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Jackson v. United States

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

August 12, 2019

LODGY JACKSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Lodgy Jackson's motion filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. On February 8, 2013, Petitioner entered a plea of guilty to three counts: (1) conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(B) and 846; (2) conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(o); and (3) possession, brandishing, and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A) and 924(j)(1). The Court accepted Petitioner's plea, and on December 12, 2013, sentenced Petitioner to a total of 400 months in prison, and a five-year term of supervised release.

         In his pro se motion under § 2255, Petitioner claims that trial counsel was ineffective for (1) failing to conduct an adequate pretrial investigation before advising Petitioner to plead guilty; (2) causing Petitioner to unknowingly and involuntarily waive his right to file pretrial motions; (3) neglecting to ensure there was a factual basis for Petitioner's plea to the charged offenses; (4) promising Petitioner that his sentence would not exceed 360 months' imprisonment; (5) neglecting to ensure that there was specific performance of the plea agreement; and (6) “fail[ing] to object to the Court's justification for refusing to award Petitioner a 3-level decrease in offense level for acceptance of responsibility, ” ECF No. 5 at 16.[1] Petitioner also claims that (7) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to advance the above-listed claims on direct appeal. As the record before the Court conclusively demonstrates that Petitioner is not entitled to relief, the Court will deny Petitioner's motion without a hearing.

         BACKGROUND

         Criminal Proceedings

         As part of the guilty plea agreement signed by both parties, Petitioner stipulated to the following facts. Petitioner, co-defendant Andreus O'Bryant, and another man agreed to participate in a drug robbery to take place in April 2011. The three men agreed to rob victim Jamie Benson of a half kilogram of cocaine. The men decided that, in order to obtain the cocaine, Benson and anyone who traveled with him would have to be killed.

         On April 21, 2011 Benson and two other individuals traveled to St. Louis, Missouri from Houston, Texas for the purpose of selling cocaine in a deal arranged by O'Bryant. At some point after their arrival that day, Benson and his travel companions, as well as Petitioner and his co-conspirators, drove to a rural, wooded area outside of St. Louis, where the sale was to take place. A sudden downpour interrupted the transaction.

         At some point following the failed transaction, some members of the group drove around the St. Louis metropolitan area in O'Bryant's car into the early morning hours of April 22, 2011. They arrived in an alley in the City of St. Louis. O'Bryant exited the vehicle and entered a nearby residence. At that time, Petitioner shot Benson in the back of the head, killing him, and removed Benson's body from the vehicle. Petitioner then picked up O'Bryant from inside the nearby residence and left the area. Benson's body was discovered in the alley later that morning.

         On August 25, 2011, Petitioner was indicted on three counts: 1) conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(B) and 846; (2) conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(o); and (3) possession, brandishing, and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A) and 924(j)(1). Petitioner initially pled not guilty.

         Petitioner thereafter requested and obtained multiple extensions of time to file pretrial motions; his counsel, Joseph Hogan, stated that the reason for the requests was to obtain and review discovery provided by the government. United States v. O'Bryant, et al., No. 4:11-CR-351-AGF, ECF Nos. 28 & 37 (E.D. Mo.) (“O'Bryant”). On October 18, 2011, Petitioner appeared in person and with Hogan before Magistrate Judge Terry I. Adelman and announced on the record that, understanding his rights in this regard, he wished to waive his right to file pretrial motions. Id., ECF No. 59. Judge Adelman accepted Petitioner's waiver as knowingly and voluntarily made. Id.

         Petitioner's criminal case was initially designated as a death penalty-eligible case. Therefore, on July 12, 2012, the Court appointed Richard Sindel as co-counsel qualified to handle Petitioner's capital case, along with Hogan. However, Sindel's appointment terminated on February 8, 2013, after the government decided not to seek the death penalty. Petitioner executed the plea agreement the same day.

         As noted above, Petitioner pled guilty to counts one, two, and three pursuant to the written plea agreement executed on February 8, 2013. Under the plea agreement, the government agreed to recommend a sentence of 360 months' imprisonment. However, the plea agreement stated that this Court “alone will determine whether to accept the [government's] recommendation.” Id., ECF No. 157 at ¶ 8(g)(1).

         At the change-of-plea hearing held on the day the plea agreement was executed, Petitioner represented to the Court that he had read, discussed with his attorney, Hogan, and understood the terms of the plea agreement, and that he was guilty of the crimes to which he was pleading guilty. He further confirmed that he was satisfied with the representation he received from his attorney, and that there was nothing he wanted his attorney to do for him that the attorney had not done in representing Petitioner. Id., ECF No. 214 at 8, 11-12.

         The Court also explained to Petitioner that the Court did not have to impose the parties' recommended sentence. Petitioner confirmed that he understood “that the decision whether or not to accept that recommendation at sentencing would be totally up to [the Court]”; that “the mere fact that the parties are recommending that doesn't mean [the Court is] going to go along with it”; that the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“Guidelines”) were advisory; that the Court was free to sentence Petitioner above or below the Guidelines range; and that Petitioner might be considered an armed career criminal, which would mean a higher total offense level and a higher criminal history category under the Guidelines. Id. at 16-27. The Court stated that it needed to make “very clear” to Petitioner, and Petitioner represented that he understood, that if anyone had made a promise to Petitioner as to a particular sentence, that was a promise the person could not keep. Id. at 23. The Court explained:

Court: Now, do you understand, sir, that I don't have to follow any of the guidelines recommendations contained in this plea agreement?
Petitioner: Yes.
Court: And do you understand, sir, that if I do not [follow] the guideline agreements contained in this document, you're still going to be stuck with your plea and you're not going to be able to withdraw your plea just because I didn't follow the recommendations contained in this plea agreement?
Petitioner: Yes, ma'am.

Id. at 27.

         The Court then ascertained the factual basis for the guilty plea and found that the plea was knowing, ...


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