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Williams v. United States

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

January 25, 2019

LAWRENCE EDWARD WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Lawrence Edward Williams' motion filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. Petitioner was charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Following a one-day jury trial held on July 14, 2014, a jury found Petitioner guilty of the crime charged. On October 22, 2014, Petitioner was sentenced to 66 months' imprisonment.

         Petitioner filed a direct appeal, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment and sentence of this Court on August 7, 2015. Petitioner then filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on March 21, 2016. On November 1, 2015, Petitioner filed the present motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For federal habeas relief, Petitioner claims he received ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel failed to file a motion to dismiss for violation of the Speedy Trial Act (“the Act”).[1] For the reasons set forth below, federal habeas relief will be denied.

         DISCUSSION

         In order to prevail on an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim, a petitioner must meet the two-prong test established by Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984): (1) he must show that counsel's performance was so deficient that, “in light of all the circumstances, the identified acts or omissions were outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance, ” and (2) he must show “that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense, ” in the sense that “there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687, 690, 694. Consequently, counsel is not ineffective for failing to file a motion that would not have succeeded because the petitioner was not actually prejudiced. United States v. Johnson, 707 F.2d 317, 323 (8th Cir. 1983) .

         The Act requires a defendant to be brought to trial within seventy days of his indictment or arraignment, whichever is later. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1). The Act also sets forth periods of delay that are excluded from the computation of time within which the trial must commence, including, inter alia: (1) delay resulting from any proceeding to determine the mental competency of the defendant; (2) time between filing pretrial motions and the disposition of such motions; and (3) delay resulting from a continuance granted by a judge at the request of the defendant or his counsel if the judge granted such continuance on the basis of its findings that the ends of justice served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161(h)(1) - (7).

         Petitioner's Speedy Trial Calculation

          Petitioner contends that on June 26, 2013, seventy qualifying speedy trial days elapsed, resulting in a violation of the Act. ECF No. 15-1. June 26, 2013 is exactly seventy days after the date Petitioner was arraigned on charges (April 17, 2013). However, Petitioner fails to take into account the days that the Act expressly excludes from the computation of time within which trial must commence.

         Petitioner appeared before the Magistrate Judge for his initial appearance on April 15, 2013, at which time he was appointed an attorney. Petitioner was arraigned on the charges on April 17, 2013, which starts the speedy trial clock. At that time, defense counsel filed a motion for additional time to obtain and review discovery materials to identify whether any pretrial motions should be filed. The Magistrate Judge granted the motion for additional time the same day, holding:

[D]enying the Defendant's motion would deny counsel for the Defendant the reasonable time necessary for effective preparation of any pretrial motions, taking into account the exercise of due diligence, and that the ends of justice served by granting this motion outweigh the best interest of the public and the Defendant in a speedy trial, and therefore, the time granted to prepare pretrial motions, or a waiver thereof, is excluded from computation of the Defendant's right to a speedy trial pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3161(c)(1).

United States v. Williams, 4:13-CR-00128-1-AGF, Order Relating to Defendant's Motion to Extend Time to File Pre-Trial Motions and Speedy Trial Act Finding, ECF No. 13 (E.D. Mo. April 17, 2013) (“U.S. v. Williams”). This stopped the speedy trial clock for the duration of the extension of time. See Zedner v. United States, 126 S.Ct. 1976, 1989-90 (2006) (concluding “if a judge fails to make the requisite findings regarding the need for an ends-of-justice continuance, the delay resulting from the continuance must be counted, and if as a result the trial does not begin on time, the indictment . . . must be dismissed”).

         On April 29, 2013-the date on which the extension of time expired-Petitioner through counsel requested, and the Court subsequently granted, another extension of time until May 6, 2013. On May 6, defense counsel requested an extension to May 13, and on May 10, counsel requested another extension of time, until May 27, to file pretrial motions. Each time the Order granting the extension contained the properly findings under the Act.

         On a few occasions, several days elapsed between the date on which Petitioner filed his motion for extension of time and the date on which the Court granted the extension. Those days did not count toward Petitioner's speedy trial computation. United States v. De La Torre, 907 F.3d 581, 590 (8th Cir. 2018) (“This [September 1] motion [to continue] stopped the clock until September 6, when the district court granted the requested continuance.”). Thus, no speedy trial days elapsed between April 29 and May 27, 2013.

         On May 30, 2013, counsel requested another extension of time until June 27 to file pretrial motions, which the Court granted, again with the necessary findings. Thus, between May 27 (the date the previous ...


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