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John Albert Martin v. United States of America

February 25, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roger W. Titus United States District Judge


Pending before the Court is Petitioner John Albert Martin's petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. In it, Petitioner contends that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. Petitioner contends that his Counsel provided him with ineffective assistance at trial by 1) not explaining how his career offender status would affect his sentencing or that he could obtain a lower sentencing guideline range if he entered a guilty plea, 2) failing to review discovery and evidence, 3) failing to cross examine police officers regarding specific matters Petitioner deemed important, 4) failing to call certain witnesses Petitioner deemed important, Pet'r Mem. Supp. 10--11, Apr. 13, 2011, ECF No. 1452-1. The Court will deny Petitioner's § 2255 motion, because Petitioner failed to show that his counsel's representation was objectively unreasonable and/or resulted in actual prejudice.


The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began investigating the instant conspiracy in 2001, which culminated with the arrests of the majority of alleged co-conspirators in 2004. Pet'r Mem. Supp. 5; Government Resp. 2, Aug. 12, 2011, ECF 1466. The investigation was centered around the drug trafficking activities of Paulette Martin, who was a suspected leader of a drug organization. Pet'r Mem. Supp. 5; Government Resp. 2. Petitioner John Albert Martin was her alleged husband and accomplice at the time of investigation. Government Resp. 2.

Petitioner became known to police before the period of charged conspiracy, when, on October 23, 1996, the Montgomery County police stopped his car near Paula Martin's residence, seizing "a baggy of crack cocaine from his shirt pocket." Pet'r Mem. Supp. 7. In a separate incident, on April 16, 1997, Washington D.C. police stopped Petitioner near Paula's School of Performing Arts (PSPA), which was a business front for Paulette Martin's drug trafficking activities. Id.; Government Resp. 2.Officers seized cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from Petitioner-a portion of which was packaged for distribution. Pet'r Mem. Supp. 7; Government Resp. 2.Petitioner pleaded guilty in federal court to a possession of cocaine charge stemming from the July 4, 2002 incident and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Government Resp.

3. After his release, Petitioner reestablished his relationship with Paulette Martin. Id.

The government's investigation produced a number of individuals and connections associated with Paulette Martin's drug trafficking operation. One of these individuals was Nathan King, who transported shipments of cocaine from California to the DC/Maryland metropolitan area for delivery to Paulette Martin during the period 2002--2003. Government Resp. 2. The government identified an incident with Nathan King that it alleges directly involved Petitioner. On June 28, 2002, Paulette Martin wired money to Nathan King in Arizona. Id. Six days later, Takoma Park police stopped Petitioner near Paulette Martin's residence, and seized a multitude of items typically used to process cocaine for distribution, such as: "a handheld scale, which is used to measure narcotics; a black trash bag that contained about 30 kilogram wrappers, which are used to store bricks of cocaine; fabric softener, which is used to mask the odor of cocaine; and a four-pound box of baking soda, which is used in processing cocaine." Pet'r Mem. Supp. 8; Government Resp. 2.On October 27, 2003, the Indiana Highway Patrol stopped Nathan King, seizing approximately twenty-two kilograms of cocaine that he had intended to deliver to Paulette Martin in Maryland. Government Resp. 2--3.

The investigation also produced Pernell Philpot, who, on March 11, 2004, the Wyoming Highway Patrol stopped and arrested after finding him in possession of approximately five kilograms of cocaine. Id. at 3. The government later intercepted Petitioner discussing and giving advice regarding Pernell Philpot's drug arrest. Id.

In the closing months of the investigation, from March 8, 2004 through June 2, 2004, the government engaged in court-authorized wiretap interceptions over five telephone lines. Pet'r Mem. Supp. 5; Government Resp. 3. Over three of those lines, conversations occurred that overtly involved Petitioner. Pet'r Mem. Supp. 5. Specifically, the government intercepted Petitioner requesting drugs from Paulette Martin and her alleged dealer Gwendolyn Levi, discussing the need to move their drugs from Paulette Martin's residence to PSPA due to neighborhood complaints, and evaluating Paulette Martin's observations of an undercover police officer near her residence. Government Resp. 3. The government also intercepted Petitioner speaking with several individuals concerning their purchase of drugs from Paulette Martin-he would tell co-conspirators where to meet Paulette Martin and whether drugs would be available. Id.

On June 1, 2004, the government executed search warrants at a number of locations, including Paulette Martin's residence and PSPA. Id. Petitioner and Paulette Martin were present when the warrant was executed. Pet'r Mem. Supp. 8; Government Resp. 3. Seven grams of cocaine and seven grams of heroin were recovered from a shaving kit belonging to Petitioner. Pet'r Mem. Supp. 8; Government Resp. 3. The government also recovered from Paulette Martin's residence $7,865 in cash, six grams of crack cocaine, 19.06 grams of cocaine, 7.85 grams of heroin, and two digital scales. Pet'r Mem. Supp. 8; Government Resp. 3--4. During the execution of the search warrant at PSPA, agents recovered more scales and drug paraphernalia, 337 grams of cocaine base, eighteen grams of heroin, and 352 grams of cocaine. Pet'r Mem. Supp. 8; Government Resp. 4.

On September 21, 2005, a grand jury returned a fifth superseding indictment to which Petitioner pleaded not guilty and opted to proceeded to trial. Government Resp. 1. Testifying in his own defense, Petitioner admitted that he used cocaine and heroin and that he sold marijuana, but denied any involvement in or profit from Paula Martin's drug business. Pet'r Mem. Supp. 8. Petitioner denies having ever been married to or having any relation to Paula Martin-the fact that they share the same last name and residence is a coincidence-and describes their relationship as an "on and off love affair." Id. at 9, 9 n.3. Regarding the specific instances police officers arrested Petitioner for possession of drugs, Petitioner denied that any of those drugs were related to Paula Martin, Gwendolyn Levi, or the other alleged conspirators. Id. at 9. On December 22, 2005 the jury returned a guilty verdict. Government Resp. 1.

On December 2, 2009, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the judgment of this Court in a published opinion, United States v. Johnson, 587 F.3d 625 (4th Cir. 2009), and entered its formal mandate on January 12, 2010. Pet'r Mot. 4, Apr. 13, 2011, ECF No. 1452. On April 13, 2011, Petitioner filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence. Id. at 7. The matter is fully briefed and ready for adjudication.


Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a petitioner must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that "the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law." 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (2006); Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958). If the § 2255 motion, along with the files and records of the case, "conclusively show that [he] is entitled to no relief," a hearing on the motion is unnecessary and the claims raised in the motion may be dismissed summarily. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); United States v. White, 366 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2004) (stating that an evidentiary hearing is not required where a petitioner's allegations are "so palpably incredible, so patently frivolous or false as to warrant summary dismissal."). In demonstrating ineffective representation by counsel, it is insufficient to show there are differing factual assertions that create a dispute of fact-those differences must be "material under the ...

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