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Fowlkes v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 14, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Respondent Civil Action No. CCB-14-1700


          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge.

         Now pending is a pro se motion by Sean Darnell Fowlkes (“Mr. Fowlkes”) under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence, as well as a related motion for summary judgment. In both motions, Mr. Fowlkes alleges his constitutional rights were violated with respect to his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm. After reviewing the parties' submissions, the court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2255 Cases in the United States District Courts; Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, both motions will be denied, and a certificate of appealability will not issue.


         On May 6, 2009, law enforcement officials executed a federal search warrant at the petitioner's residence. (See § 2255 Petition Mem. Law 1-2, ECF No. 143-1; Resp. Opp'n § 2255 Petition 6, ECF No. 146). The warrant pertained to alleged violations of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846 (distribution of controlled substances and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances). (Resp. Opp'n § 2255 Petition Exs. 1 & 2, ECF Nos. 146-1, 146-2). At the time of execution, law enforcement also had an arrest warrant for Mr. Fowlkes, which was based on a May 5, 2009 indictment charging Mr. Fowlkes and others with conspiracy to distribute narcotics in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (Id. Ex. 3, 11, ECF No. 146-3). Neither the search warrant nor its accompanying affidavit, however, mentioned that indictment. (Id. Exs. 1 & 2). During the search of his residence, agents found a firearm, and Mr. Fowlkes was arrested. (Id. 6).

         With respect to the drug indictment (“drug case, ” CCB-09-0244), Mr. Fowlkes filed a motion to sever from other defendants on March 9, 2010. (Resp. Opp'n § 2255 Petition Ex. 4, ECF No. 146-4). That motion also sought to sever any forthcoming charge for unlawful possession of a firearm from the existing drug count. (Id. Ex. 4, 2-3). During a motions hearing on May 19, 2010, the government stated for the record that it was considering agreeing to Mr. Fowlkes's motion to sever him from co-defendants in the drug case and was also considering the request to bring any gun charge separately from the drug charge. (Id. Ex. 5, 5-8, ECF No. 146-5). In a letter dated June 3, 2010, the government advised the court that the government 1) would not oppose Mr. Fowlkes's motion to sever in the drug case, 2) would seek a separate indictment charging Mr. Fowlkes with unlawful possession of a firearm, and 3) would arrange a trial date on the firearms charge so that it occurred after trial in the drug case. (Id. Ex. 6, 1, ECF No. 146-6). The government then separately indicted Mr. Fowlkes for the firearms offense on June 15, 2010. (Id. Ex. 7, 3, ECF No. 146-7).[1]

         Although a trial in the drug case had been set for July 19, 2010, all of Mr. Fowlkes's co-defendants pled guilty. (Resp. Opp'n § 2255 Petition 9). Pretrial proceedings on the firearms charge against Mr. Fowlkes (“gun case, ” CCB-10-332) then commenced, including a motions hearing on October 1, 2010. At that motions hearing, this court denied Mr. Fowlkes's motion to suppress search warrant evidence from his residence. (Id. Ex. 8, ECF No. 146-8). On October 20, 2010, a jury found Mr. Fowlkes guilty on the firearms charge. (Id. Ex. 7, 6). That same day, but before the jury returned its verdict on the gun charge, the government indicated on the record to this court and to the petitioner that it planned to dismiss the drug indictment because it did not want to “try Mr. Fowlkes twice.” (Id. Ex. 9, 3, ECF No. 146-9). After the jury found Mr. Fowlkes guilty on the gun charge, the government moved to dismiss the separate drug indictment without prejudice, and the court granted that motion on April 15, 2011. (Id. Ex. 3, 33).

         On March 14, 2012, Mr. Fowlkes moved to have the drug indictment dismissal converted into a dismissal with prejudice. (Resp. in Opp'n § 2255 Petition Ex. 10, ECF No. 146-10). This court denied that motion. (Id. Ex. 3, 36). He then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus to the Fourth Circuit, requesting that it compel the district court to convert the dismissal to one with prejudice. The Fourth Circuit denied that petition. (Id. Ex. 11, ECF No. 146-11).

         Mr. Fowlkes was sentenced on the firearms conviction to 60 months imprisonment on November 4, 2011. (Resp. Opp'n § 2255 Petition Ex. 7, 12). The Fourth Circuit affirmed the sentence on August 29, 2012. (Id. Ex. 12, ECF No. 146-12). Mr. Fowlkes then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which was denied on May 28, 2013. (Id. 13).

         Mr. Fowlkes then filed this § 2255 petition on May 27, 2014, seeking to vacate his conviction in the gun case and dismiss with prejudice his indictment in the drug case. (§ 2255 Petition 11). The government responded in opposition on August 5, 2014. (Resp. Opp'n § 2255 Petition). Mr. Fowlkes replied on September 12, 2014 and, in that same filing, claimed that he was entitled to summary judgment in this case. (Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 148). The government opposed this summary judgment motion, (Resp. Opp'n Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 149), and Mr. Fowlkes replied, (Reply, Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 153).

         Mr. Fowlkes was released from prison in September 2013, (Resp. Opp'n § 2255 Petition 16), and was discharged from supervised release on August 24, 2015, (Order, ECF No. 154).[2]


         To state a claim for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a petitioner must prove that one of the following occurred: (1) his sentence was “imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States”; (2) the “court was without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence”; or (3) the “sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). If the petitioner succeeds in making that showing, “the court shall [1] vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or [2] resentence him or [3] grant a new trial or [4] correct the sentence as may appear appropriate.” Id. § 2255(b).

         To sustain a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner must satisfy the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). First, a petitioner must show trial counsel's performance fell below “an objective standard of reasonableness, ” and there is a “strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Id. at 687-89. To satisfy the second prong, “[t]he defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Id. at 694. When considering ineffective ...

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