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Edwards v. United States

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

February 14, 2017



          Kevin H. Sharp, Chief Judge United States District Court

         This memorandum reflects the Court's analysis underlying its recent Order overruling Movant's objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and denying Movant's motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Docket No. 54.)


         When a magistrate judge issues a report and recommendation regarding a dispositive matter, the district court must review de novo any portion of the report and recommendation to which a specific objection is made, and “may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 603 (6th Cir. 2001); Massey v. City of Ferndale, 7 F.3d 506, 510 (6th Cir. 1993). Federal courts have routinely deemed objections “waived” where the objections merely restate the party's arguments that were previously addressed by the magistrate judge. See VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 937 (E.D. Mich. 2004) (“An ‘objection' that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a magistrate's suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has been presented before, is not an ‘objection' as that term is used in this context.”); see also Charles v. Astrue, No. 3:10-cv-134, 2011 WL 3206464 (E.D. Tenn. July 28, 2011).


         On February 3, 2012, Movant entered an open plea of guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, which was accepted by the Honorable William J. Haynes, Jr. Order Accepting Plea Petition, USA v. John Patrick Edwards, No. 3:11-cr-00083 (M.D. Tenn. Feb. 3, 2012), ECF No. 258; Transcript of Proceedings-Plea, id., (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 23, 2012), ECF No. 418 (hereinafter “Plea Tr.”). The government's summary of the facts underlying the charge to which Movant pleaded guilty was as follows:

If this case were to go to trial, the United States would prove the following facts.
As alleged in Count Two of the indictment, beginning on or about April 4, 2011 through April 18, 2011, in the Middle District of Tennessee and elsewhere, John Edwards, aided and abetted by codefendant Rodney Mark Settles, did corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding and attempted to do so through the solicitation of money in exchange for information relating to the federal criminal investigation which resulted in the charge in Count One in the pending indictment of this case, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1512(c)(2)(n)(2).
Specifically, on April 6, 2011, the FBI received information that Edwards' codefendant in Count Two of the indictment, Rodney Mark Settles, who was not a law enforcement officer, had detailed information about an ongoing federal criminal narcotics investigation that involved federal wiretaps. Settles had indicated he had obtained this information from an associate of his who was in law enforcement. Further, Settles stated that something was about to happen that would bring the investigation to a conclusion, and that he and his associate were willing to provide information about the investigation so it could be passed on to the lead defendant in Count One of the indictment, codefendant Zeeshan Syed, [1] who was one of the targets of the federal investigation.
Settles stated that they would help Syed get out of trouble in exchange for a couple hundred thousand dollars. The federal investigation to which he was referring to was being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and was an official proceeding as defined in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(f)(1) and 1515.
The defendant had been a lieutenant with the Wilson County Sheriff's Department, and had been assigned to the Wilson County Drug Task Force, and had served as an FBI Task Force officer on that federal investigation.
In March 2011, the defendant was removed from his position as a Task Force officer and suspended from the Wilson County Sheriff's Department following his arrest by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on an unrelated matter.
Prior to being removed from his position, the defendant had worked on the federal narcotics investigation for several months. Through his work on that investigation, the defendant knew numerous crucial details of the investigation, including that it involved several federal wiretaps and the identities of several target subjects, including Zeeshan Syed and several of Syed's co-conspirators.
The defendant knew that the conspiracy being investigated was a conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and marijuana in the Nashville area. Additionally, the defendant also knew the identity of a confidential informant involved in the investigation who had a close relationship with Syed and had been providing information about the conspiracy to the FBI since the summer of 2010.
Based upon the information the FBI received about Settles on April 6, 2011, the FBI immediately began investigating Mr. Settles. For the next several days, the FBI was able to obtain evidence against Settles which demonstrated that Settles and Settles' source of information, who was later determined to be the defendant, were attempting to obstruct the ongoing federal investigation.
On April 11, 2001, Settles was detained for questioning by FBI agents and Task Force officers and was transported to the FBI office in Nashville. At the FBI office, Settles agreed to be interviewed and provide information about the defendant's plan to sell information to a member of the narcotics conspiracy. Settles advised the FBI that the information he had about the investigation came from his friend and business partner, John Edwards.
According to Settles, on or about April 4, 2011, the defendant contacted Settles about an idea to help get him some money. The defendant knew Settles had a contact, Noo Zeeshan Syed, who was the subject of a federal narcotics investigation.
The defendant asked Settles to see if Syed would pay for information about the investigation. The defendant provided detailed information to Settles about the investigation that the defendant thought could help Syed. The defendant told Settles he wanted to trade that information about the federal investigation for $500, 000.
The defendant had given the name of the informant to Settles -- excuse me, had given the name of an informant to Settles, and Settles had provided the name of that informant to Syed's contact. Settles also told the FBI that, while the defendant initially told Settles he wanted $500, 000 for information about the federal narcotics investigation, Settles had only asked for $100, 000 for that information.
When Settles later told the defendant that Syed was only willing to pay $100, 000 instead of the $500, 000 the defendant initially wanted for the information, the defendant responded that he also wanted a late model Range Rover in addition to the $100, 000 payment.
Due to his involvement in the federal narcotics investigation, the defendant knew Syed was also in the business of selling used cars. Syed advised the agents that the defendant had directed Settles that the money from Syed was to be left in a safe at Bidmore Auction, an ...

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