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Goodwin v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

May 30, 2017

EULLIS MONROE GOODWIN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Petitioner's supplemented pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Doc. 621 (original petition); Doc. 680 (supplement)]. The United States responded in opposition on November 16, 2015 [Doc. 640]; Petitioner filed a pro se reply to that response on December 4, 2015 [Doc. 642]. Also before the Court are Petitioner's pro se motions for the appointment of counsel [Doc. 625], and to hold the case in abeyance pending the Supreme Court's decision in Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016) [Doc. 643]. For the reasons discussed below, Petitioner's pro se requests for the appointment of counsel and to hold the case in abeyance pending Welch [Docs. 625, 643] will be DENIED as moot and Petitioner's supplemented § 2255 motion [Docs. 621, 680] will be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner distributed significant quantities of crack cocaine that he obtained from co-defendant Demetrius Dalton [Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) ¶ 12]. Law enforcement authorities discovered Petitioner's involvement in the drug-distribution conspiracy through the use of confidential informants, controlled drug transactions, and intercepted telephone calls [Id. ¶¶ 10-22]. A federal grand jury charged Petitioner with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 280 grams of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A) [Doc. 55 (superseding indictment)].

         Petitioner moved to suppress the evidence resulting from the Title III interception of Dalton's telephone on the ground that the affidavit upon which the Court authorized the wiretap failed to establish the “necessity” of the interception [Doc. 329 (motion to suppress)]. Specifically, Petitioner asserted that the United States already had “evidence aplenty to prosecute the named interceptees, ” but the magistrate judge was unpersuaded, noting that “the government justifiably was attempting to ascertain others involved in the conspiracy who were at that time unknown” [Doc. 350 at 3 (report and recommendation)]. The magistrate judge also determined that law enforcement agents had already attempted and given “serious consideration to” other investigative techniques before requesting authorization for a wiretap [Id. at 3-4]. On May 13, 2014, the magistrate judge recommended that Petitioner's suppression motion be denied [Id.].

         The very next day, i.e., before expiration of time to file objections to the magistrate judge's recommendation, the parties negotiated-and Petitioner signed-a plea agreement under which Petitioner would plead guilty to a lesser-included offense in exchange for a guaranteed sentence of 188 months' imprisonment [Doc. 355 (plea agreement)]. Under the plea agreement, Petitioner stipulated that he was personally responsible for at least 84 grams of crack cocaine; he also agreed “not to file a direct appeal of [his] conviction(s) or sentence” and “waive[d] the right to file any motions or pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, ” except for “claims of ineffective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct not known to [Petitioner] by the time of the entry of judgment” [Id. ¶¶ 4(m), 10)]. Eight days later, on May 22, 2014, Petitioner pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 28 grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B); this Court accepted his guilty plea, but took the plea agreement and its stipulated sentence under advisement pending the PSR [Doc. 369].

         Using the drug quantity stipulated in the plea agreement, the United States Probation Office noted that Petitioner's base offense level was twenty-six [PSR ¶¶ 23, 28]. Based on four prior convictions-a 1993 Illinois conviction for armed robbery and attempted murder [Id. ¶ 43], a 2001 Tennessee conviction for robbery [Id. ¶ 44], a 2002 Tennessee conviction for aggravated assault [Id. ¶ 45], and a 2003 Tennessee conviction for aggravated assault [Id. ¶ 47], that same office deemed Petitioner to be a career offender under Section 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, with an enhanced base offense level of thirty-four [Id. ¶ 34]. A three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility yielded a total offense level of thirty-one, criminal history category of VI, and advisory Guidelines range of 188 to 235 months [Id. ¶¶ 35- 37, 51-52, 95-96].

         Shortly after the parties received Petitioner's PSR, and approximately three months after Petitioner pled guilty, Petitioner moved to withdraw his guilty plea because, in his view, he was not a career offender and the agreed-upon sentence of 188 months' imprisonment was “too high” when compared to various co-defendants' sentences [Doc. 438]. During a hearing on that motion in September of 2014, Petitioner moved to withdraw his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, and the Court granted that request [Doc. 473; Doc. 614 at 11]. During the subsequent sentencing hearing, Petitioner said, “I would just like to apologize for . . . my actions in the conspiracy and the role that I played, even though I, I really didn't play a role in the conspiracy, but I did, unfortunately, . . . I mean, I did without knowingly, I mean not knowingly at the time ” [Doc. 614 pp. 8-9]. This Court inquired whether Petitioner was denying his guilt, and Petitioner insisted that he was, in fact, guilty, but then described himself as merely an addict, for whom the agreed-upon sentence of 188 months was “a lot more time than what [he] should be getting” [Id. at 9-10]. Again, this Court sought to clarify by asking whether Petitioner was asking it “to accept [the] plea agreement and impose the 188-month sentence or . . . indicating that [he was] not guilty of [the charged] offense and . . . want[ed] to withdraw [his] guilty plea” [Id. at 11]. Petitioner replied, “No, I'm guilty. . . . I was asking Your Honor if you could show leniency on the time” [Id.]. This Court explained that it could accept the negotiated plea agreement and impose a 188-month sentence, could reject the plea agreement and allow Petitioner to withdraw his guilty plea, or could reject the plea agreement and, if Petitioner declined to withdraw his guilty plea, would sentence Petitioner without a plea agreement [Id.]. This Court warned Petitioner that, under the third option, the Court could impose a sentence far longer than 188 months' imprisonment and, at one point, explicitly said that, but for the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, it “would not be inclined to impose a bottom-of the-guideline-range sentence” for Petitioner because of his “very serious and violent” criminal history [Id. at 11-17]. After considering his options, Petitioner elected to “accept the plea” agreement as previously negotiated by his counsel [Id. at 12, 17]. Accordingly, this Court adopted the plea agreement and imposed the agreed-upon sentence [Id. at 19- 21; Doc. 499]. It entered the judgment in Petitioner's case on October 1, 2014 [Doc. 499].

         Because Petitioner “disagreed with various things that have been done, partly . . . at the advice of [his] lawyer, ” this Court asked whether he was “still satisfied” with counsel's representation [Doc. 614 at 17 (noting that, during the plea colloquy, Petitioner had said he was then satisfied with counsel)]. Petitioner responded in the affirmative: “Yes. He done what, he done what he had to do, what he can do” [Id. at 17-18].

         Petitioner did not file a direct appeal, but instead submitted the instant timely petition to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence on August 26, 2015 [Doc. 621]. In addition to several other pro se motions, Petitioner filed a supplement to the petition on March 31, 2017 [Doc. 680].

         II. REQUEST FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

         In addition to the supplemented petition, this Court is in possession of a pro se motion requesting the appointment of counsel to assist Petitioner with litigation of his collateral challenge, especially his ground for relief based on Johnson [Doc. 625]. To the extent that he seeks counsel to assist in litigation of his Johnson-based challenge, that request will be DENIED as moot in light of the fact that this Court already appointed Federal Defender Services of Eastern Tennessee (FDSET) by Standing Order to identify and represent all defendants in the Eastern District of Tennessee with a viable argument for collateral relief based on Johnson. E.D. Tenn. S.O. 16-02 (Feb. 11, 2016). To the extent that he requests counsel to aid in litigation of his other grounds for collateral relief, that request will be DENIED because Petitioner has not demonstrated that counsel is necessary to ensure that those claims are fairly raised or heard. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636 (6th Cir. 1986); see also Childs v. Pellegrin, 822 F.2d 1382, 1284 (6th Cir. 1987) (explaining that the appointment of counsel in a civil case is a matter within the discretion of the district court).

         III. REQUEST TO HOLD THE CASE IN ABEYANCE

         This Court is also in possession of Petitioner's pro se request to hold his petition in abeyance until the Supreme Court determines whether or not Johnson applies retroactively on collateral review in Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016) [Doc. 643]. Because the Supreme Court decided Welch on April 16, 2016, and because that decision limited its analysis to retroactivity in the ACCA context, the pro se request to defer ruling will be DENIED as moot.

         IV. SUPPLEMENTED PETITION ...


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