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Robinson v. United States

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

October 10, 2017




         Anthony Robinson seeks to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Robinson was convicted by a jury of racketeering conspiracy; two counts of violent crime in aid of racketeering - murder; one count of violent crime in aid of racketeering - attempt to commit murder, and tampering with evidence. Case No. 4:11CR246 CDP. He was sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment, plus 120 months and 240 months, with all terms to run consecutively. Robinson appealed, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence. United States v. Henley, 766 F.3d 893, 908 (8th Cir. 2014). Robinson petitioned the United States Supreme Court for certiorari, which was denied on May 4, 2016.

         Robinson then filed this § 2255 motion pro se, raising the following two grounds for relief:

1) Ineffective assistance of counsel “because the district court finding that spontaneous isolated and unrelated acts of violence by individuals in disparate geographical locations having no economic impact on Interstate Commerce and whose association in-fact-was not engaged in or effected interstate commerce violates 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) constitutes an unconstitutional application of RICO”; and
2) Ineffective assistance of counsel “because the court improperly determined that defendants acts performed for purposes of maintaining or increasing his position in a RICO enterprise in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a) does not require ‘but for' causation.”

         As the government points out, Robinson's lengthy memorandum in support of his motion bears little relationship to these claims and instead contains a rambling, incomprehensible attack of the constitutionality of various statutes and the procedure used to sentence him. To the extent this memorandum attempts to raise additional claims, they could have been raised before the Court of Appeals but were not, so they are procedurally barred. Robinson's ineffective assistance of counsel claims fail because he was represented by an experienced trial attorney who presented a vigorous defense, and his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are refuted by the trial record. The evidence against him was very strong, as set forth in great detail in the appellate opinion affirming his conviction and sentence. I will deny Robinson's motion without an evidentiary hearing for the reasons that follow.


         A. No Evidentiary Hearing is Required

         The records before me conclusively demonstrate that Robinson has no right to relief. I will not hold an evidentiary hearing on this matter. “A petitioner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on a section 2255 motion unless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that he is entitled to no relief.” Anjulo-Lopez v. United States, 541 F.3d 814, 817 (8th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). “No hearing is required, however, where the claim is inadequate on its face or if the record affirmatively refutes the factual assertions upon which it is based.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The record here conclusively refutes the claims, so I will not hold an evidentiary hearing.

         B. Additional Claims are Procedurally Barred

         “A collateral challenge may not do service for an appeal.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165 (1982). “[N]ormally a collateral attack should not be entertained if defendant failed, for no good reason, to use another available avenue of relief.” Poor Thunder v. United States, 810 F.2d 817, 823 (8th Cir. 1987) (internal citation omitted). If a claim could have been raised on direct appeal but was not, it cannot be raised in a § 2255 motion unless the movant can show both (1) a “cause” that excuses the default, and (2) “actual prejudice” resulting from the errors of which he complains. See Ramey v. United States, 8 F.3d 1313, 1314 (8th Cir. 1993); Mathews v. United States, 114 F.3d 112, 113 (8th Cir. 1997).[1]

         Although Robinson's arguments are difficult to discern, he appears to assert in his supporting memorandum that: 18 U.S.C. § 1959 is unconstitutional, both on its face and as applied to him; he was somehow “prosecuted in the wrong court;” being sentenced to the statutory mandatory minimum term of imprisonment violated due process; and, 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) is unconstitutional because the Court allegedly sentenced him based on judicially found facts and a mandatory Presentence Investigation Report . Not only are all of these claims meritless, [2] they are procedurally barred because they could have been raised on direct appeal but were not. As Robinson provides no attempt to allege sufficient cause and prejudice necessary to overcome the procedural default of any of these claims, they will be denied.

         C. Robinson Did Not Receive Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Robinson brings two claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Sixth Amendment establishes the right of the criminally accused to the effective assistance of counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686 (1984). To state a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel, Robinson must prove two elements of the claim. First, he “must show that counsel's performance was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the counsel guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. at 687. In considering whether this showing has been accomplished, “judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential.” Id. at 689. The courts seek to “eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight” by examining counsel's performance from counsel's perspective at the time of the alleged error. Id. Second, Robinson “must show that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense.” Id. at 687. This requires him to demonstrate “a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding ...

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