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Agnant v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 13, 2017

GUY BORDES AGNANT, JR., Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Civil Action No. RDB-16-0680

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         The pro se Petitioner Guy Bordes Agnant, Jr. (“Petitioner” or “Agnant”) pled guilty before this Court to Attempted Possession with the Intent to Distribute Five Kilograms or More of Cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846.[1] J., p. 1, ECF No. 255. Subsequently, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 120 months imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised release. Id. at 2-3. Currently pending before this Court is Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 369). Having reviewed the parties' submissions, this Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons discussed herein, Petitioner's Motion to Vacate (ECF No. 369) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Pursuant to a Plea Agreement with the Government, Petitioner Guy Bordes Agnant, Jr. (“Petitioner” or “Agnant”) has “stipulate[d] and agree[d] that if this case had proceeded to trial, the Government would have proven the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt:”

         On August 6, 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (“FBI”) Safe Streets Squad arrested an individual [referred to as “CD” in the Plea Agreement, but subsequently identified as Michael Barrett (“Barrett”)] as he attempted to take possession of multiple kilograms of cocaine. Plea Agreement, Attachment A, p. 8, ECF No. 167. Subsequently, Barrett agreed to cooperate with the FBI and placed a series of consensual calls to several of his “customers.” Id. On August 11, 2014, “[a]s a result of” Barrett's calls, “Agnant indicated a desire to purchase in excess of five kilograms of cocaine.” Id. Agnant then took “substantial steps toward the commission of the crime of possession with intent to distribute cocaine” by traveling to an arranged meeting location in Baltimore. Id. “Once [Agnant] made it to the CD's vehicle, he was placed under arrest.” Id.

         Several additional individuals responded to Barrett's calls and were subsequently arrested when they travelled to meet him. In addition to Agnant, law enforcement arrested Jermaine Cannady (“Cannady”), Antoine De-Marr Washington (“Washington”), Vincent Cooper (“Cooper”), Cornell Dion Brown, Jr. (“Brown”), Dominic William Parker (“Parker”), Ronald Timothy Sampson (“Sampson”), Donte Eugene Taylor (“Taylor”), and Tavon Hopkins (“Hopkins”) (collectively “Defendants”). On August 21, 2014, a Grand Jury returned a ten-count Indictment (ECF No. 70) charging all nine Defendants with Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine and Heroin “in or about November 2013 through in or about August 2014, ” in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count 1), and charging each Defendant with one additional count of Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin and/or Cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Counts 2-10).

         Pursuant to Plea Agreements with the Government, Defendants Agnant, Washington, Cooper, Taylor, and Hopkins each pled guilty to one of the charged offenses, in exchange for the Government dropping the other charge. Specifically, Agnant, Washington, Taylor, and Hopkins pled guilty to Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine (Counts 2, 4, 9 & 10 respectively), and the Government dismissed Count 1, the Conspiracy charge, as to those Defendants. See Agnant J., p. 1, ECF No. 255; Washington J., p. 1, ECF No. 250; Taylor J., p. 1, ECF No. 252; Hopkins J., p. 1, ECF No. 231. Cooper pled guilty to Conspiracy (Count 1), and the Government dismissed the Attempted Possession charge against Cooper (Count 7). See Cooper J., p. 1, ECF No. 220. All five Defendants were sentenced by this Court. This Court sentenced Agnant to 120 months imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised release. Agnant J., p. 2-3, ECF No. 255.

         The remaining four Defendants, Cannady, Brown, Parker, and Sampson, went to trial in March of 2015. Following a nine-day jury trial in this Court, Defendants Cannady, Brown, Parker, and Sampson were found guilty on all counts, including Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine (Count 1) and Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine (Counts 3, 5, 6 & 8 respectively). Verdict Sheet, ECF No. 202 [SEALED]. Michael Barrett testified as a key witness for the Government at trial. All Defendants were subsequently sentenced by this Court.

         In January of 2016, counsel for the Government submitted to Defense counsel a single handwritten sheet of paper (ECF No. 373-1) that they “had not seen previously, ” although it “had been seized by the FBI [prior to trial] during the execution of a search warrant at Michael Barrett's residence.” Letter, p. 1, ECF No. 373-1. The Government spoke to Barrett about the handwritten sheet, and he “advised that the document reflected notations as to payments received for portions of drugs sold and any money shortages regarding those payments.” Id.

         Subsequently, Defendants Cannady, Brown, Parker, and Sampson filed a Joint Second Motion for New Trial (ECF No. 373) on the grounds that the Government's failure to disclose the handwritten sheet prior to trial violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963) and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 154 (1972). To prove a Brady violation, a defendant must show that the undisclosed evidence was (1) favorable to the defendant; (2) material; and (3) that the prosecution had the material and failed to disclose it. Moore v. Illinois, 408 U.S. 786, 794-95 (1972), accord, United States v. Horton, 693 F.3d 463, 470 (4th Cir. 2012); United States v. King, 628 F.3d 693, 701-02 (4th Cir. 2011).

         On December 13, 2016, this Court conducted a hearing on the Defendants' Joint Second Motion for New Trial. Following several hours of argument by both Defense counsel and Government counsel, this Court ultimately granted Defendants' Cannady, Brown, Parker, and Sampson's Joint Second Motion for New Trial (ECF No. 373) and vacated its prior Judgments against those Defendants, pursuant to Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. See Order, ECF No. 403. For the reasons stated on the record at the conclusion of the December 13, 2016 hearing, this Court held that a Brady violation had occurred, but only with respect to Count 1, the Conspiracy charge against all Defendants. Specifically, this Court found that the Government had the handwritten sheet (ECF No. 373-1) in its possession prior to trial, yet failed to disclose it to Defendants. This Court found that the handwritten sheet was both “favorable” and “material, ” but only with respect to the charged Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute (Count 1). This Court concluded that the handwritten sheet was fundamental to the Defense's ability to challenge Barrett's testimony as to the existence of the charged conspiracy. This Court did not find that the handwritten sheet was both “favorable” and “material” with respect to Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine (Counts 3, 5, 6 & 8).

         At the hearing on the Joint Second Motion for New Trial (ECF No. 373) filed by Defendants Cannady, Brown, Parker, and Sampson, this Court noted that there had been previous motions to sever Count 1, the Conspiracy charge, from Counts 3, 5, 6 & 8, in which those four Defendants were each individually charged with one count of Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin and/or Cocaine. In light of the Brady violation as to the Conspiracy charge, this Court concluded that it was infeasible to order a new trial only with respect to the charged Conspiracy, but not also with respect to the individual charges of Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute. Accordingly, this Court vacated its prior Judgments in their entirety and ordered a new trial as to all counts. Issues of severance as to Defendants and/or individual counts may be addressed prior to the new trial for the Defendants Cannady, Brown, Parker, and Sampson. This Court's ruling in no way affects Agnant's plea of guilty to Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute 5 kilograms or more of Cocaine (Count 4).

         In his pending Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 369), Agnant seeks to withdraw his guilty plea and proceed to trial. He argues that his guilty plea was “unknowingly and unintelligently given.” Mot., p. 8, ECF No. 369; Reply, ECF No. 394. Additionally, Agnant argues that his court-appointed counsel rendered ineffective assistance, in violation of his rights under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Mot., ECF No. 369; Reply, ECF No. 394. Further, although he did not proceed to trial in this case and was not a party to Defendants' Joint Second Motion for New Trial (ECF No. 373), Agnant argues that his conviction “was premised upon the Government's misrepresentation of the facts” because the Government failed to disclose the handwritten sheet (“ledger-sheets”) to Defense counsel prior to Agnant's acceptance of the Plea Agreement. Reply, ECF No. 394.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pro se filings 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). Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a prisoner in custody may seek to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence where: (1) “the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, ” (2) the court lacked “jurisdiction to impose the sentence, . . . [(3)] the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or [(4) the sentence] is otherwise subject to a collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255. “[A]n error of law does not provide a basis for collateral attack unless the claimed error constituted ‘a ...


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