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Riggins v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 22, 2015



IVAN L.R. LEMELLE, District Judge.

Before the Court is Brian Riggins's ("Petitioner") motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence by a person in federal custody (Rec. Doc. 107).[1] The United States ("Government") filed a memorandum in opposition to the petition (Rec. Doc. 111). Petitioner filed a response to Respondent's memorandum in opposition (Rec. Doc. 116). For the reasons enumerated below, the instant §2255 motion is DENIED.

Causes of Action and Facts of the Case

This motion arises out of Petitioner's incarceration at Coleman USP II, in Coleman, Florida. On January 31, 2012, Petitioner was found guilty after a jury trial of five counts of drug and firearm related crimes and sentenced on May 2, 2012 to a term of life in prison.

A. Criminal Informant's Tips and Initial Investigation

The investigation into Petitioner's drug-related activities began when a trusted confidential informant ("CI") provided Jefferson Parish Sheriff Lieutenant Daniel Jewell with a tip informing him of the nature of Petitioner's drug-related activities, and supplied Lt. Jewell with a description of Petitioner and his vehicle. (Rec. Doc. 87); United States v. Riggins, 524 F.Appx. 123, 125 (5th Cir. 2013). Based on the CI's tip, Lt. Jewell ran a background check on Petitioner that revealed two prior cocaine-related convictions. Id.

The CI later told Lt. Jewell that he and a relative drove to Petitioner's house. Id. Although the house was later determined to belong to Petitioner's girlfriend, it was where he actually resided. Id. The CI waited in the car while the relative went inside. Id. When he returned to the car, he told the CI that Petitioner had "bricks" of cocaine in the house.[2] Id.

B. Surveillance and Traffic Stop

The next day, Lt. Jewell, along with other officers, surveilled Petitioner's house. Id. During this time, a vehicle matching the CI's description of Petitioner's vehicle arrived at the residence, and a man matching the CI's description of Petitioner entered the house. Id. Shortly afterward, Lt. Jewell decided to leave the scene to prepare a search warrant for the residence. Id. Petitioner then left the house alone and began driving away, and the officers followed him while Lt. Jewell prepared the search warrant. Id. Lt. Jewell ordered the officers at the scene to stop Petitioner. Id. While stopping the vehicle, the officers observed Petitioner make movements between his driver's seat and the center console, so they ordered him out of the vehicle and placed him in handcuffs. Id. Two officers looked through the driver's side window and observed what they believed to be cocaine between the driver's seat and the center console. Id.

The officers asked Petitioner where he resided, and if he was driving from his home. Id. He provided a false answer to both questions. Id. The officers took Petitioner's keys, and led a drug-sniffing dog around the vehicle. Id. The dog indicated the presence of drugs at the driver's side door. Id. Lt. Jewell, who was still drafting the search warrant for the residence, then decided to draft a second warrant for the vehicle. Id.

Some officers then returned to the house owned by Petitioner's girlfriend in anticipation of issuance of the search warrant. Id. at 126. The officers knocked on the door and a 13-year-old girl answered. Id. The officers entered and performed a security sweep inside the house. Id. Petitioner's girlfriend then arrived at the house and told the officers that Petitioner slept there every night and had a key. Id. The officers tested Petitioner's key, and confirmed that it unlocked the door. Id. Around this same time, Lt. Jewell went to the scene of the traffic stop with the approved and signed search warrants in hand. Id. He presented the vehicle search warrant to Petitioner, and the drug-sniffing dog was allowed into the vehicle. Id. The officers recovered cocaine from the area between the driver's seat and the center console, at which point they arrested Petitioner and took him to the detective bureau. Id.

C. Search of Residence and Questioning at Detective Bureau

Lt. Jewell then drove to the residence to execute the remaining search warrant. Id. Inside, they found a drug ledger, two digital scales, about nine kilograms of powder cocaine, about $58, 000 in cash, two loaded handguns, and two shotguns. Id. At the detective bureau, officers read Petitioner his Miranda rights and asked if Petitioner wanted to make a statement. Id. Petitioner said he did not want to make a recorded statement, but did want to state that everything found in the house belonged to him, not his girlfriend, and that he could not get a well-paying job and did what he had to do to make a living. Id.

D. Procedural History

The record reflects that Petitioner was initially indicted on May 14, 2009 (Rec. Doc. 1), arraigned on August 30, 2010 (Rec. Doc. 12), and detained on this same date. (Rec. Doc. 11). A superseding indictment was filed on December 8, 2011. (Rec. Doc. 39). On January 31, 2012, after a jury trial, Petitioner was found guilty on Counts:

(1) for conspiracy to distribute cocaine hydrochloride in violation of 21 U.S.C § 846,
(2) for possession with intent to distribute cocaine hydrochloride and cocaine base ("crack") in violation of 21 ...

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