence of drug trafficking at Ladd Drive. The warrant was executed the same day, and Adrian Patterson was among those present during the search. Officers seized over $300, 000 in cash, along with approximately one kilogram of cocaine. Also seized was a Ford F-150 that had been used to transport Herman Majors and Cleo Patterson from Los Angeles to Tennessee in 2004.
Two months later, agents executed a search warrant in Clarksville at Patterson's alleged residence, 1869 West Court. Patterson was the only person in the home when the warrant was executed. Among the items seized was a Ford Expedition used to transport drug proceeds.
In 2009, the federal government charged Patterson and Majors with conspiracy. The government subsequently filed a five-count superseding indictment that included the conspiracy count (Count 1), along with four additional charges against Patterson for other crimes (Counts 2-5). To avoid prejudice at trial, the district court severed Count 1 from Counts 2-5.
. . . .
In their proposed instructions to the jury, both Majors and Patterson asked the court to incorporate a statement that a defendant's “mere presence” could not support a finding of guilt on the conspiracy charge. The district court denied the request, but ultimately instructed the jury that “proof that a Defendant simply knew about a conspiracy, or was present at times . . . is not enough, even if he approved of what was happening or did not object to it.”

Patterson, 587 F.App'x at 880-81.

         III. THE MOTION AND AMENDED MOTION

         In his original pro se motion (Doc. No. 1), Majors asserts seven grounds for relief, which the court construes as follows:

         Ground 1: The government violated Rules 3 and 4(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure by failing to present an affidavit of complaint to the federal grand jury or a magistrate judge, and it was stipulated by the Assistant United States Attorney that Majors was not present at the “crime scene, ” 2211 Ladd Drive in Clarksville, Tennessee, when law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at that address.

         Ground 2: The DEA Case Agent failed to tell the grand jury that the 2002 Mitsubishi Montero owned by Majors did not have a hidden compartment built into it.

         Ground 3: Majors was never found to be present at 1869 West Court in Clarksville, Tennessee, the other “crime scene” identified in this case.

         Ground 4: Government witness and co-conspirator Cleo Patterson lied on the stand during trial and to law enforcement officers regarding the ownership of the vehicle he and Majors were driving when they were stopped in Oklahoma for speeding in 2004 and officers discovered 26 kilograms of cocaine in a hidden compartment.

         Ground 5: The Assistant United States Attorney committed prosecutorial misconduct by bringing into evidence the previously dismissed Oklahoma Indictment against Majors.

         Ground 6: Majors' sentence is unduly harsh and excessive.

         Ground 7: The United States lacked probable cause to charge and arrest Majors for conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.

         The Amended Motion filed by counsel expressly adopts and incorporates the seven grounds for relief set forth in the pro se Motion. The Amended Motion also asserts fourteen additional grounds for relief, all premised upon the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal, as follows:

         Ground 8: Trial counsel failed to understand that a defendant may be convicted at trial in federal court based upon uncorroborated testimony of an alleged accomplice, as a consequence of which he provided Majors with faulty advice concerning his options for resolving this case and offered no viable defense at trial.

         Ground 9: Counsel failed to maintain reasonable contact with his client, thereby denying Majors adequate legal consultation regarding his case during both the trial and the appeal.

         Ground 10: Counsel failed to request a legally sufficient jury instruction regarding the defense of “mere presence.” Ground 11: Counsel failed to request a jury instruction describing the Defense Theory.

         Ground 12: Counsel failed to present a coherent closing argument.

         Ground 13: Counsel failed to present factually supportable objections during sentencing proceedings regarding the calculation of the quantity of cocaine attributable to Majors; consequently, Majors' sentence was based on the quantity of 150 kilograms or more of cocaine instead of on “at least 50 but less than 150 kilograms, ” or “at least 15 but less than 50 kilograms.”

         Ground 14: Counsel failed to present a legally cognizable argument for a mitigating role reduction in sentencing.

         Ground 15: Counsel did not fully understand the Sentencing Guidelines applicable to a mitigating role reduction under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2, as a result of which he erroneously argued for a role reduction based on the absence of factors applicable to an aggravating role enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1.

         Ground 16: Counsel failed to support with citations to the evidentiary record his objections to the allegations in the PSR that Majors had recruited Cleo Patterson and had multiple vehicles titled in his name.

         Ground 17: Counsel was ineffective at sentencing insofar as he failed to request that Majors' sentence be reduced by 3 months for the period of time he was in pretrial detention in Oklahoma and failed to request that Majors' 30-year sentence be served concurrently with an existing 10-year sentence.

         Ground 18: Counsel was ineffective in his handling of a Motion to Dismiss based on an alleged violation of the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         Ground 19: Counsel was ineffective in his handling of the Motion to Suppress Evidence under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

         Ground 20: Counsel filed an inadequate appellate brief, failed to file a corrected brief when directed to do so by the Sixth ...


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