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Barnes v. United States

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

July 31, 2019

CHRISTIN ISAIAH BARNES, Movant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside or correct sentence by Christin Isaiah Barnes, a person in federal custody. On May 17, 2017, Barnes plead guilty before this Court to the offense of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine. On August 23, 2017, this Court sentenced Barnes to the Bureau of Prisons for a term of 120 months. Barnes' § 2255 motion, which is based on several allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In July of 2015, DEA Agents began an investigation into the drug trafficking activities of a Stanley William Gunter. (PSR ¶ 12)2 As the investigation progressed Agents used an undercover officer to purchase methamphetamine from Gunter in September, October and December of 2015. Id. In January of 2016, Barnes, Gunter and co-conspirator Rosa Guzman met at a drug “stash house” in Jackson Missouri. (PSR ¶ 13)

         On February 5, 2016, Barnes directed Gunter to provide Guzman with two ounces of Methamphetamine, which Guzman was to deliver to an unidentified female subject. (PSR ¶ 14) Gunter told Barnes that he would send money back with Guzman as well. Id.

         On February 8, 2016, Guzman was stopped by police in St. Charles County Missouri, for following too closely. (PSR ¶ 16) A search of Guzman's black Mercedes was conducted after a police drug detecting canine alerted to the vehicle. Id. $6, 180.00 United States currency was seized from Guzman's purse after the dog alerted as well. Id. Guzman told officers that she was returning to the Kansas City area after going to Cape Girardeau Missouri for the purposes of retrieving a gun belonging to Barnes which was in the custody of the police department. Id. The gun had been seized after Barnes had been wounded in an exchange of gunfire which occurred in January of 2015 at the residence of a friend in Cape Girardeau. (PSR ¶ 13)

         2 PSR: Presentence Report in the underlying criminal cause, 1:16 CR 104 SNLJ.

         On April 9, 2016, Officers executed a search warrant at the stash house, seizing methamphetamine, drug scales, two handguns, a drug ledger, and drug packaging materials. (PSR ¶ 19)

         Gunter was interviewed about the conspiracy and indicated that he had met Barnes in the spring of 2014, and that Barnes had provided him with one half ounce of methamphetamine every two to three weeks for six months, and with two ounce quantities every two to three weeks between October 2014 and July of 2015. (PSR ¶ 22) In July of 2015, Barnes provided Gunter with one pound of methamphetamine, and then two additional pounds, including one pound in March 2016. Id.

         On July 29, 2016, Barnes directed Gunter to contact Guzman, who would provide Gunter with methamphetamine. Gunter met with Guzman, who provided him with 169.80 grams of methamphetamine. (PSR ¶ 20)

         On September 7, 2016, Barnes and Guzman were arrested in Kansas City Missouri. (PSR ¶ 21) A consent search of Barnes and Guzman's residence resulted in the seizure of a loaded handgun, which Barnes admitted belonged to him, marijuana, drug scales and numerous rounds of ammunition. Id.

         Barnes, Gunter and Guzman were indicted and charged with conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. (Doc 1, Cause 1:16 CR 104 SNLJ) Barnes entered an “open” plea of Guilty on May 17, 2017, and the matter was set for a sentencing hearing. (PSR ¶ 1) The presentence report recommended that the offense level was 32 pursuant to Section 2D1.1(c)(4), as the offense involved at least 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine. (PSR ¶ 30) The report also recommended that two levels be added pursuant to Section 2D1.1(b)(1) (PSR ¶ 31), that two levels be added as Barnes was an organizer leader, manager or supervisor under Section 3B1.1(c) (PSR ¶ 34), and that two levels be added as the defendant maintained a premises for the purpose of manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance under Section 2D1.1(b)(12). (PSR ¶ 34) Three levels were deducted for acceptance of responsibility and the total offense level was recommended as being 35. (PSR ¶ 39)

         Barnes criminal history consisted of a single one point misdemeanor conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia. (PSR ¶ 43) With a total offense level of 35 and a criminal history category of I, the advisory guidelines range was determined to be 168 to 210 months. (PSR ¶ 75)

         Barnes initially objected to the enhancement for the possession of the weapon, and for maintaining the premises for the purposes of distributing a controlled substance. (Doc 112, 1:16 CR 104 SNLJ) Barnes would later withdraw his objection to the enhancement for possession of the weapon and the government would concede Barnes objection to the applicability of the enhancement for maintaining the premises for the purposes of distributing a controlled substance. (Doc 128, 1:16 CR 104 SNLJ) (Tr. Sent. pp. 2-5)

         At sentencing Barnes' counsel complained of the fact that Gunter was not assessed an enhancement for being a leader or organizer, while contesting the two level enhancement for Barnes being a leader or Organizer, arguing that Barnes was “as much a middle man as he is a leader or an organizer, and I object to those two points”. (Tr. Sent. P.10) This Court rejected that argument, stating:

“Okay. I understand the argument completely. It's very clear that the two-level enhancement is appropriately applied to this defendant, and I don't see how it would be applied to the co-defendant….” (Tr. Sent. P. 20)

         The adjusted sentencing guidelines range was determined to be 135-168 months. (Tr. Sent. p. 7) This Court granted a downward variance and sentenced Barnes to 120 Months concurrent as to each count. (Tr. Sent. P. 20)

         Barnes appealed, arguing that the sentence imposed was substantively unreasonable, however the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgement in an unpublished ...


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