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United States v. Richardson

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

March 14, 2018




         Before the Court is the Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 372) and related motions filed by Petitioner, Almond J. Richardson. A hearing is not necessary because "the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). For the following reasons, Petitioner's motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As noted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the relevant factual and procedural history of this case are as follows:

In May 2007, Garfen Neville, a confidential informant, contacted the Narcotics Division of the East Baton Rouge Sheriffs Office to offer information about local narcotics trafficking. Neville reported that an individual, later identified as . . . Almond Richardson, was selling narcotics out of his apartment as well as his business, a store called Just 4 U Fashion.
On May 17, 2007, the officers arranged a controlled narcotics purchase between Neville and Richardson at Richardson's home.

. . .

A federal grand jury indicted Richardson on charges of distribution of crack cocaine, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, manufacture of marijuana, possession of marijuana, distribution of ecstasy, and possession of ecstasy with intent to distribute. Four days before the scheduled trial date, Richardson moved to represent himself. The district court denied Richardson's motion to proceed pro se, and the case proceeded to trial with Richardson represented by retained counsel Steven Moore. All of the Government's witnesses, including Neville, were cross-examined by Moore. Moore specifically questioned Neville about his motives for cooperating with the police, his past arrests and convictions for narcotics-related and violent offenses, and his relationship with Richardson.

. . . .

Richardson appealed his conviction, arguing that the district court erred by denying (1) his motions to suppress, (2) his motion for a Franks hearing to present evidence contesting the veracity of the statements in the search-warrant affidavit, and (3) his motion to proceed pro se. United States v. Richardson [Richardson I], 478 Fed.Appx. 82, 83 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam). A panel of this Court found no error in the district court's rulings on the motions to suppress and the motion for a Franks hearing, but it concluded that the district court had violated Richardson's Sixth Amendment right of self-representation. Id. at 92. Accordingly, the panel vacated Richardson's conviction and sentence and remanded for further proceedings, noting that its disposition of all motions presented to the district court before Richardson invoked his right of self-representation would be controlling on remand. Id. at 92 & n.13.
Following remand, the district court accepted Richardson's waiver of his right to counsel and, on the Government's motion, dismissed two counts from the indictment. Richardson, proceeding pro se with standby counsel, was tried for distribution of ecstasy, possession of ecstasy with intent to distribute, and possession of marijuana.

. . . .

. . . . The jury ultimately found Richardson guilty on all counts.
At sentencing, the PSR again assigned a total offense level of 32 and a Guidelines range of 210 to 262 months' imprisonment, and again applied the career-offender enhancement based in part on Richardson's 1999 conviction for armed robbery. Richardson again objected to the career-offender enhancement but now argued that his guilty plea was involuntary. He could not, however, provide any records to support this claim, as the relevant court records, he said, likely had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The probation office disagreed with Richardson, asserting that it had obtained records supporting the validity of the conviction, "including a charging instrument, waiver of rights form, electronic sentencing minutes, and Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections documents." The district court overruled Richardson's objection and sentenced him to a term of 210 months' imprisonment and five years of supervised release.

United States v. Richardson (Richardson II), 781 F.3d 237, 239-42 (5th Cir. 2015) (footnotes omitted). At his second appeal, petitioner claimed that the Court erred by admitting the prior testimony of a witness who was deceased at the time of the second trial, denying a mistrial based on testimony that Petitioner was an informant, and applying the career offender enhancement at sentencing. Id. at 242. The Court of Appeals upheld Petitioner's conviction. Id. at 250.

         Subsequently, Petitioner filed an application for writ of habeas corpus, alleging the following points of error: (1) prosecutorial misconduct, and (2) an unconstitutional sentence. (Doc. 372-1 at pp. 4-5, 17-18).

         II. ...

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