United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CHARLES S. COODY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the court is William Thomas Crane's motion under 28
U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence
by a person in federal custody. Cv. Docs. # 2 &
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
April 2014, a federal grand jury in the Middle District of
Alabama returned a superseding indictment charging Crane and
five others with conspiracy to distribute and possess with
intent to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine,
in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. Cv.
Doc. # 9-1. Crane's case came to trial in January 2015.
Government presented evidence showing that Crane was part of
a largescale methamphetamine distribution ring operating
throughout Alabama. See Cv. Doc. # 9-2. Crane, who
owned an auto body shop in Crossville, Alabama, would install
hidden compartments in motor vehicles that were driven to
California by members of the conspiracy. In California, large
quantities of methamphetamine obtained from suppliers were
secreted in the hidden compartments of the vehicles, which
were then driven back to Alabama. When the methamphetamine
arrived in Alabama, Crane would assist in removing it from
the hidden compartments and would place money from his drug
dealing in the compartments.
April 2013, a member of the conspiracy, Phillip Burgin, was
arrested by Oklahoma authorities after a traffic stop of the
vehicle he was driving led to the discovery of approximately
30 pounds of methamphetamine in a hidden compartment Crane
had installed in the vehicle. Cv. Doc. # 9-2 at 13-44. Burgin
had picked up the methamphetamine from a supplier in
California and was returning to Alabama with the drugs when
he was arrested. Id. at 42-44.
his arrest, Burgin agreed to participate in a controlled
delivery of two pounds of the methamphetamine, monitored by
law enforcement officers, to coconspirator Stephanie Ausban
in a mall parking lot near Birmingham, Alabama. Cv. Doc. #
9-2 at 49- 54 & 106-08. After meeting Ausban in the mall
parking lot, Burgin switched vehicles with her, leaving
Ausban the vehicle with the two pounds of methamphetamine
secreted in a hidden compartment. Id. at 53 &
monitoring the transaction followed Ausban to some apartment
buildings in Crossville, where they saw Ausban meet up with
Crane. Cv. Doc. # 9-2 at 60-61. The officers then observed
Crane and Ausban leave the apartments in separate vehicles,
with Ausban following Crane. Id. The officers
followed the vehicles to Crane's auto body shop in
Crossville. Id. at 61-63. Shortly after Crane and
Ausban arrived at the shop, the officers closed in and
arrested the two as they were attempting to access the hidden
compartment in the vehicle containing the drugs. Id.
at 62-65 & 91. In Crane's pants pocket, officers
found a small plastic bag containing approximately one ounce
of methamphetamine. Id. at 65 & 118-19. In a
cloth bag on the ground near Crane, officers found $38, 500
in currency. Id. at 63-65. Crane told officers he
intended to use the money to buy the two pounds of
methamphetamine in the vehicle driven by Ausban. Id.
at 65-66 & 128. A subsequent search of Crane's
residence uncovered more methamphetamine, and the search of a
storage unit near Crane's residence (with Crane's
consent) uncovered an additional $47, 395 in currency.
Id. at 116-17.
a custodial interview, Crane admitted to investigators that
he maintained a livelihood by purchasing methamphetamine and
then reselling it. Cv. Doc. # 9-2 at 127- 28. Crane told
investigators he had been unemployed for several years and
that dealing methamphetamine was his only means of making a
living. Id. at 128-29. Crane also stated that the
money he kept in the storage unit were proceeds from his
methamphetamine sales that he used to pay for more
methamphetamine, which he would then resell. Id. at
128. Crane told investigators that his supplier was an
individual with whom he had only ever spoken on the telephone
and whom he knew only as “Boss.” Id. at
determined that “Boss” was Alberto Trejo, a drug
dealer and convicted murderer incarcerated by the Alabama
Department of Corrections. Cv. Doc. # 9-2 at 109- 12; Cv.
Doc. # 9-3 at 7-10. Trejo was the leader of the
methamphetamine distribution ring, which had as members
Crane, Burgin,  Ausban, and others.
January 13, 2015, the jury returned a verdict finding Crane
guilty as charged in the indictment of conspiracy to
distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 500
grams of methamphetamine. Cv. Doc. # 9-3 at 31-32. After a
sentencing hearing on April 21, 2015, the district court
sentenced Crane to 200 months' imprisonment. Cv. Doc. #
9-5 at 2-3.
appealed, arguing that the district court erred in
instructing the jury that the prosecution was required to
prove venue by a preponderance of the evidence only.
See Cv. Doc. # 9-6. On December 7, 2015, the
Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion affirming Crane's
conviction and sentence. Cv. Doc. # 9-7; see United
States v. Crane, 635 Fed.Appx. 611 (11th Cir. 2015).
Crane did not seek certiorari review in the United States
20, 2016, Crane filed two pro se motions with this
court, one styled as a “Motion of Plain Error Pursuant
to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 52(b)” (Cv.
Doc. # 2) and the other styled as a “Motion for Relief
Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 60”
(Doc # 3). The two pro se motions set forth the
following laundry list of claims:
1. Testimony regarding the large amount of methamphetamine
seized in the Oklahoma traffic stop of coconspirator Phillip
Burgin unfairly linked Crane to the conspiracy.
2. The Government failed to prove Crane knew that two pounds
of methamphetamine were in the hidden compartment of the
vehicle used in the controlled delivery of the drugs.
3. The Government produced no photographic, audio, or video
evidence proving Crane's involvement in drug dealing with
coconspirator Stephanie Ausban.
4. The Government failed to produce search warrants for
Crane's auto body shop and the storage unit near his
residence; thus, evidence seized from the shop and the
storage unit was due to be suppressed.
5. Currency recovered from the storage unit was wrongly
attributed to Crane.
6. Crane did not knowingly and intelligently waive his
7. The Government presented testimony from a “corrupt
law officer.” 8. Crane was deprived of counsel of his
choice and was forced to go to trial with a court-appointed
9. Trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing
to (a) adequately investigate and present possible defenses,
such as Crane's low IQ; (b) file motions for the
defendant; (c) obtain witnesses to defend the case and
introduce expert testimony; and (d) cross-examine Government
10. Crane suffers from a low IQ and dementia, and the
district court failed to consider his deficiencies when it
11. Crane's sentence of 200 months was greater than
necessary to comply with the purposes set forth in 18 U.S.C.
12. The statute under which Crane was convicted is defective
because it did not contain language regarding a “nexus
13. The Government did not have jurisdiction to prosecute
Crane because it did not prove that Crane's actions
“moved beyond the borders of the sovereign
14. The U.S. Attorney misrepresented the Government's
jurisdiction to the grand jury, resulting in “charging
instruments that were fatally defective.”
15. The statute under which Crane is detained is not
“positive law”; thus, his conviction and sentence
Cv. Doc. # 2 at 2-5; Cv. Doc. # 3 at 3-9.
order entered on June 3, 2016 (Cv. Doc. # 4), this court
informed Crane that the claims in his pro se motions
were properly presented in a motion to vacate, set aside, or
correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In accordance
with Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375 (2003),
the court notified Crane of its intention to treat his
pro se motions as a § 2255 motion and directed
him to advise the court whether he wished to proceed on his
claims under § 2255, to amend his motion to assert
additional claims under § 2255, or to withdraw his
motion. Cv. Doc. # 4 at 2-3. The court's
“Castro Order” also advised Crane that
if he failed to file a response in compliance with the
order's directives, the case would proceed as an action
under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, with the court considering only
those claims in Crane's two pro se motions.
Id. at 3.
filed a response to the Castro Order objecting to
the court's recharacterization of his pro se
motions, but his response failed to comply with the
Castro Order's directives. Cv. Doc. # 5.
Consequently, Crane was informed that the case would proceed
under § 2255 on the claims in his pro se
motions, and the Government was ordered to file a response to
these claims. Cv. Doc. # 6.
28, 2016, the Government filed a response arguing that (1)
Crane has procedurally defaulted his substantive (i.e.,
non-ineffective assistance) claims by failing to assert them
on direct appeal and has shown neither cause for failing to
raise the claims previously nor actual prejudice affecting a
fundamental right; and (2) Crane's claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel are insufficiently pled, without merit,
and rest on allegations that fail to establish deficient
performance and prejudice under the standard of
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Cv.
Doc. # 9.
one year later, on July 31, 2017, Crane amended his §
2255 motion to add a claim that his 200-month sentence
violates the Eight Amendment's cruel and unusual
punishment prohibition because he suffers from mental
disability and other health issues and that he is entitled to
an evidentiary hearing on the issue of his mental disability.
Cv. Doc. # 22.
Government filed a response arguing that Crane's new
claim (1) is time-barred by the one-year limitation period in
28 U.S.C. § 2255(f); (2) is procedurally barred because
it could have been raised on appeal, but was not; and (3) is
in any event without merit. Cv. Doc. # 24.
reasons that follow, the court concludes that Crane's
§ 2255 motion should be denied without an evidentiary
hearing and dismissed with prejudice. Rule 8(a), Rules
Governing Section 2255 Proceedings in the United States