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Brown v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 7, 2015

CARL R. BROWN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RODNEY W. SIPPEL, District Judge.

This matter is before me on the motion of Petitioner Carl R. Brown ("Brown") to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence by a person in federal custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In his motion, Brown alleges that he did not receive his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel and that he did not make his plea intelligently and voluntarily. For the reasons below I find that all of Brown's claims are without merit. As a result, his motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

On February 23, 2012, a Grand Jury returned a six-defendant, five-count superseding indictment charging Brown with three counts. Count I charged Brown with Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Counts III and IV charged Brown with Possession of a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). These charges resulted from a St. Louis FBI investigation of a heroin distribution organization operating in the St. Louis area.

Beginning in 2010, agents with the FBI used physical surveillance as well as court authorized wiretaps on various telephones belonging to Brown. During the investigation the FBI discovered that Jonathan Barnett ("Barnett") supplied various amounts of heroin to Brown, who routinely re-sold the heroin to others. Agents also observed telephonically arranged meetings between Brown and Barnett at pre-arranged locations on April 6, April 8, and April 11, 2011.

On March 31, 2011, St. Louis Police responded to the residence of Brown's grandmother, at 3619 Cora. At the residence, police discovered and seized a Remington Model 577 Viper.22 caliber rifle and an M1 Carbine.30 caliber semi-automatic assault rifle from a covered garbage can in the backyard. Following this seizure, agents intercepted phone calls from Brown in which he complained that his guns were seized and requested help in obtaining replacements. Brown voluntarily agreed to speak with FBI agents and made incriminating statements, admitting that he purchased and distributed heroin. Brown also admitted he owned the weapons seized from 3619 Cora. Later, on April 19, 2011 and April 20, 2011, federal search warrants were served at Brown's residence and two of the locations he used for distributing narcotics. A.22 caliber revolver, drug paraphernalia, and ammunition were seized. The ammunition was believed to be used with the assault weapons seized from 3619 Cora. On December 13, 2011, the U.S. Marshals took Brown into federal custody.

The Federal Public Defenders Office represented Brown throughout these proceedings. On June 21, 2012, Brown, with the advice of counsel, chose not to proceed to trial and entered into a plea agreement. Pursuant to the agreement, Brown agreed to plead guilty to Counts I and III, and in exchange the United States Attorney agreed to dismiss Count IV at the time of sentencing. The agreement laid out the elements of the crime, and required Brown to acknowledge that a factual basis existed for each charge he pleaded guilty to:

"As to Count III, the defendant admits to knowingly violating Title 18, United States Code, Sections 924(c)(1)(A) and admits there is a factual basis for the plea and further fully understands that the elements of the crime are: (1) the defendant admits the crime charged in Count I; (2) and that during and in relation to the offense in Count I, the defendant did use or carry a firearm or in furtherance of that crime did possess a firearm."

At the plea hearing, Brown acknowledged that he was satisfied with the performance of his counsel, that she had answered all of his questions, and that he understood the terms of the plea agreement:

"[Court]: Have you had enough time to discuss your case with your attorney?
[Brown]: Yes, sir.
[Court]: Are you satisfied with her representation of you in this case?
[Brown]: Yes, sir.
[Court]: Is there anything you think your attorney should have done but did not do in representing you?
[Brown]: No, sir.
...
[Court]: Did you read this document before you signed it?
[Brown]: Yes, I did.
[Court]: Did you go over it with your attorney?
[Brown]: Yes, sir.
[Court]: Did she answer all your ...

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