United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Michael Meco Johnson has filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside,
or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. S 2255 ("2255
Motion"). In his Motion, Johnson challenges his
conviction in the underlying criminal action on the basis
that his trial counsel was constitutionally deficient during
plea negotiations and in failing to communicate with Johnson.
Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that
no hearing is necessary. See Rule 8(a), Rules
Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States
District Courts; D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set
forth below, the Motion is DENIED.
February 1, 2016, a federal grand jury returned a one-count
Indictment charging Johnson with Possession of Controlled
Substances with Intent to Distribute, in violation of 21
U.S.C. S 841(a)(1). The Indictment issued after law
enforcement executed search warrants on an apartment and two
garages used by Johnson and found 15.2 grams of crack
cocaine, 2.3 kilograms of powder cocaine, 94.6 grams of
heroin, paraphernalia used to manufacture and distribute
these substances, items of jewelry believed to be worth at
least $129, 660, and $98, 200 in U.S. Currency. The
Indictment also included a forfeiture allegation covering the
seized jewelry and currency, as well as all other property
"obtained directly or indirectly as a result of any such
violation" or "used, or intended to be used, in any
manner or part to commit and to facilitate the commission of
any such violation charged." Indictment at 2, ECF No. 1.
Johnson was arrested, he retained Jennifer Matthews as his
attorney ("Counsel"). At his initial appearance on
April 13, 2016, Johnson was temporally detained. Counsel then
filed a Petition for Bail Review, which the Court (Day, M.J.)
granted on May 24, 2016. Johnson was then released to the
custody of his mother and required to remain at her residence
subject to location monitoring.
18, 2016, Johnson signed a plea agreement in which he agreed
to plead guilty to the single count of the Indictment. The
plea agreement stated the elements of the offense and
detailed that Johnson understood that he had waived his right
to a jury trial. The plea agreement also provided that the
parties agreed that the total offense level under the United
States Sentencing Guidelines ("Guidelines"), after
a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility,
would be 25. In the plea agreement, Johnson waived his right
to appeal his conviction and sentence, unless the sentence
was higher than the applicable Guidelines range for offense
level 25. Johnson also consented to the entry of a criminal
forfeiture order for the currency and jewelry seized from his
residence and allegedly related to the offense.
signing the plea agreement, Johnson attested that he had
"read this agreement" and "carefully reviewed
every part of it with my attorney." Plea Agreement at 8,
ECF No. 22. His attorney made a comparable attestation.
Johnson further affirmed that he understood the plea
agreement, voluntarily agreed to it, and was "completely
satisfied with the representation of my attorney."
Id. At Johnson's guilty plea hearing on July 18,
2016, he stated under oath that he had discussed the charges,
his case, and the plea agreement with his attorney, and that
he understood them and wished to enter a guilty plea. Again,
he stated that he was fully satisfied with his attorney.
November 16, 2016, prior to his sentencing, Johnson requested
that new counsel be appointed. On November 22, 206,, the
Court (Connelly, M.J.) held an attorney inquiry hearing,
during which it relieved Matthews as counsel and appointed
the Federal Public Defender as new counsel for Johnson. At
sentencing on April 5, 2017, the Court agreed with the
parties that the total offense level was 25 and calculated
the Guidelines range as 57-71 months but granted a downward
variance and sentenced Johnson to 48 months of imprisonment.
Johnson does not allege that the Federal Public Defender was
deficient as counsel.
sentencing hearing, the Court learned that the jewelry, as
well as two vehicles that Johnson claimed belonged to other
individuals, had previously been forfeited and sold, even
though the Court had not yet signed the proposed criminal
forfeiture order relating to the currency and jewelry. The
Court ordered the Government to file supplemental materials
explaining the process and authority under which the jewelry
was forfeited. Based upon the materials submitted by the
Government, the Court found that the United States Drug
Enforcement Administration had seized the jewelry and
vehicles pursuant to a nonjudicial administrative forfeiture
process. See 18 U.S.C. S 983 (2012); 19 U.S.C. SS
1602-1619 (2012); 21 U.S.C. S 881 (2012) (applying Title 19
customs forfeiture process to Title 21 drug cases). Thus,
while the indictment included a criminal forfeiture
allegation relating to the cash and jewelry pursuant to 21
U.S.C. S 853 and 28 U.S.C. S 2461(c), the Government chose to
utilize the administrative forfeiture process rather than the
criminal forfeiture process to gain title to the jewelry and
the vehicles. In light of this finding, the Court held that
Johnson's challenge to the administrative forfeitures
could not proceed in his criminal case. Johnson has since
filed a separate civil action challenging the administrative
forfeiture. See Civil Action No. TDC-18-0951.
a year after Johnson's sentencing, on April 2, 2018, he
filed the pending 2255 Motion. That same day, he also filed a
self-styled "Pro-Se Emergency Motion Due to Ineffective
Assistance of Counsel and Withdraw Guilty Plea Pursuant to 18
U.S.C. 2255," which the Court will construe as a
memorandum in support of his 2255 Motion.
2255 Motion, Johnson collaterally attacks his conviction
based on four alleged forms of ineffective assistance of
counsel: (1) "Lack of communication during critical
times," (2) "Failed to process any documents,"
(3) "Motions Plea Agreement improperly filed," and
(4) "Unethical Representation"" 2255 Motion at
4-5, ECF No. 72. The Government argues that Johnson's
Motion should be denied because he does not identify any harm
that is cognizable under S 2255 or request any specific
relief available under that provision.