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Sampson v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 23, 2018

ROBERT NEIL SAMPSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROGER W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Now pending before the Court are Petitioner's (1) Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (“Motion to Vacate”) (ECF No. 132), (2) Motion to Amend 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (“Motion to Amend”) (ECF No. 143) and a Supplement to his Motion to Amend (“Supplement”) (ECF No. 150), (3) Motion to Hold Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence in Abeyance (“Motion to Hold in Abeyance”) (ECF No. 149), and (4) Motion to Incorporate Exhibits and Appoint Counsel (“Motion to Appoint Counsel”) (ECF No. 151). For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny all four Motions.

         I. Background Facts

         From about May 2012 through August 2012, Petitioner planned and committed a series of armed robberies of two courier companies. ECF No. 64-1 at 10. The last robbery committed on August 31, 2012 was captured on video surveillance recording. Id. at 12. Employees of the warehouse in which the robbery took place identified Petitioner from the video recording. Id. Officers of the Prince George's County Police Department included two witness identification statements in their Application for Statement of Charges (“Statement of Charges”) against Petitioner. ECF No. 74-1. In a post-Miranda interview, Petitioner admitted his involvement in the robberies. ECF No. 64-1 at 10.

         Officers also interviewed Petitioner's daughter, Janean Sampson (“Ms. Sampson”). ECF No. 138 at 8. Ms. Sampson gave consent for officers to search her apartment in Baltimore, Maryland in which Petitioner had been residing. Id. Although the Government initially told Petitioner that the interview with Ms. Sampson was not recorded, see ECF No. 85 at 18 n.7, the interview was, in fact, recorded, see ECF No. 88 at 2. The Government provided Petitioner with a copy of the recording as soon as a copy was obtained. Id. The recording begins at approximately 12:30 a.m. and lasts for about two hours. ECF No. 138 at 4. During the search of Ms. Sampson's apartment, officers discovered pharmaceuticals and other evidence in a closet used by Petitioner. Id. at 3 They then applied for and received a search warrant for the apartment, issued by Judge Northrop of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. Id.

         Petitioner was ultimately charged by a nine-count Superseding Indictment with (1) one count of conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by robbery, (2) one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, (3) three counts of interference with interstate commerce by robbery, (4) three counts of using, carrying, and/or brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and (5) one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. ECF No. 42. On October 21, 2013, Petitioner pleaded guilty to three of those counts: (1) conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951, (2) interference with interstate commerce by robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951, and (3) the use, carrying, and brandishing of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). ECF No. 63; ECF No. 64.

         Before Petitioner's guilty plea and through sentencing, Petitioner and his counsel asserted numerous challenges to the Government's case. For example, Petitioner and his counsel filed multiple motions to suppress evidence and witness testimony statements (ECF No. 36; ECF No. 37), a motion to dismiss the charges for violations of the Speedy Trial Act (ECF No. 34), two motions to withdraw his guilty plea (ECF No. 73; ECF No. 77), and a motion to dismiss the charges for lack of jurisdiction based on a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause (ECF No. 75). Petitioner's counsel also challenged Judge Northrop's authority to issue the search warrant for Ms. Sampson's apartment, arguing that Judge Northrop had authority to issue warrants only within Prince George's County, which does not include Baltimore, and thus the warrant was invalid. See ECF No. 80 at 9-10. A hearing was held on these motions on September 12, 2014. All of the motions were ultimately denied, either at the hearing or by order on September 15, 2014. ECF No. 96; ECF No. 100.

         On September 23, 2014, the Court sentenced Petitioner to imprisonment for a total of 300 months, five years of supervised release, $292, 875.09 in restitution, and a $300 special assessment.[1] ECF No. 106; ECF No. 122. Petitioner appealed the judgment against him to the Fourth Circuit, which affirmed on November 10, 2015. ECF No. 127. The Fourth Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for a rehearing and rehearing en banc on January 20, 2016. ECF No. 130. Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied on June 6, 2016. Sampson v. United States, No. 15-9159 (U.S. June 6, 2016); ECF No. 132 at 2.

         On May 26, 2017, Petitioner filed his Motion to Vacate in this Court. ECF No. 132. On July 19, 2017, he filed a Motion to Hold in Abeyance Pending 28 U.S.C. § 2255, in which he asked the Court to stay any decision on his Motion to Vacate until the Fourth Circuit ruled on the petition for writ of mandamus he filed with the Court of Appeals, United States v. Sampson, No. 14-4744 (4th Cir. July 17, 2017), ECF No. 78. ECF No. 135. The Court denied Petitioner's Motion to Hold in Abeyance as moot after the Fourth Circuit denied his petition for writ of mandamus as moot on July 17, 2017. ECF No. 142 (citing United States v. Sampson, No. 14-4744 (4th Cir. July 17, 2017), ECF No. 79).

         The Government filed its Response in Opposition to Petitioner's Motion to Vacate on August 15, 2017. ECF No. 138. Petitioner filed his Reply on September 18, 2017. ECF No. 141. Petitioner then filed his Motion to Amend on November 3, 2017. ECF No. 143. The Government filed its Response in Opposition to the Motion to Amend on November 7, 2017, ECF No. 144, and Petitioner filed his Reply on November 17, 2017, ECF No. 145. Petitioner filed his Supplement on April 26, 2018. ECF No. 150.

         On February 1, 2018, Petitioner filed a Motion to Recuse the undersigned from considering Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, ECF No. 146, which the Court denied by order on March 22, 2018, ECF No. 148. Petitioner then filed a second petition for writ of mandamus in the Fourth Circuit on April 2, 2018, challenging the undersigned's neutrality in deciding his Motion to Vacate. In re Robert Sampson, No. 18-1362 (4th Cir. Apr. 2, 2018), ECF No. 2. Petitioner subsequently filed his Motion to Hold in Abeyance in this Court, requesting the Court to refrain from deciding his Motion to Vacate until the Fourth Circuit rules on his petition for writ of mandamus. ECF No. 149. Most recently, Petitioner filed his Motion to Appoint Counsel on June 13, 2018.

         II. Analysis

         In his Motion to Vacate, Petitioner brings five claims, some of which are interrelated. The first three claims assert that Petitioner's counsel was ineffective, the fourth claim asserts that the first hour and half of the video recording of Ms. Sampson's interview with law enforcement was deleted, resulting in a Brady violation, and the fifth claim asserts that the Court lacked jurisdiction over Petitioner's case. ECF No. 132. In his Motion to Amend, Petitioner adds two new claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, both related to the state charges for the armed robberies initially brought against Petitioner. ECF No. 143-1. In his Supplement, Petitioner adds an eighth claim, arguing that his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) is no longer valid in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), and Dimaya v. Lynch, 803 F.3d 1110 (9th Cir. 2015). ECF No. 150. In his Motion to Appoint Counsel, Petitioner asks the Court to incorporate exhibits into his Motion to Amend and to appoint counsel. ECF No. 151.

         A. Motion to Vacate

         To prevail on a § 2255 motion, a petitioner must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that “[his] 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 . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (2012); Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958). A claim which does not challenge the constitutionality of a sentence or the court's jurisdiction is cognizable in a § 2255 motion only if the alleged violation constitutes a “miscarriage of justice.” United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979). Collateral attack is not a substitute for direct appeal; therefore the failure to raise certain issues on direct appeal may render them procedurally defaulted on habeas review. United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165 (1982). If the § 2255 motion, along with the files and records of the case, “conclusively show that [the petitioner] is entitled to no relief, ” a hearing on the motion is unnecessary and the claims raised in the motion may be dismissed summarily. 28 U.S.C. § 2255; Miller, 261 F.2d at 547. Pro se petitions are liberally construed. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam).

         1. Petitioner's Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims Lack Merit.

         Petitioner's first three claims assert that his trial counsel did not provide effective assistance under the Sixth Amendment by failing to challenge (1) the arrest warrant based on purported errors in the State of Charges, (2) Judge Northrop's authority to issue the search warrant, and (3) the Court's propriety in contacting the Court of Appeals of Maryland in determining Judge Northrop's authority to issue the search warrant. ECF No. 132 at 4-6. None of these claims has legal merit.

         Courts examine claims of ineffective assistance of counsel under the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). To succeed on an ineffective assistance claim, a petitioner must show: (1) his attorney's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) he suffered actual prejudice. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. Under the “performance” prong, the alleged deficiency must be objectively unreasonable and “requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. at 689. The Court must evaluate the conduct at issue from counsel's perspective at the time, and must “indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Id.

         Under the “prejudice” prong, the alleged deficiency must have prejudiced the defendant, and, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, there is a reasonable probability that the result of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at 687, 694. “[I]n the guilty plea context, a person challenging his conviction must establish ‘a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.'” United States v. Fugit, 703 F.3d 248, 260 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). The court must determine that such a decision “would be rational under the circumstances, ” and therefore a petitioner's subjective preferences are not dispositive. Id. (citations omitted). A petitioner must meet the requirements under both prongs to prevail. Strickland, 466 U.S at 669.

         a. Petitioner's Claim of Ineffective Assistance for Not Challenging the Arrest Warrant Fails Both Strickland Prongs.

         In his first claim, Petitioner asserts that his counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate supposed errors in the arrest warrant and, as a result, his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary.[2] ECF No. 132-1 at 1-3. Petitioner asserts that the warrant falsely stated that witnesses positively identified Petitioner from the video surveillance recording of the August 31, 2013 robbery-that is that the 6:24 a.m. identification cited to in the Statement of Charges never occurred. Id.; ECF No. 141 at 2. This fabrication is evidenced, he argues, by the fact that the witnesses' identification statements were made at 12:09 p.m. and 11:05 a.m., and not at 6:24 a.m., the time the Statement of Charges states the identifications were made. ECF No. 132-1 at 1-3. This is further supported, Petitioner asserts, by the fact that Officer Bayes's report, which was included in the Statement of Charges by the affiant, Detective J. Boulden, ...


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