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Huggans v. United States

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

June 12, 2015

DARWIN MARKEITH HUGGANS, Petitioner.
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CATHERINE D. PERRY, District Judge.

Movant Darwin Markeith Huggans brings this case under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, seeking to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. Huggans was convicted at a bench trial of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and a separate charge of attempt to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. Case No. 4:07CR541 CDP. The government filed an information under 21 U.S.C. §851 charging him with two prior felony drug convictions, so I sentenced him to life imprisonment, as was mandatory under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence. United States v. Huggans, 650 F.2d 1210 (8th Cir. 2011). The United States Supreme Court denied Huggans' petition for writ of certiorari. Huggans v. United States, 132 S.Ct. 1583 (2012).

Huggans raises nine claims as grounds for his § 2255 motion. Because the record affirmatively refutes Huggans's claims, I will deny the motion without a hearing.

I. Grounds Raised in § 2255 Motion

Huggans' § 2255 motion raises the following grounds for relief:

1. Counsel had an actual conflict of interest, depriving Huggans of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and counsel failed to inform Huggans or the court of the conflict.
2. The trial court erred in failing to inquire into counsel's actual conflict of interest, depriving Huggans of his Sixth Amendment right to conflict free counsel.
3. The trial court erred in allowing the matter to proceed to a bench trial, depriving Huggans of his right to due process and counsel was ineffective for not requesting a jury trial based on the court's concern in having a bench trial at all.
4. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately investigate or prepare for Huggans's case.
5. The trial court erred in failing to correctly advise Huggans of the § 851 consequences and counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the court's incorrect § 851 statement in violation of Huggans' due process rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
6. Counsel was ineffective in advising Huggans to proceed to a bench trial without proper advice.
7. Trial counsel was ineffective in failing to properly advise petitioner regarding possible sentences or the impact of § 851 enhancements in taking a plea versus going to trial.
8. Huggans was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of appellate counsel.

Huggans also filed a supplement, arguing that under Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013), the government was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the prior convictions that formed the basis for the § 851 sentencing enhancement.

II. Background

The On appeal, the Eighth Circuit summarized the background facts as follows:

This case arose out of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") into a drug-distribution conspiracy headed by Luis Sais from a jail in Mexico City, where he was imprisoned. Beginning in 2001, Curtis Rice began shipping stolen cars to Sais's associates in Mexico in exchange for marijuana. In 2005, Rice began transporting cocaine, which was supplied by Sais's associates, from Mexico by boat into Texas and then in four-by-four trucks to cities across the United States, including St. Louis, Missouri. Beginning in December of 2005, Rice began supplying Sais's cocaine to Anthony Stiles in St. Louis.
Stiles had been dealing drugs with Huggans since 2001, receiving increasing quantities of cocaine from Huggans until Huggans lost his cocaine connection in 2005. After Stiles obtained the Sais connection, Huggans began buying cocaine from Stiles. According to Stiles's estimate, Stiles delivered approximately 600 kilograms of cocaine to Huggans over a six to nine month period.
By March of 2007, the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") had caught up with Rice and Stiles, and they agreed to cooperate. Stiles named Huggans as his primary customer, and DEA agents developed a plan to conduct a narcotics transaction between Rice, Stiles, and Huggans. In conversations recorded by DEA agents, Stiles let Huggans know that Rice had cocaine for sale at $17, 000 per kilogram. On April 10, 2007, Rice and Huggans met to discuss Huggans's purchase of twenty kilograms of cocaine. Subsequently, they agreed to meet for the exchange on April 12, 2007. On that day, Huggans met Rice, bringing a backpack full of money. Rice and Huggans traveled in Rice's car to a hotel. They planned to count the money in the hotel, whereupon Rice would call his "guy" to deliver the cocaine. The hotel room in which the meeting occurred was equipped with both audio and video recording devices, which captured the money count. Huggans asked Rice to call his "guy." Instead, Rice called nearby DEA agents. Rice and Huggans left the hotel room with Rice carrying the money. DEA agents arrested Huggans outside the room and seized the money. A count revealed $329, 320, which was $10, 680 short of the agreed-upon price of $340, 000 for the twenty kilograms of cocaine.

Huggans, 650 F.3d at 1216-17.

III. Discussion

Grounds 1 and 2 - Conflict ...


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