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Jones v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 25, 2019

SOPHIA JONES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Sophia Jones (“Jones”) has filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence (“§ 2255 motion” or “motion to vacate”). ECF No. 526.[1] The Government has responded to Jones's motion to vacate and filed a motion to seal. ECF Nos. 537, 538. For the reasons discussed below, the court will deny Jones's § 2255 motion and grant the Government's motion to seal.

         BACKGROUND FACTS

         On December 12, 2012, a grand jury indicted eleven defendants, including Jones, on a single count of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C § 846. ECF No. 1. On November 13, 2013, a grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment that included additional charges as to Jones. ECF No. 235. Jones was charged with (1) use of a communication facility in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense (Counts Nine, Eleven, Thirteen), and (2) possession with intent to distribute heroin (Counts Ten, Twelve, Fourteen). Id.

         At Jones's initial appearance on July 17, 2013, the court appointed counsel pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act. ECF No. 350. XXXXX

         On January 24, 2014, a jury found Jones guilty on all pertinent charges in the Superseding Indictment. ECF No. 290. XXXXX

         On June 18, 2015, the court sentenced Jones to 120 months of imprisonment on Count One; 48 months of imprisonment on Counts Nine, Eleven, and Thirteen; and 97 months on Counts Ten, Twelve, and Fourteen. ECF No. 475. All sentences were to run concurrently. Id.[2]Jones appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which affirmed her conviction on August 12, 2016. ECF No. 508.

         Jones filed her § 2255 motion on August 14, 2017. ECF No. 526. On August 16, 2017, the court ordered the United States to respond to Jones's § 2255 motion within 60 days of the Order and allowed Jones to reply within 28 days of the United States' response. ECF No. 527. The Government filed its timely opposition and a motion to seal. ECF Nos. 537, 538. Jones did not file a reply.

         DISCUSSION

         In her motion to vacate and grounds in support of her motion, Jones asserts fourteen arguments, but provides limited application of them to her case: (1) she was denied effective assistance of counsel, ECF Nos. 526 at 4-5, 8-9; 526-1 at 1; (2) her conviction was obtained by use of evidence gained pursuant to an unconstitutional search and seizure, ECF Nos. 526 at 4, 526-1 at 1; (3) her conviction was “obtained by wrong legal status, ” ECF No. 526-1 at 2; (4) the grand jury or the petit jury was “unconstitutionally selected or tainted by a third party instruction, ” id.; (5) her conviction was obtained in violation of her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, id.; (6) her conviction was obtained by an ex post facto law, ECF Nos. 526 at 8; 526-1 at 3; (7) her conviction was obtained in the wrong jurisdiction, ECF Nos. 526 at 7; 526-1 at 3; (8) her conviction was obtained through a forced waiver of certain “inalienable rights” in violation of her religious and spiritual beliefs, ECF No. 526-1 at 4; (9) this court was not the proper venue for her case, ECF Nos. 526 at 7; 526-1 at 4; (10) this court lacked the constitutional authority to adjudicate her case, ECF No. 526-1 at 4; (11) the United States lacked standing to prosecute her because it is a “corporate fiction, ” id. at 5; (12) she is being unlawfully held in violation of Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, id.; (13) she has been denied the right of habeas corpus, id.; and (14) her due process rights were violated because one of the felony drug statutes she was convicted of violates the void for vagueness doctrine, id.

         To prevail on a § 2255 motion, a petitioner must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that “[her] 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) (citation omitted).

         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). Issues fully litigated on direct appeal cannot be raised on collateral attack. Boeckenhaupt v. United States, 537 F.2d 1182, 1183 (4th Cir. 1976). 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).

         I. Jones's Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims Lack Merit.

         Jones brings four ineffective assistance of counsel claims, three against her trial counsel, and one against her appellate ...


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