United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
K. DUBOSE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set
Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc.
93), Petitioner's Motion to Amend and Add a Supplement
(Doc. 95), Petitioner's Motion to Supplement (Doc. 96),
the Government's Response in Opposition (Doc. 102),
Petitioner's Reply to the Government's Response (Doc.
104), and Petitioner's Amended and Supplemental
Memorandum in Support (Doc. 108). Having carefully reviewed
the record, the undersigned finds that no evidentiary hearing
is necessary for the disposition of this
matter. Upon consideration, Petitioner's
Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28
U.S.C. § 2255 is DENIED, this action is
DISMISSED, and judgment shall be entered in
favor of Respondent, the United States of America, and
against Petitioner, Raymond Donovan Williams. Should Williams
file a certificate of appealability, it should be denied as
he is not entitled to appeal in forma pauperis.
Raymond Donovan Williams was indicted on August 23, 2013 on
one count of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to
distribute and one count of possession of cocaine with intent
to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 21
U.S.C § 841(b)(1)(B). (Doc. 30). This indictment came
after the arrest of Williams and a co-defendant at a truck
stop, where they were involved in the transport and
protection of a cocaine load. (Doc. 102 at 2). This arrest
was made possible due to the cooperation of a cooperating
witness (CW), who assisted law enforcement in a sting
operation after his own arrest. (Id. at 1).
told investigators that Williams and his co-defendant, a
police officer from Prichard, had previously transported
cocaine for him. (Id. at 2). Police recorded
conversations between Williams and CW in which Williams
agreed to pick up five kilograms of cocaine at a truck stop
in Grand Bay for $15, 000.00 . (Id.) When Williams
and the co-defendant arrived to pick up the cocaine as
planned, both were arrested. (Id.; see also Doc.
one-day trial, a jury found Williams guilty of conspiracy and
possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(B). (Doc. 60). Williams was sentenced to a term of
eighty-four (84) months imprisonment. (Doc. 75). Williams
timely appealed his judgment. (Docs. 71, 73). The Eleventh
Circuit affirmed his conviction in September 2014, holding
that “there was more than sufficient evidence to infer
that a drug trafficking conspiracy… existed.”
(Doc. 90 at 4).
subsequently filed his § 2255 motion on April 28,
2015. (Doc. 93). On May 8, 2015, the Court
ordered Williams to sign the motion and re-file. (Doc. 94).
Williams subsequently filed a Motion to Amend and add a
Supplement on May 3, 2015 and a Motion to Supplement on May 15,
2015. (Docs. 95, 96). The court granted these motions on June
1, 2015. (Docs. 97, 98). The Government filed a Response in
Opposition on August 11, 2015. (Doc. 102). Williams replied
to the Government's response on August 27, 2015. (Doc.
104). Williams filed an Amended and Supplemental Memorandum
in Support on December 8, 2016. (Doc. 108).
limited scope of habeas relief is well established, as this
Court has recognized:
Collateral relief is an extraordinary remedy which “may
not do service for a  [direct] appeal.” United
States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165, 102 S.Ct. 1584, 71
L.Ed.2d 816 (1982); see also Lynn v. United States,
365 F.3d 1225, 1232 (11th Cir. 2004) (“Courts have long
and consistently affirmed that a collateral challenge, such
as a § 2255 motion, may not be a surrogate for a direct
appeal.”). A defendant who has waived or exhausted his
right to appeal is presumed to stand “fairly and
finally convicted.” Frady, 456 U.S. at 164.
Unless a claim alleges a lack of jurisdiction or
constitutional error, the scope of collateral attack has
remained extremely limited. United States v.
Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185, 99 S.Ct. 2235, 60 L.Ed.2d
805 (1979). Consequently, “[i]f issues are raised and
considered on direct appeal, a defendant is thereafter
precluded from urging the same issues in a later collateral
attack . . . A defendant is, of course, entitled to a hearing
of his claims, but not to duplicate hearings. The appellate
process does not permit reruns.” Moore v. United
States, 598 F.2d 439, 441 (5th Cir. 1979).
United States v. Evans, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59836,
*8-9 (S.D. Ala. August 4, 2008) (quotation marks in
raises many individual claims in the instant petition. The
majority of these claims are brought under a principle claim
of ineffective assistance of counsel. Claims against his
trial counsel can be found in his Motion to Vacate (Doc. 93),
Motion to Amend (Doc. 95), Motion to Supplement (Doc. 96),
Reply to the Government's Response (Doc. 104), and
Amended and Supplemental Memorandum in Support (Doc. 108).
Additionally, he makes several claims that do not seem to be
related to the conduct of his counsel, focusing instead on
prosecutorial and judicial misconduct. Some of Williams'
claims are subject to a procedural bar, as they were raised
before the Eleventh Circuit in a direct appeal. Several of
the claims fail for vagueness, as Williams did not specify
the details of the offensive conduct or point to said conduct
in the record. The rest fail on their merits.
well-settled that a prisoner is procedurally barred from
raising arguments in a motion to vacate that have already
been raised and rejected on direct appeal. Stoufflet v.
United States, 757 F.3d 1236, 1239 (11th Cir. 2014).
Williams raised two issues on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit
- that the district court erred in denying his motion for
judgment of acquittal challenging the sufficiency of the
evidence offered to establish that he conspired with another
person to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and that
the district court abused its discretion by admitting
evidence of his past possession of cocaine. (Doc. 90 at 1-2).
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed on both issues. (Id.
at 2). Therefore, to the extent that the claims in the
instant petition relate to these issues, they are
Counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the
Government on a lack of evidence in the alleged
claims that counsel was ineffective because he “failed
to challenge the government on the lack of evidence in the
alleged conspiracy other than CW's allegations.”
(Doc. 93-1 at 4). This issue was raised on direct appeal. The
Eleventh Circuit held:
“As the record shows, there was more than sufficient
evidence to infer that a drug trafficking conspiracy between
Williams, Edmond Kennies Burke, and [CW] existed - notably,
before the August 2013 recorded conversations, when
[CW]began acting as a government agent. To begin with there
was testimony that [CW] repeatedly told investigators about
their previous cocaine dealings. The recordings also revealed
a pre-existing criminal relationship between Williams
and[CW]. Additionally, given the evidence of Williams's
extensive gambling activity over a period of months preceding
the undercover operation, without legitimate income to
sustain the activity, the jury could have reasonably inferred
that Williams funded his gambling through the fees he earned
delivering drugs with [CW]prior to August 2013. On this
record, accepting all inferences in the government's
favor, a reasonable jury could conclude that [CW] and
Williams were participating in a conspiracy that pre-dated
[CW's] becoming a government agent.
A jury also could have reasonably concluded that Burke and
Williams were participating in a conspiracy, despite
Burke's lack of knowledge of the other member of the
conspiracy…. Moreover, the statements Williams and
Burke made during the delivery support the inference that
Burke knew a drug transaction was about to occur. Thus, we
conclude a reasonable jury could have found Burke to be a
knowing participant in the conspiracy.”
(Doc. 90 at 4). It is clear the Eleventh Circuit has already
done a thorough analysis of this issue, and this claim should
therefore be considered procedurally barred. See
Stoufflet, 757 F.3d at 1242. To the extent that Williams
argues that counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge
the Government on this issue, it is clear that any such
argument would be futile.
Counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge 404(b)
evidence presented at trial
claims that counsel was ineffective for failing to file a
Motion to Suppress with regard to “404(b)
evidence” of his prior cocaine charge. (Docs. 93-1 at
4; 108 at 22-26). The claims regarding Federal Rule of
Evidence 404(b) were raised on direct appeal. (Doc. 90). The
Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not err in
admitting evidence of the prior possession of cocaine:
“Here, the district court did not abuse its discretion
in admitting evidence of Williams's prior possession of
crack cocaine. For starters, since Williams pleaded not
guilty, raising a lack of knowledge or wrongful intent
defense, he placed his intent at issue, thereby imposing a
substantial burden on the government to prove his knowledge
of the cocaine and his intent to participate in the drug
conspiracy. In addition, the evidence from both
Williams's sister and the officer who found the cocaine
and money among Williams's belongings was sufficient to
permit the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that
Williams possessed the cocaine. Further, the prejudicial
effect of the evidence did not substantially outweigh its
probative value, given the government's need for evidence
of Williams's intent to transport cocaine. Moreover, the
prior cocaine possession and the cocaine distribution charge
at issue, although different in quantity of drugs and in
Williams's position as a possessor or distributor, were
substantially similar in their overall purpose to
intentionally possess cocaine.
In any event, even if the district court did err in admitting
the Rule 404(b) evidence, the error was harmless since, as
we've discussed, there was sufficient evidence of
Williams's guilt without the evidence of the prior
(Doc. 90 at 6-7). It is clear these issues were thoroughly
analyzed by the Eleventh Circuit, and to the extent that
Williams is challenging this evidence in the instant motion,
those claims are procedurally barred from being relitigated.
See Stoufflet v. United States, 757 F.3d at 1242. To
the extent that Williams is claiming that counsel should have
moved to suppress this evidence, it is again clear that any
such motion would have been futile.
Vague and Conclusory Allegations
the claims raised by Williams in the instant case are not
well-supported, and amount to merely vague or conclusory
statements about the perceived inadequacies of his trial
counsel's performance. Conclusory assertions will not
support a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Randolph v. McNeil, 590 F.3d 1273, 1276 n.1 (11th
Cir. 2009); see also Wilson v. United States, 962
F.2d 996, 998 (11th Cir. 1992); Tejada v. Dugger,
941 F.2d 996, 996 (11th Cir. 1991)(addressing the issue in
the context of § 2254); Story v. United States,
2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26031, 2012 WL 671677, at *4 (S.D. Ala.
Jan. 31, 2012)(rejecting § 2255 claim of ineffective
assistance where the movant had not indicated what a more
thorough investigation by his attorney would have revealed or
how any supposed discovery would have been fruitful in his
Counsel was ineffective for failing to object to or
supplement incomplete or missing conversations in the
evidence, for failing to object to evidence beyond the scope
of the conspiracy, for allowing evidence that had been
“tampered” or “altered”, and for
failing to object to “erroneous
claims counsel was ineffective due to a failure to object to
a variety of evidentiary issues, but he fails to elaborate on
any of the perceived inadequacies. Williams alleges that
counsel was ineffective because he failed to offer other
conversations that occurred between CW and Williams that
“taint” the case. (Doc. 104 at 3). He seems to
re-address this issue in this amended/supplemental response,
when he argues that counsel was ineffective for
“failing to object to the testimony or the presentation
of the exhibits as these exhibits were not complete,
inaccurate and perjured.” (Doc. 108 at 56). Williams
further alleges that counsel was ineffective for allowing
evidence that had been “tampered”,
“altered” or was beyond the scope of the alleged
conspiracy, and that counsel allowed the Government to
“mislead the court with erroneous information further
complicating due process”. (Doc. 93-1 at 5).
point does Williams go into detail about the alleged
insufficiencies of the evidence presented. Williams presents
no evidence regarding the content of the conversations he
believes were omitted from the evidence, how the offered
messages ‘taint' the case, or how any additional
conversations could have improved Williams' defense.
(Doc. 104). Further, he does not indicate what evidence he
believes was tampered or altered, what evidence was
erroneous, what evidence he believes was beyond the scope of
the conspiracy in this case, or how the Government violated
due process in bringing forth this evidence. (Doc. 93-1 at
5). As such, these claims are vague and conclusory, and fail
for that reason. See Randolph, 590 F.3d at 1276 n.1.
Counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the fact
that the evidence was insufficient to Prove Crimes Charged
under 841(a)(1) and 846
claims that counsel was ineffective for failing to raise
“facially and legally sufficient objections to the
asserted facts that were erroneously supporting the
information filed pursuant to 841(a)(1) and 846”. (Doc.
93-1 at 5). If counsel had conducted a meaningful
investigation, Williams alleges counsel would have discovered
“that it was inapplicable to support the
government's indictment of petitioner for 841(a)(1) and
846 nor the quantity of cocaine it was implied he was
accountable for.” (Id.). Williams also seems
to indicate that this would have required counsel challenging
the time frame and duration of the alleged events.
extent that Williams is claiming there is not enough evidence
to support the conspiracy charge in 21 U.S.C. § 846,
this claim has already been argued before the Eleventh
Circuit, and has been found meritless. See,
supra, pg. 6-7. As to the claim that there was
insufficient evidence to support his conviction under
841(a)(1), Williams does not plead his claim with the
specificity required to support an allegation of ineffective
assistance of counsel. He does not state why the facts
presented were not enough to support the indicted offenses,
or what additional investigation should have been done on the
subject. He does not explain why the time frame and duration
of the events are worthy of investigation or objection. This
amounts a vague and conclusory claim and should be dismissed
on those grounds. See Randolph, 590 F.3d at 1276
Counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that hearsay
testimony should not be allowed
claims counsel was ineffective because he did not argue that
the testimony of the Government's witnesses should not be
allowed under Federal Rule of Evidence 807. (Doc. 104 at 1).
He claims this exception to the hearsay rule is so
extraordinary, reasonable counsel should have objected to the
inclusion of evidence under this exception. (Id. at
2). This allegedly resulted in prejudice by significantly
affecting the outcome of the trial. (Id.). Williams
also claims that his direct appeal to the Eleventh Circuit
addressed the issue of the credibility of witnesses, citing
the phrase “regardless of the excluded
testimony”. (Id.). As a result, he claims his
right to a fair trial was violated, and he was prevented from
presenting his defense. (Id.).
claims that counsel should have objected to this residual
exception because it is so “extraordinary”. (Doc.
104 at 1). He does not indicate what evidence was offered
under this rule, or why that evidence does not meet the
criteria for admission under the rule. (Id.). He
also does not point to what part of the Eleventh Circuit
decision he is referring to with regards to excluded
testimony. As such, these are vague and conclusory claims and
should therefore be dismissed. See Randolph, 590
F.3d at 1276 n.1.
Counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the
testimony of ...