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Owens v. United States

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

July 8, 2015



CATHERINE D. PERRY, District Judge.

Movant Anthony Owens brings this action to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Owens pled guilty to two counts of being an accessory after the fact to murder in aid of racketeering under 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1) and § 3. Case No. 4:11CR246CDP. He was sentenced to 102 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.

Owens argues that because the two murders took place in other states, this Court lacked jurisdiction. He also argues that his counsel was ineffective for failing to properly advise him that he could not be convicted in this district. Both jurisdiction and venue were proper in this district, however, and his counsel was not ineffective for failing to argue otherwise. As the records and evidence before the Court conclusively demonstrate that Owens is not entitled to relief, I will deny the motion without a hearing.


Owens was charged, along with numerous other defendants, in a multi-count racketeering indictment arising from the activities of an outlaw motorcycle gang known as the Wheels of Soul.[1] The indictment alleged acts of racketeering occurring in multiple states, including a number of criminal acts that occurred in the Eastern District of Missouri. Owens was charged in three counts of the superseding indictment: Counts 12 and 17 charged accessory after the fact to murder in aid of racketeering, and Count 16 charged witness tampering. In exchange for his guilty plea to the two accessory after the fact charges, the government dismissed the witness tampering count.

Owens testified under oath at the guilty plea hearing and signed a written plea agreement. He stated that he understood his rights and was satisfied with his counsel. He also stated at the sentencing hearing that he had reviewed the Presentence Report and had no objections to it. The facts set out here about Owens are based on the record from the plea, Presentence Report, and sentencing hearing.

Owens was a "prospect" in the Wheels of Soul motorcycle gang, meaning he was not yet a full member, but was required to follow instructions of members in order to advance to full membership. The murder in Count 12 took place in Chicago, Illinois, on January 2, 2011. Owens had been at home when he got a call from a Wheels of Soul member (his cousin Anthony Robinson) who asked him to bring a gun to a bar where a different motorcycle group was having a party. Owens brought the gun to Robinson, who told him they needed to get a member of a rival gang to relinquish a patch on his vest. Owens accompanied Robinson and other Wheels members as they approached the man wearing the offending colors and demanded that he remove the patch. A shoot-out ensued and several people were injured; one died. Owens then helped Robinson load an injured Wheels of Soul member into his car, and Owens drove them away from the scene. Robinson instructed Owens to take him home so he could dispose of the gun, but while they were driving Owens received a phone call from the Wheels of Soul Regional President, who told him to take the injured member to the hospital instead. Owens did so, but first stopped and let Robinson out so Robinson could hide the gun.

Two months later, Owens was again involved in a Wheels of Soul shoot-out with a rival motorcycle club. This murder happened on March 6, 2011, in Marion, Ohio, where Owens and a number of Wheels of Soul members had traveled for a meeting and party. Again a gun-fight broke out between Wheels of Soul members and members of another club; again Robinson was one of the shooters. And again the person Robinson shot died. Owens had been assigned to protect the Regional President at the party. Owens moved that person to safety and then fled the scene with Robinson and other Wheels members. They stopped the car for Robinson to hide the firearm, they later retrieved the firearm and took it to the hotel where they all were staying. At the hotel, they discussed the need to dispose of the firearm. Robinson put the gun in a Taco Bell bag and gave it to Owens, who discarded it in a storm drain (from which it was later recovered and tied to the murder).

In his guilty plea, Owens waived his right to appeal and waived the right to file a § 2255 motion except for grounds of prosecutorial misconduct or ineffective assistance of counsel.

Grounds for Relief

Owens's § 2255 motion states as his grounds:

GROUND ONE: I was denied the effective assistance of counsel thereby prejudiced to illegal imprisonment: (a) counsel advised me to take a plea of guilty before a Court lacking jurisdiction over the proceedings; (b) counsel advised me to plead guilty to statutory charges that by statute did not apply to me; (c) counsel failed to recognize from the discovery reports only the States of Illinois and Ohio had prosecuting jurisdiction over me.
GROUND TWO: The U.S. District Court of Missouri lacked all jurisdiction over the proceedings held against me: (a) the charges were brought before the Federal District Court of Missouri in violation of the Sixth Amendment due process right of the accused, and in violation of the States's Tenth Amendment Constitutional right of jurisdiction over local offenses; (b) the charging statutes did not comport with the activities charged against me.

Owens filed a memorandum in support of the motion, and has filed a number of additional memoranda and motions. Although stated in various ways, all his arguments revolve around the claim that he could not be prosecuted in the Eastern District of Missouri and that his counsel was ineffective for failing to so advise him. ...

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