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United States v. Harris

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

May 9, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MICHAEL F. HARRIS, Petitioner.

MEMORANDUM OPINION (DENYING 28 U.S.C. § 2255 MOTION)

HENRY E. HUDSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Michael F. Harris, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, submitted this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion, " ECF No. 138).[1] In his § 2255 Motion, Harris lists the following three grounds for relief:

Ground One: "Central witness for the prosecution delineates victim investments with imperfect data, resulting in 'plain inadmissible error.'" (Id. at 4.)
Ground Two: "Characterize it ineffective counsel or tactical strategy, the outgrowth is manifesto. This case at bar was devoid [of] sine quo [sic] non preservation, a 'good faith defense.'" (Id.)
Ground Three: "With new affirmative evidence now germane, this Court is summoned to test the constitutionality of its imposed sanction of restitution to satisfy [United States v.] Booker[, 543 U.S. 220 (2005)]." (Id.)

In a rambling, one-hundred and six page § 2255 Motion, Harris expands upon the above grounds. Broadly construing Harris's § 2255 Motion, the Court discerns the following six claims for relief:

Claim One: Government witness Cindy Williamson's testimony was inadmissible. (Id. at 28-39.)
Claim Two: Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce evidence of Harris's other bank accounts to refute Ms. Williamson's testimony. (Id. at 35.)
Claim Three: Appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance when he: "rebuked any and all suggestions from Harris. He required four continuances. Harris received a draft of the brief only after he made numerous demands. . . . [Appellate counsel] never prepared a reply brief then wanted an additional $15, 000 to file a Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court." (Id. at 47.)
Claim Four: Trial counsel was ineffective for "never introducing] a 'good faith defense'" (id. at 48), and "never requesting] the trial court to give the 'good faith' instruction to the jury" (id. at 55).
Claim Five: Harris's restitution order is unconstitutional under United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). (Id. at 58-59.)
Claim Six: Trial counsel was ineffective for "never satisfactorily assert[ing] a Sixth Amendment requirement that a jury determine the issues surrounding restitution in the instant action." (Id. at 67.)

The Government has responded, asserting that Harris's claims lack merit. (ECF No. 146.) For the reasons set forth below, Harris's § 2255 Motion (ECF No. 138) will be denied.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On October 15, 2012, a grand jury charged Harris with four counts of securities fraud, in violation of 15 U.S.C. §§ 77q(a) & 77x (Counts One through Four); three counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (Counts Five through Seven); and one count of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 (Count Eight). (Indictment 5-14, ECF No. 3.) On December 12, 2012, Harris, through counsel, filed a motion to dismiss Counts One and Two of the Indictment, arguing that the statute of limitations had run on those counts. (ECF No. 22.) By Memorandum Opinion and Order entered on January 29, 2013, the Court granted Harris's motion and dismissed Counts One and Two. United States v. Harris, 919 F.Supp.2d 702, 703 (E.D. Va. 2013).

On March 4, 2013, a jury found Harris guilty of the remaining counts (Counts Three through Eight) of the Indictment. (ECF No. 67, at 1-2.) Two days later, Harris, through counsel, filed a renewed motion for judgment of acquittal on Counts Three and Four due to lack of venue. (ECF No. 70.) By Memorandum Opinion and Order entered on April 26, 2013, the Court granted Harris's motion and dismissed Counts Three and Four. United States v. Harris, No. 3:12CR170-HEH, 2013 WL 1790140, at *1 (E.D. Va. Apr. 26, 2013).

On July 12, 2013, the Court entered judgment against Harris and sentenced him to 108 months of imprisonment. (J. 2, ECF No. 108.) On October 2, 2013, the Court entered a Restitution Order, sentencing Harris to pay restitution in the amount of $874, 925.66. (ECF No. 130, at 1.) On direct appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed Harris's conviction and sentence. United States v. Harris, 576 F.App'x 265, 266 (4th Cir. 2014). Harris did not file a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

II. SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE

The Fourth Circuit summarized the evidence of Harris's guilt as follows:

[Harris] was the president, CEO, and principal shareholder of M.F. Harris Research ("MFH"), a company that was allegedly involved in researching a cure for HIV/AIDS. According to the evidence presented at trial, [Harris] claimed that MFH was developing a treatment for HIV/AIDS that involved using a hyperbaric chamber to ...

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