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United States v. Chase

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 20, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
GREYLING CHASE, Defendant. Related Civil No. ELH-16-3196

          MEMORANDUM

          Ellen L. Hollander, United States District Judge.

         Greyling Chase, Petitioner, filed a “Motion For Relief From Judgment” (“Motion”) under Fed. R. Crim. P. 60(d)(3), 60(b)(3), 60(b)(6) and 11(b).[1] ECF 140. In light of the content of the submission, by Order of May 26, 2016 (ECF 141), I asked Mr. Chase to advise the Court whether he wanted the Court to construe his submission as a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Mr. Chase responded (ECF 142), advising the Court of his consent to construe ECF 140 as a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See also ECF 143. The government filed a response in Opposition (ECF 146), along with several exhibits. Mr. Chase replied. ECF 151.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b), a hearing is required “[u]nless the motion and the files and the records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief . . . .” This is such a case; no hearing is necessary. For the reasons that follow, I shall deny the Motion.[2]

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On April 8, 2013, Chase and a codefendant were charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. ECF 6. Thereafter, Chase was charged in a five-count Indictment with conspiracy to commit the Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951; conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence and a drug trafficking crime; possession of firearms, in furtherance of those crimes, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and possession of a firearm by a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). ECF 21.

         Although Chase was represented by counsel, on October 18, 2013, he filed on his own behalf correspondence and motions (ECF 53; ECF 54), including a pleading titled “Motion Requesting Notice of Prior Similar Acts of Defendant And To Suppress Character Evidence.” ECF 53. Defense counsel also filed motions and submissions on Chase's behalf. See, e.g., ECF 27; ECF 28; ECF 87; ECF 88. In February 2014, the defendant, again while represented by counsel, filed several additional motions, pro se. See ECF 59 (“Defense Motion to Dismiss for Law Enforcement Misconduct”); ECF 60 (“Motion for Discovery and For Disclosure of Government Informant's Prior Testimony”).[3] In addition, in April 2014, Mr. Chase filed a “Motion to Dismiss for Selective Prosecution, Selected Enforcement.” ECF 86. In that motion, Chase argued that he was targeted in a Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation, based on his race. The government responded on April 22, 2014. ECF 89. Among other things, it outlined “the sting operation at issue in this case.” Id. at 4.

         A few days later, on April 28, 2014, Mr. Chase entered a plea of guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement. ECF 90; ECF 91 (Plea Agreement); ECF 146-1 (same). In particular, Chase entered a plea of guilty to Count One of the Indictment charging conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery (“Hobbs Act Robbery”), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951. See also ECF 115 (Plea Transcript); ECF 146-2 (Plea Transcript). Pursuant to the Plea Agreement, the parties agreed that Chase qualified as a Career Offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, with a Criminal History Category of VI. ECF 91, ¶ 7(b). In addition, the government agreed to recommend a sentence within the final advisory sentencing guidelines range. ECF 91, ¶ 10. See ECF 91, ¶¶ 7(b), 12, 13. Further, defendant reserved the right to appeal a sentence in excess of 188 months imprisonment, and the government reserved the right to appeal a sentence below 151 months of incarceration. Id. ¶ 13(b); see also ECF 146-2 at 7.[4]

         As part of his Plea Agreement, Chase agreed to the following facts, set forth in ECF 91, ¶ 7(a):

In March 2013, a confidential source of information (CS) working for the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) met with Greyling Chase, at a location in Baltimore, Maryland. During the meeting the CS proposed that he and Chase rob a drug trafficker that the CS stated would have a large quantity of narcotics. Unbeknownst to Chase, the drug trafficker was fictional. Chase agreed to commit the robbery and arranged to contact the CS at a later date.
On March 29, 2013, the CS met with Chase at a location in Baltimore City to discuss the planned robbery. During the meeting, which was audio and video recorded, the CS told Chase City and that he and Chase could rob the stash house and split the stolen cocaine evenly between them. The CS asked Chase if he had a firearm available to commit the robbery and discussed that it might be necessary to kill the target trafficker. Chase confirmed that he would bring a firearm to the robbery and agreed that it might be necessary to kill the target. Chase also agreed to enlist an associate to help commit the robbery.
On or about April 5, 2013, at the direction of law enforcement, the CS met with Chase and Rodney Ellis (who Chase had enlisted to assist in the robbery) at a location in Baltimore City. During the meeting, which was audio and video recorded, the CS explained how the robbery would be committed, confirmed that the target trafficker would have 10 kilograms of cocaine and reiterated that he (the CS) would keep half of the stolen cocaine and that Chase and Ellis could keep the remaining half. The CS told Ellis that it might be necessary to kill the target drug trafficker to effectuate the robbery; Ellis confirmed that he was willing to do so. The CS also asked Ellis if he had a firearm available to commit the robbery. Ellis confirmed that he would be armed.
On April 8, 2013, the CS met with Chase and Ellis at a location in Baltimore City in order to commit the planned robbery. The CS again explained how the robbery would be committed and Chase and Ellis confirmed that they were prepared to take part. The CS left the area (ostensibly to locate the target stash house) and then called Chase and Ellis a short time later to direct them to the stash house location. Chase and Ellis began driving towards the location provided at which time Chase's vehicle was stopped by law enforcement and Chase and Ellis placed under arrest. A search of Chase's vehicle recovered a Ruger P 89 9mm handgun and a FN 9.32 caliber handgun. Prior to their recovery by investigators, Ellis and Chase possessed both weapons and did so in furtherance of their conspiracy to rob a person they believed to be a drug trafficker.
Chase was subsequently Mirandized and agreed to be interviewed. During that interview, Chase admitted that he planned to participate in a robbery of 10 kilograms of cocaine and that he understood that firearms would be used to facilitate the robbery. Chase also admitted that he had obtained a firearm to use to facilitate the robbery.
The parties stipulate that Chase agreed with Ellis to steal the cocaine from the target trafficker though the use of force, violence and fear. The parties further agree that cocaine is a commodity manufactured outside the state of Maryland and which travels in interstate commerce. Therefore, the robbery of the cocaine from the source of supply of narcotics would have interfered with the interstate commercial activity of narcotics trafficking.

         After Chase pleaded guilty, but prior to sentencing, the Fourth Circuit decided United States v. Henriquez, 757 F.3d 144 (4th Cir. 2014), which determined that Maryland's crime of First Degree Burglary is not a crime of violence. In effect, this disqualified one of the predicate convictions that had rendered Chase a Career Offender.

         At the sentencing on September 17, 2014, the Court recognized that Chase did not qualify as a career offender. See ECF 146-3 (Sentencing Transcript) at 3, 8. Judge Quarles engaged in a lengthy discussion with both attorneys as to the impact of Henriquez on the Plea Agreement, which had contemplated a sentence of incarceration ranging between 151 and 188 months. Although the Plea Agreement anticipated a Final Offense Level of 29 and a Criminal History Category of VI (ECF 91, ¶¶ 7(b), 7(c), 8), the Court found, post-Henriquez, that Chase's final offense level was 22, with a Criminal History Category of V, and an advisory sentencing guidelines range of 77 to 96 months. ECF 146-3 at 33. However, the Court also found that Category V “understates the seriousness of [Chase's] criminal record.” Id. Therefore, Judge Quarles departed upward one level. Id. at 33-34. Judge Quarles sentenced Chase to a term of imprisonment of 105 months as to Count One. See ECF 106; ECF 108; ECF 146-3 (Transcript).

         Petitioner then appealed his sentence to the Fourth Circuit. ECF 110. On June 2, 2015, the Court of Appeals vacated the judgment and remanded the case to the district court for resentencing. ECF 121; ECF 122. The mandate issued on June 24, 2015. ECF 123. At the resentencing held on October 8, 2015 (ECF 145), Judge Quarles resentenced Chase to 63 months of imprisonment. See ECF 133. This Motion followed on May 16, 2016.

         I. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a prisoner in federal custody may “move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence, ” but only on certain grounds: “that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack. . . .” See also United States v. Newbold, 791 F.3d 455, 459 (4th Cir. 2015).

         Collateral attack is not a substitute for direct appeal; failure to raise certain issues on direct appeal may render them procedurally defaulted on post-conviction review. United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165 (1982); accord Bousely v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 630 (1998). As a general rule, a petitioner who fails to raise a claim on direct appeal is barred from raising the claim on collateral review. Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 548 U.S. 331, 350-51 (2006). However, this bar generally does not ...


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