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Wiggins v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

May 14, 2014

TAURUS WIGGINS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal No. WDQ-09-0287.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., District Judge.

Taurus Wiggins was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. ECF No. 308. On November 3, 2011, he was sentenced to 262 months imprisonment. Id. Pending is Wiggins's pro so motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 365. No hearing is necessary. See Rule 8 of the Rules Governing § 2255 Proceedings. For the following reasons, Wiggins's motion will be denied.

I. Background

On May 26, 2009, Wiggins was indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 (a) (1), 846.[1] ECF No. 1. On May 28, 2009, C. Justin Brown, Esquire, was appointed to defend him. ECF No. 25. At his July 2, 2009 arraignment, Wiggins pled "not guilty." ECF No. 65.

On July 17, 2009, Brown moved to withdraw as counsel. ECF No. 75. He noted that Wiggins had stated "in court that he does not recognize the legality of these proceedings against him" and that he did not want Brown to represent him. ECF No. 75 at 1. When asked by then Magistrate Judge James K. Bredar if he wanted to proceed pro se, however, Wiggins had remained silent. Id. at 1-2. On July 22, 2009, after a hearing, Brown's motion was granted.[2] ECF Nos. 86, 87.

On August 6 and 7, 2009, Gerard Patrick Martin, Esquire, and Paul Martin Flannery, Esquire, were appointed to defend Wiggins. ECF Nos. 95, 97.

On January 13, 2010, Wiggins moved, pro se, to strike Martin and Flannery and any other counsel the court "may appoint without [his] consent." ECF No. 161 at 1. On February 2, 2010, after a hearing, Magistrate Judge Susan K. Gauvey denied the motion. ECF No. 170. She stated "there has been no indication... that Mr. Martin and Mr. Flannery have acted in any way outside of your interest." ECF No. 244 at 18-19.

On April 1, 2010, Flannery and Martin filed a motion to suppress wiretapping evidence for Wiggins. ECF No. 174 (sealed). On April 9, 2010, Wiggins filed a motion, pro se, entitled "Omnibus Pre-Trial Motions." ECF No. 180. He moved to, inter alia, "strike [the] appearance of ineffective court appointed lawyers for cause" and for appointment of his uncle as counsel.[3] See ECF Nos. 180 at 2, 245 at 16. He also argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction over him and demanded dismissal of the indictment. See ECF No. 180 at 3-6. He also moved for discovery. Id. at 8-15.

On June 1, 2010 - the first day of the scheduled trial - the Court held a motions hearing. ECF No. 219. At the hearing, Wiggins stated that "Mr. Flannery and Mr. Martin are not my attorneys. I never consented to them representing me, and I don't consent to them representing me now." ECF No. 236 at 2. He stated that he could possibly represent himself, but he wanted to review the discovery.[4] See id. at 3-5. The Court granted Wiggins's motion to discharge Flannery and Martin and ordered the government to provide Wiggins with discovery. See id. at 11-15. The Court rescheduled trial for January 3, 2011. Id. at 15.

On November 19, 2010, Charles Neilson Curlett, Jr., Esquire, was appointed as standby counsel for Wiggins. ECF Nos. 230, 245 at 2-3.

On December 16, 2010, the Court held a hearing on Wiggins's omnibus motion. ECF Nos. 239, 245 at 2 (hearing transcript). Wiggins asserted, inter alia, that there was no diversity or admiralty jurisdiction over the proceedings. See, e.g., ECF No. 245 at 7. At the hearing, the Court explained to Wiggins that - because the government was prosecuting him pursuant to a criminal statute passed by Congress - the jurisdictional rules governing civil cases did not apply.[5] See, e.g., id. at 4-7. The Court also asked Wiggins several questions to ascertain his competence to represent himself. See id. at 35. Although he answered some of the Court's questions, in response to the Court's other questions, Wiggins repeatedly stated "I don't stand under this" or stated that he did not understand. See id. at 32-41. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court reset the trial date. Id. at 47.

On February 28, 2011, by written opinion, the Court denied Wiggins's counseled motion to suppress and pro se omnibus motion. ECF No. 250. The Court held that it had "original federal criminal jurisdiction over Wiggins." ECF No. 250 at 13. The Court denied Wiggins's motion to dismiss the indictment, noting that "Wiggins need not consent to prosecution, " and "the allegations in the superseding indictment, if true, state a drug conspiracy offense." Id. at 15. The Court also denied Wiggins's request to represent himself, concluding, inter alia, that he had not "clearly and unequivocally invoked his self-representation right." Id. at 21-22.

On March 31, 2011, after a hearing, Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner granted Curlett's motion to withdraw.[6] ECF Nos. 264, 268. On April 1, 2011, Arcangelo M. Tuminelli, Esquire, was appointed to defend Wiggins. ECF No. 269. The same day, the Court continued the trial date in light of the change of counsel. ECF No. 270.

On August 29, 2011, the morning of trial, Wiggins stated that he "elect[ed] self-representation." ECF No. 334 at 2. The Court allowed Wiggins to represent himself, but warned Wiggins that "a trained lawyer would defend [him] far better than [he] could defend [himself]." Id. at 2-3, 12. The Court emphasized that self-representation was unwise "[i]n light of the penalty that [he] might suffer and... all the difficulties ...


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