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Hall v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 23, 2016

ANTONIO HALL, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal Action No. RDB-10-0744

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         Following a nine-day jury trial in this Court, the pro se Petitioner Antonio Hall (“Petitioner” or “Hall”) was convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count I); Retaliation Against a Witness By Murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1513(a)(1)(B) and (2) (Count III); Use and Discharge of a Firearm In Relation to a Crime of Violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) (Count IV); and Possession of Ammunition by a Felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count V)[1]. See Jury Verdict, ECF No. 85. Subsequently, this Court sentenced Petitioner to three concurrent terms of life imprisonment as to Counts I, III, and V, and a consecutive sentence of life imprisonment as to Count IV. See J., p. 2, ECF No. 97.

         Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Fourth Circuit has affirmed the Judgment of this Court. See United States v. Hall, 506 F. App'x 245, 252 (4th Cir. 2013). Currently pending before this Court is Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 125). The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated herein, Petitioner's Motion to Vacate (ECF No. 125)[2] is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         “In early 2008, federal agents conducted an investigation into drug trafficking and related firearm violence in the Westport neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland.” United States v. Hall, 506 F. App'x 245, 247 (4th Cir. 2013). A man named Kareem Guest (“Guest”) cooperated with investigators and provided the FBI with a list of individuals, including Petitioner Antonio Hall (“Petitioner” or “Hall”), who were “involved in drug activities.” Id. The investigation led to the arrest and indictment of eight individuals, although Hall was not one of them. Id. Shortly thereafter, Michael Carithers, an attorney for one of the defendants, obtained a copy of Guest's report and released it to his client. Id. His client circulated the report in the Westport neighborhood, at which time Hall learned that his name had been mentioned in the report. Id. “[Hall] then followed Guest on foot and shot him several times, killing him.” Id.

         “Although a number of people saw [Hall] shoot Guest, no witnesses initially came forward.” Id. “In fact, several witnesses falsely testified before the grand jury that they did not see the murder.” Id. However, “[a]t subsequent grand jury appearances and at [Hall's] trial, the witnesses admitted that they had, in fact, seen [Hall] kill Guest.” Id. “One witness explained that she had initially been untruthful to protect her family, ” while “[a]nother witness stated that he had initially been untruthful because he feared [Hall].” Id. Hall was subsequently charged via a Superseding Indictment (ECF No. 35). Prior to trial in this Court, Hall was offered a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, with an agreed sentencing range of 35-45 years imprisonment. Hall rejected the offer, despite being instructed by this Court that he would face a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment if convicted of the murder of Guest (Count III).

         As discussed supra, Following a nine-day jury trial in this Court, Hall was convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count I); Retaliation Against a Witness By Murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1513(a)(1)(B) and (2) (Count III); Use and Discharge of a Firearm In Relation to a Crime of Violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) (Count IV); and Possession of Ammunition by a Felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count V). See Jury Verdict, ECF No. 85. Subsequently, this Court sentenced Petitioner to three concurrent terms of life imprisonment as to Counts I, III, and V, and a consecutive sentence of life imprisonment as to Count IV. See J., p. 2, ECF No. 97. Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Fourth Circuit has affirmed the Judgment of this Court. See Hall, 506 F. App'x at 252.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Petitioner Has Failed to Demonstrate Prosecutorial Misconduct

         Documents filed pro se are “liberally construed” and are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)(citation omitted). Petitioner contends that he was “deprived of [a] fair trial by intentional prosecutorial misconduct at all stages [of this action], ” in violation of his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Mot. to Vacate, p. 6, ECF No. 124. Petitioner claims that the Government “granted immunity outside of the law” to certain Government witnesses without completing the “lawful process” for immunizing witnesses under 18 U.S.C. §§ 6001-6005. Mem. Supp. Mot. to Vacate, p. 4, ECF No. 129. Additionally, Petitioner objects that the Government both “granted immunity” and “pa[id] [] funds” to Government witnesses, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 201(c)(2). Id.

         A. The Government Did Not Improperly Immunize Witnesses

         Sections 6002-6003 of Title 18 of the United States Code “allow prosecutors to seek immunity for witnesses in order to obtain testimony in a judicial proceeding.” United States v. Richardson, 195 F.3d 192, 196 (4th Cir. 1999). “Immunity statutes such as these ‘have historical roots deep in Anglo-American jurisprudence, ' dating back at least to 1710 England and have long existed in every American jurisdiction.” Id. (citing Kastigar v. United States, 406 U.S. 441, 445-47 & n. 13 (1972)). However, statutory immunity is but one of several mechanisms available to the Government to secure trial testimony and is only necessary where a witness “refuses . . . to testify.” 18 U.S.C. § 6002. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has long recognized the Government's freedom to grant informal or “letter” immunity in cases where a witness has not refused to testify. See, e.g., United States v. Davis, 233 F. App'x 292, 294 (4th Cir. 2007); United States v. Briley, 770 F.3d 267, 278 (4th Cir. 2014), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 1844 (2015).

         In this case, none of the Government's eyewitnesses refused to testify against Petitioner. Accordingly, it was not necessary for the Government to obtain statutory immunity in order to secure their testimony against the Petitioner. Attorney Carithers was the only witness who refused to testify, so his attorney sought statutory immunity under Section 6003. Government counsel has since verified that statutory immunity was in fact “sought and obtained” for Carithers, and Petitioner offers no evidence to the contrary. Gov't Response, p. 19, ECF No. 133. Therefore, Petitioner's first argument is without merit.

         B. The Government Did Not Violate 18 U.S.C. ...


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