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Williams v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

June 3, 2019



          L. Scott Coogler United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Anthony DeJuan Williams (“Williams”) has filed with the Clerk of this Court a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 1.) The Government has responded in opposition to the motion. (Doc. 5.) For the reasons set forth below, the § 2255 motion is due to be denied and this action dismissed without an evidentiary hearing.

         II. Background

         A. Trial and Sentencing

         On September 24, 2015, Williams was charged along with 24 others in a superseding indictment in United States v. Hall, et al., 2:15-cr-00283-LSC-SGC (hereinafter “Hall”), with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute and to distribute heroin, cocaine hydrochloride, and “crack” cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), (b)(1)(B), and (b)(1)(C). Williams was also charged in three counts with using a telephone in furtherance of the drug trafficking conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b).

         Williams was arrested on the superseding indictment on October 21, 2015. During the execution of that arrest warrant, further evidence of Williams' involvement in the drug trafficking conspiracy was seized from his home, including various amounts of cocaine, a half kilogram of heroin, and five firearms.

         Based on this new evidence, the grand jury returned a second indictment against Williams on December 28, 2015, charging him with possessing with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing cocaine hydrochloride, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B); possession of five firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A); and possession of five firearms after being convicted of a felony offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). That case is styled United States v. Williams, 2:15-cr-00427-LSC-SGC (hereinafter, “Williams”). Count Two alleged that five firearms recovered from the home were possessed not only in furtherance of the cocaine hydrochloride seized from Williams' home on October 21, 2015, but also in furtherance of the drug trafficking conspiracy charged in the Hall case.

         Two days after the indictment was returned in Williams, the Government filed a motion to consolidate Hall and Williams for trial. On January 25, 2016, Williams' counsel responded in opposition. Following a telephone conference in which the Court concluded that the Government's motion was premature, the Government filed a supplemental brief in support of its motion to consolidate. The pleadings were referred to the assigned United States Magistrate Judge, who granted the Government's motion to consolidate Hall and Williams for trial.

         On April 5, 2016, Williams filed a motion to suppress that was responded to by the Government on April 13, 2016. A suppression hearing was held on April 27, 2016, and this Court entered an order denying Williams' motion to suppress on May 4, 2016.

         The consolidated cases proceeded to trial on May 9, 2016. All other defendants in the 25-person conspiracy had pled guilty except for Williams and one other alleged co-conspirator. Several co-defendants testified against Williams at trial. The jury returned a verdict on May 13, 2016, finding Williams guilty on Counts 1, 19, 64, and 66 of the Hall case and on Counts 1 and 3 of Williams. The United States dismissed Count 2 of Williams when it appeared from a juror's question that the jury was unable to reach a verdict on that Count.

         On May 23, 2016, Williams filed a motion for a new trial, which the Court denied. On September 27, 2016, the Court sentenced Williams to 293 months' imprisonment on Count 1 and 48 months' imprisonment on Counts 19, 64, and 66 of Hall, and 293 months' imprisonment on Count 1 and 120 months' imprisonment on Count 3 of Williams, separately, with each count to be served concurrently with the other.

         B. Appeal

         Williams filed a notice of appeal in both cases on October 6, 2016. On October 25, 2016, both of Williams' trial counsels filed motions to withdraw from representation. That same day, the Court granted the motions to withdraw and approved the appointment of appellate counsel in forma pauperis. Michael Tewalt with the Federal Public Defender's Office was appointed to represent Williams on appeal.

         Mr. Tewalt timely filed Williams' appellate brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. In that brief, Williams argued that this Court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence recovered following the entry and protective sweep of the outbuilding on his property. He further argued that the arrest warrant was improperly executed because testimony established that it might have been executed a minute or two before 6:00 a.m., the earliest time on which the warrant was authorized to be executed. The Government filed a brief in opposition on May 24, 2017. On September 20, 2017, the appellate court affirmed Williams' convictions and sentence. The Eleventh Circuit held that this Court properly found that the initial entry into the outbuilding was proper pursuant to a valid arrest warrant and that the search qualified as a valid protective sweep. The court also found no merit to Williams' assignment of error that the warrant was improperly executed outside of the authorized time. Ultimately, the opinion was issued as the Eleventh Circuit's mandate on November 27, 2017. Williams did not petition the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.

         C. § 2255 Proceedings

          On April 18, 2018, Williams signed his § 2255 motion, which was filed into the record two days later.[1] Williams enumerates ten grounds on which he contends that he is due relief, and for each ground, he also avers that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the ground before the Eleventh Circuit. Liberally construing the substance of his claims, [2] the following points represent the ten bases on which Williams seeks relief in his initial § 2255 motion:

1. FBI agents failed to “knock and announce” their presence at his home when they entered and arrested him. Williams also claims that the agents did not have a warrant to arrest him.
2. His due process and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when agents used “flash bang” devices in arresting him, which he claims was excessive force.
3. His due process and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested inside his home without a warrant.
4. His Fourth Amendment and due process rights were violated when agents simultaneously entered an outbuilding on his property where they saw contraband in plain view.
5. His Sentencing Guidelines were improperly enhanced using the dismissed Count Two of the Williams indictment, which alleged that he possessed the firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
6. His appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise an actual innocence claim on appeal.
7. He claims that FBI Special Agent M. Wayne Gerhardt (“Agent Gerhardt”) testified untruthfully during his trial regarding his presence at his arrest, his application for a search warrant, and the genesis of the conspiracy.
8. The Government committed a Brady violation in failing to produce copies of the arrest warrant, search warrants, and all affidavits in the search of his home.
9. His indictment was constructively amended when the Court instructed the jury on mandatory minimum amounts of cocaine and heroin that were not found on his person or in his immediate control.
10. His indictment failed to charge an offense. He claims that the jury should not have been instructed on crimes involving heroin because heroin was only listed in the superseding indictment in Hall and not in Williams. He also alleges that the superseding indictment in Hall was never unsealed.

(Doc. 1).

         After the Government responded in opposition to the motion, Williams filed several further pleadings, including a motion for return of property (doc. 7, also filed as doc. 659 in the Hall case and doc. 57 in the Williams case), [3] a motion for an evidentiary hearing (doc. 8), and a “motion for relief” (doc. 9). In the motion for an evidentiary hearing and the “motion for relief, ” Williams expounds on several of the above claims, but in the “motion for relief, ” Williams also appears to be raising a new claim that his indictment was “vindictive.” (Doc. 9 at 1.)

         Williams remains in custody.

         III. Timeliness and Non-Successiveness of the § 2255 Motion

          The Eleventh Circuit's opinion affirming Williams' convictions and sentence was issued as the Court's mandate on November 27, 2017. From that point, Williams had 90 days, or until February 25, 2018, to file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States. SUP. CT. R. 13(1). When that date passed without such a petition from Williams, his conviction became final. See Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 532 (2003) (“We hold that, for federal criminal defendants who do not file a petition for certiorari with this Court on direct review, § 2255's one-year limitation period starts to run when the time for seeking such review expires.”). Because Williams filed the instant § 2255 motion within one year of the date upon which his conviction became final, the original motion was timely. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (f)(1). This is also Williams' first § 2255 motion, so it is not “second or successive” within the meaning of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). See Id. at §§ 2255(h), 2244(b)(3)(A).

         However, the “vindictive indictment” claim Williams asserts for the first time in his later-filed “motion for relief, ” dated by Williams March 4, 2019, and entered into this record on March 7, 2019 (see doc. 9), is untimely-filed. This Court may only consider that claim if it “relates back” to those claims filed in the original, timely motion(s). See Davenport v. United States, 217 F.3d 1341, 1343-44 (11th Cir. 2000) (explaining that, when a defendant files a timely § 2255 motion, and then files an untimely supplemental motion that raises an additional claim, the untimely claim is barred by the statute of limitations unless it “relates back” to the original motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)). A claim “relates back” only if it arose “from the ‘same set of facts' as the timely filed claim, not from separate conduct or a separate occurrence in ‘both time and type.'” Id. at 1344 (citations omitted). The “vindictive indictment” claim does not related back to any timely-filed claims. Williams cites United States v. Schiller, 424 A.2d 51 (D.C. Cir. 1980), in support of his claim, which addresses a claim of “vindictive prosecution” and sets forth a test for evaluating such a claim made by a defendant. However, Williams offers no facts whatsoever in support of such a claim. Accordingly, the Court will not consider it.

         IV. ...

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