United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT JUDGMENT
GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
This case arises out of Movant Rasheed Shakur’s (“Movant”) conviction on six counts as the ringleader in a large-scale conspiracy to distribute marijuana, cocaine, and methylenedioxymethamphetamine, popularly known as ecstasy. Pending before the Court is Movant’s pro se “Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Pursuant by a Person in Federal Custody” (Doc. 1). Movant seeks to vacate his conviction and sentence by asserting eighteen claims of error, most of which relate to claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Finding no merit to any of Movant’s claims, the Court DENIES the motion. The Court also declines to issue a certificate of appealability.
Factual Background and Procedural History
The following background and procedural history draws almost entirely from the Eighth Circuit’s decision denying Movant’s direct appeal, United States v. Shakur. 691 F.3d 979 (8th Cir. 2012).
Prior to trial, Movant declined to accept a plea deal which, if accepted by the Court, would have led to a fifteen-year prison sentence. At trial, the Government introduced substantial evidence establishing that Movant operated a multimillion dollar drug trafficking conspiracy. Heard in one wiretap claiming to be Kansas City's “Michael Corleone” (of “The Godfather” film series), Movant bankrolled everything from his associates’ legal expenses and family funerals to his luxurious lifestyle. Pledged one associate, “Got foot soldiers out here like me, ready to kill anything that moves for you.”
In early 2007, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) and Kansas City Police Department began investigating the conspiracy. Their investigation produced evidence that, during 2007, Hugo Rodriguez-Rodriguez procured marijuana in El Paso, Texas and, with his associates, flew loads to Kansas City and delivered 2, 880 pounds to Movant (as well as 31 pounds of cocaine). Later that year, officers stopped Rodriguez-Rodriguez and an associate leaving Movant’s residence with $17, 000 in cash. Officers persuaded the associate to work as a paid informant. She provided numerous details of the conspiracy, which led to the seizure in 2008 of over $200, 000, money destined for suppliers in Mexico. The suppliers then limited Rodriguez-Rodriguez’s access to drugs, constricting Movant’s pipeline.
Seeking new sources, Movant established relations with Audel Delgado-Ordonez in Phoenix, eventually obtaining some 2, 500 pounds of marijuana. Movant flew to Arizona every other week, packed eleven-pound quantities into boxes, and mailed the boxes from various Phoenix post offices to various addresses in Kansas City. He and his associates then gathered the boxes at his residence. The FBI obtained judicial authorization to wiretap Movant’s phones from March 2009 to June 2009. As they collected details of Movant’s operation from the wiretap, agents began intercepting packages to prove their contents. The conspirators devised but never implemented a scheme to transport drugs from Phoenix to Kansas City via tractor trailer to avoid losing packages in the mail. Throughout these operations, Movant purchased ecstasy pills and high-grade marijuana from Jesse Oliver in Sacramento, California, using a similar mailing system.
On June 25, 2009, officers simultaneously executed search warrants at several conspirators’ residences, seizing evidence and making arrests. Numerous indictments followed. Twenty-nine others pleaded guilty; many testified for the Government against Movant.
After a ten-day trial, the jury convicted Movant on Counts One (conspiracy to distribute 1, 000 kilograms or more of marijuana, five kilograms or more of cocaine, and some amounts of ecstasy); Two (conspiracy to commit money laundering); Three (possession with intent to distribute cocaine); Four (possession with intent to distribute marijuana); Nine (felon in possession of a firearm); and Ten (possession of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking offense). On August 5, 2011, Movant appeared before the Court for sentencing and, after the Court declined to continue the sentencing so he could obtain new counsel, chose to represent himself. At the hearing’s conclusion, the Court sentenced Movant to the statutorily mandated sentence of life imprisonment plus 60 months.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentence on August 30, 2012. On February 27, 2014, Movant filed the pending motion to vacate his conviction under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The Government does not dispute that the motion was timely filed.
Standard of Review
In a proceeding brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, the district court may “vacate, set aside or correct [a] sentence” that “was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). A § 2255 petition “is not a substitute for a direct appeal, and is not the proper way to complain about simple trial errors.” Anderson v. United States, 25 F.3d 704, 706 (8th Cir. 1994) (internal citations omitted). Furthermore, where a movant does not bring a claim on direct appeal, he can be barred from raising the claim in a § 2255 proceeding unless he establishes: (1) cause for the procedural default and actual prejudice; or (2) that he is actually innocent. Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998).
I. Movant’s claims are ...