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United States

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

December 17, 2013



ROBERT E. PAYNE, Senior District Judge.

Orillion Craddock, proceeding pro se, submitted this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion"). (ECF No. 73.)[1] Craddock asserts entitlement to relief upon the following grounds:[2]

Claim One Counsel failed to adequately challenge the Government's search of Craddock's grandmother's residence which resulted in the seizure of a sawed-off shotgun. (See § 2255 Mot. 5; Answer 2, ECF No. 77.)
Claim Two (a) Counsel failed "to request the grand jury minutes [i]n order to determine what date did petitioner actually possess the firearm as required by 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)...." (§ 2255 Mot. 6.)
(b) Counsel "failed to challenge the fact as to whether the firearm was operable when Mr. Craddock was alleged to have possessed the firearm." (Id.)
Claim Three "Mr. Craddock was denied due process of law when the Court punished him for exercising his right to trial by jury." (Id. at 8.)

The Government responds that Craddock's claims lack merit. (ECF No. 77.) Craddock has replied. (ECF No. 80.) For the reasons that follow, Craddock's claims will be dismissed.


On March 5, 2008, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, returned a two-count indictment against Craddock charging him with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count One) and possession of an unregistered sawed-off shotgun in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d) (Count Two).[3] (Superseding Indictment 1-2, ECF No. 11.) On April 22, 2008, a jury convicted Craddock of both counts. (Jury Verdict 1, ECF No. 30.) The Court sentenced Craddock to 120 months of imprisonment. (J. 2, ECF No. 53.)


To demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel, a convicted defendant must show first, that counsel's representation was deficient and second, that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). To satisfy the deficient performance prong of Strickland, the convicted defendant must overcome the "strong presumption' that counsel's strategy and tactics fall within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.'" Burch v. Corcoran , 273 F.3d 577, 588 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Strickland , 466 U.S. at 689). The prejudice component requires a defendant to "show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Strickland , 466 U.S. at 694. In analyzing ineffective assistance of counsel claims, it is not necessary to determine whether counsel performed deficiently if the claim is readily dismissed for lack of prejudice. Id. at 697.

In Claim One, Craddock faults counsel for failing to challenge the searches of his grandmother's residence where law enforcement officers recovered the shotgun that was the subject of the Superseding Indictment. Detective Scott Leonard of the Richmond Police Department recovered the shotgun at 305 Dundee Avenue, in the City of Richmond, on August 11, 2007 during a search conducted as part of an investigation of a homicide that occurred at that address. (Def.'s Mot. in Limine 1, ECF No. 19; Apr. 21, 2008 Tr. 39-40.) Detective Leonard testified that he recovered the shotgun from an upstairs attic at that address. (Apr. 21, 2008 Tr. 44.) At the time he recovered the shotgun, the barrel had been shortened and the stock removed. (Apr. 21, 2008 Tr. 44.) Nevertheless, the shotgun was "in mechanical operating condition." (Apr. 21, 2008 Tr. 44.)

On April 3, 2008, Detective Leonard returned to search the attic of 305 Dundee Avenue. (Apr. 21, 2008 Tr. 47-48.) On this occasion, he found the stock pieces to the shotgun underneath a sofa bed in the attic. (Apr. 21, 2008 Tr. 48.) On April 14, 2008, Detective Leonard again returned to the residence to look for the missing action spring. (Apr. 21, 2008 Tr. 50.) Detective Leonard found the spring in the attic. (Apr. 21, 2008 Tr. 50-51.)

Craddock contends that counsel should have challenged the searches of 305 Dundee Avenue because Detective Leonard acknowledged that he did not know to whom the home belonged. (Pet'r's Mem. Supp. § 2255 Mot. 5 (citing Apr. 21, 2008 Tr. 57).) Detective Leonard did not supply the facts to obtain the initial search warrant.[4] Rather, Detective Leonard is a forensic officer who assists in the execution of warrants already issued. (Apr. 21, 2008 Tr. 39-40.) Detective Leonard's ignorance of the owner of the property fails to invalidate his search of the property pursuant to a facially valid warrant. Cf. United States v. Gamboa , 439 F.3d 796, 806 (8th Cir. 2006) (observing that a search warrant passes muster so long as the place to be search is "described with sufficient particularity as to enable the executing officer to locate and identify the ...

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