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Granderson v. United States

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

May 10, 2019

JOSHUA GRANDERSON, Movant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ALETA A. TRAUGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the court is pro se movant Joshua Granderson's motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. No. 1) to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence previously imposed by this court. See United States v. Granderson, No. 3:13-cr-00036, Doc. No. 245 (M.D. Tenn. June 30, 2015) [hereinafter cited as “Crim. Doc. No. ”].[1] The government filed a response. (Doc. No. 12.) For the following reasons, the movant's motion will be denied and this action will be dismissed.

         I. Background

         In a previous criminal case in this court, an indictment charged the defendant with possession of a firearm as a felon and possession with intent to distribute drugs. United States v. Granderson, No. 3:12-cr-00045, Doc. No. 9 (M.D. Tenn. Mar. 1, 2012). The court granted the defendant's motion to suppress the relevant evidence in that case. (No. 3:12-cr-00045, Doc. No. 23.) On June 28, 2012, the court granted the government's motion to dismiss the indictment (No. 3:12-cr-00045, Doc. No. 40), bringing that action to a close.

         On February 6, 2013, in the criminal case underlying this pending motion, an indictment charged the defendant with four counts of distributing crack and powder cocaine. (Crim. Doc. No. 17.) On direct appeal, the Sixth Circuit summarized the facts underlying these charges as follows:

[Metropolitan Nashville Police Department] Detective Daniel Bowling had developed a woman known as “Jenny May”[2] as a confidential informant following an unrelated traffic stop. Jenny May had an ongoing relationship with Granderson, and Granderson had communicated with her while in custody during his first prosecution. Detective Bowling was unaware of the relationship between Jenny May and Granderson, and it had no impact on his investigation.
In her role as an informant, Jenny May gave police a list of four or five individuals, including Granderson, from whom she said she could purchase drugs. Detective Bowling then investigated the background and criminal history of the individuals on the list. During his investigation, Bowling learned that Granderson had prior felony convictions and, based on social media photos, believed Granderson may have been involved in gang activities.
With Jenny May's help, Bowling was able to buy drugs from Granderson on four occasions. Granderson sold Jenny May and Bowling crack cocaine on December 5 and December 11, 2012, and sold cocaine and crack cocaine to Bowling on December 18, 2012 and January 3, 2013. A federal grand jury indicted Granderson on four counts of possession and distribution of crack and powder cocaine.

United States v. Granderson, 651 Fed.Appx. 373, 375 (6th Cir. 2016) (internal citations omitted).

         Attorney James Mackler entered an appearance on behalf of the movant on March 4, 2013. (Crim. Doc. No. 26.) On March 15, 2013, the movant filed a motion to discover the identity of the confidential informant. (Crim. Doc. No. 34.) Five days later, the government filed an Information to Establish Prior Conviction Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851 (“851 Enhancement”). (Crim. Doc. No. 39.) The court granted Mr. Mackler's motion to withdraw on April 19, 2013 (Crim. Doc. No. 45), and Kenneth Quillen and William Slone were appointed as substitute counsel (Crim. Doc. Nos. 46 and 56).

         The court began a jury trial on May 21, 2013. (Crim. Doc. No. 89-92.) The following morning, before the jury returned, the movant presented a letter to the court complaining that he did not have confidence in his attorney's handling of the case, specifically referencing chain of custody issues. (Crim. Doc. No. 65.) The movant orally expressed these concerns to the court as well. (Crim. Doc. No. 93 at 2-5.) The court declared a mistrial, the Federal Public Defender appointed Michael Terry to represent the movant, and the case was reset for trial. (Id. at 11, 14; Crim. Doc. Nos. 66 and 69.)

         On January 29, 2014, the movant filed a Motion to Dismiss the indictment, arguing that he was the subject of vindictive prosecution, due to the successful exercise of his constitutional rights in his first criminal case. (Crim. Doc. No. 129.) He also filed a Motion to Strike the 851 Enhancement as, among other things, a vindictive expression of prosecutorial discretion. (Crim. Doc. No. 115 at 1 & n.3.) In a letter dated February 11, 2014, the movant requested yet another new counsel. (Crim. Doc. No. 143.) The court granted the movant's request (Crim. Doc. No. 145), and attorney John Oliva entered an appearance on behalf of the movant on March 5, 2014 (Crim. Doc. No. 147).

         The movant, through Mr. Oliva, adopted the Motion to Dismiss and the Motion to Strike filed by previous counsel. (Crim. Doc. Nos. 152, 161.) In support of the vindictive-prosecution argument, the movant then filed two replies and numerous state court documents. (Crim. Doc. Nos. 160, 167, 174.) The court heard oral argument on the Motion to Dismiss and then set an evidentiary hearing, at which the government would be required to provide an on-the-record explanation regarding the decision to prosecute the movant. (Crim. Doc. No. 176 at 41-47; Crim. Doc. No. 177.) At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing on October 17, 2014, the court denied the movant's motions. (Crim. Doc. No. 197; Crim. Doc. No. 205 at 150-55.) In a pro se letter postmarked October 24, 2014, the movant asserted that the court abused its discretion in denying the Motion to Dismiss. (Crim. Doc. No. 202.)

         The court held another jury trial (Crim. Doc. Nos. 228-32), and the jury convicted the movant on all four counts on November 14, 2014 (Crim. Doc. No. 214). The movant filed a timely Renewed Motion for Judgment of Acquittal. (Crim. Doc. No. 219.) In a pro se letter dated December 16, 2014, the movant again requested new counsel. (Crim. Doc. No. 222.) On January 27, 2015, the court denied the Renewed Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (Crim. Doc. No. 233) and relieved Oliva as counsel for the movant (Crim. Doc. No. 234). On January 30, 2015, James Simmons entered an appearance on his behalf. (Crim. Doc. No. 235.)

         On February 5, 2015, the court received the movant's pro se motion to reconsider the denial of his Motion to Dismiss. (Crim. Doc. No. 238.) The court denied the motion and advised the movant that he must work through his new counsel to file motions. (Crim. Doc. No. 239.) On June 29, 2015, the court sentenced the movant to a total term of 72 months' imprisonment, to be followed by 6 years of supervised release. (Crim. Doc. No. 245 at 2-3.) The Sixth Circuit affirmed the court's judgment. (Crim. Doc. No. 268); Granderson, 651 Fed.Appx. at 375. The movant later filed this timely pro se motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. No. 1), and the government filed a response, accompanied by an affidavit from trial counsel John Oliva (Doc. Nos. 12 and 12-1).

         II. Analysis

         The movant asserts that Oliva was ineffective in four ways: (1) refusing to file a motion to reconsider the court's denial of the Motion to Dismiss; (2) failing to introduce a recording during the testimony of Jenifer Addington; (3) failing to prepare the movant to testify before trial; and (4) failing to object to the chain of custody of drug evidence. (Doc. No. 1 at 4-10.)

         To prevail on a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel, the movant bears the burden of showing, first, “that his counsel provided deficient performance, ” and second, that “the deficient performance prejudiced [his] defense.” Sylvester v. United States, 868 F.3d 503, 509-10 (6th Cir. 2017) (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)). Trial counsel's performance is deficient where it falls “below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-88. “[A] court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; that is, the [movant] must overcome the ...


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