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Johnson v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 23, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Defendant Civil No. PJM 16-654



         Jack Bruce Johnson, Sr. has filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, under 28 U.S.C. S 2255. ECF No.63. The Court has considered the Motion and the Government's Opposition. For the reasons described below, the Court DENIES the Motion.


         On February 14, 2011, a grand jury returned an eight-count indictment against Johnson stemming from his illegal activities while serving as the County Executive for Prince George's County, Maryland. ECF No. 17. On May 17, 201,, Johnson entered into an agreement with the Government, in which he pleaded guilty to extortion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. S 1951 (Count 2) and witness and evidence tampering, violation of 18 U.S.C. S 1512(b)(2)(B) (Count 8). ECF No. 26. All other charges were dropped. On May 17, 2011, following a colloquy with Johnson in open court, the Court accepted the plea agreement.. ld.

         On December 14, 2011, the Court sentenced Johnson to 87 months in custody, to be followed by three years of supervised release. ECF No. 50. Johnson waived his right to appeal in the plea agreement.. ECF No. 27.

         Some four and one-half years later, on March 8, 2016, Johnson filed the present Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence. ECF No. 63. He argues that he is eligible for relief on account of newly discovered evidence related to three "offensive and hate-filled" letters he and his family received in 2010 and 2011. Id. at 4. The mailings contained crude language and racial slurs directed towards Johnson and referenced the crimes to which he pleaded guilty. Id. at 8. Johnson believes and alleges that members of the Prince George's County Police Department (PGCPD), who were part of a federal task force investigating his crimes, were the authors of the letters. Id. His evidence for this proposition includes the statement that one of the letters was mailed in an official Prince George's County Government stationery envelope. Id. at 9-10. Another of the letters referenced two PGCPD officers Johnson prosecuted during his time as the State's Attorney for Prince George's County, an office he held prior to becoming County Executive. Id. at 9.

         Johnson submits that in 2015, an independent scientific laboratory retained by him tested traces of saliva on the back flap of the three envelopes in which the letters were delivered. Id. at 10. The tests indicated that a single male had sent two of the letters, one of which was the one sent in what appeared to be an official Prince Georgess County Government stationery envelope. A separate individual purportedly sent the third letter. Id. at 11 From this, Johnson concludes that a Prince George's County employee, likely a PGCPD officer, sent the two letters. Id. at 12.

         Johnson asserts that the DNA test's conclusions constitute new evidence suggesting a lack of integrity in the criminal investigation that supported the investigators" application for Title III wiretaps in his case which, in turn, produced a significant amount of the evidence against him. Id. at 13. He contends that he would not have entered into his plea agreement had he known that the DNA tests would reveal that the investigation was tainted. Id. at 12. The Government submits that Johnson's claim is meritless. ECF No. 68 at 6.

         H. ANALYSIS


         Title 28 U.S.C. 92255 establishes a one-year statute of limitations a post-conviction petition from the latest of:

(I) the date on which a conviction becomes final; (2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action; (3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or (4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

         Based on 28 U.S.C. 9 2255(1)(2), Johnson argues that limitations should run from March 1L 2015, because that was "the moment which it became possible to trace the suspected law enforcement-related wrongdoing back to the perpetrators." ECF No. 63 at 18. Alternatively he argues, pursuant to 9 28 U.S.C. 92255(1)(4), that limitations should run from October 13, 2015. because that was "the date in which [Johnson] received the DNA testing results from a third envelope.'" Id. The Government counters that the appropriate date when limitations began to run was December 28, 20I1. fourteen days after the Court filed its judgment, when Johnson failed to note on appeal and his conviction became final. ECF No. 68 at 7. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(b)(l)(A) (requiring that a defendant file a notice of appeal within fourteen days of the entry of judgment). The deadline for Johnson to file a timely 28 U.S.C. 92255 motion, according to the Government, was December 28, 2012. ECF No. 68 at 7.

         The Court agrees with the Government that limitations began to run from the date Johnson's conviction became final pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ...

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