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United States v. Robinson

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division

August 29, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
KAREEM LOMAX ROBINSON, Petitioner.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Michael F. Urbanski United States District Judge.

         Kareem Lomax Robinson, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The government filed a motion to dismiss, and Robinson responded, making this matter ripe for consideration. After reviewing the record, the court concludes that the government's motion to dismiss must be granted and the § 2255 motion must be dismissed.

         I.

         On August 1, 2013, a federal grand jury returned a multi-count indictment against Robinson and seven co-defendants. Robinson was charged with conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A) ("Count One"); knowingly and intentionally distributing a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) ("Count Fourteen"); knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) ("Count Fifteen"); and knowingly and intentionally distributing and aiding and abetting in the distribution of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) ("Count Eighteen").

         Count One carried a mandatory sentence often years' to life imprisonment. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). On August 26, 2013, the government filed a notice, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, informing Robinson that he was subject to an enhanced penalty of twenty years' to life imprisonment based on prior Florida felony drug convictions. On July 27, 2007, Robinson was convicted in Florida state court of sale/delivery of cocaine and possession of cocaine and was sentenced to concurrent 36-month probation sentences. Information 1, ECF No. 132-2. Following a probation violation proceeding, Robinson received concurrent 18-month prison sentences. Id., ECF No. 132-1.

         On January 7, 2014, Robinson pleaded guilty to Count One in an amended written plea agreement pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 (c)(1)(C). The plea agreement established an agreed-upon sentence of 204 months (17 years), a stipulated drug weight of 280 to 840 grams of cocaine base, resulting in a base offense level of 32, and a four-level enhancement to the base offense level for being an organizer or leader of the criminal activity, pursuant to United States Sentencing Guideline ("U.S.S.G.") § 3Bl.l(a). The plea agreement did not call for Robinson to be sentenced within a particular guideline range nor was his guideline range evident from the document. In return, the government agreed to dismiss the remaining counts as well as the § 851 information.

         During the plea colloquy, defense counsel addressed his discussions with his client about the plea agreement. As counsel explained, the parties had discussed three versions of a plea agreement, the first version being "a straight-up guilty plea with mandatory minimums" and the last version a plea under Rule 11(c)(1)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Robinson noted that he understood the differences between the two plea agreements, and that he agreed to the terms of the amended plea agreement. Plea Hr'g Tr. 10-11, ECF No. 397. The government noted that for Count One, without the amended plea agreement, Robinson faced a mandatory sentence of twenty years to life imprisonment, in light of the § 851 enhancement. Id. at 12. In reciting the terms of the plea agreement, the government also noted that because the amended plea agreement was negotiated under Rule 11(c)(1)(C), the court "may either accept or reject the plea agreement in its entirety" but if the court decided to reject the plea agreement, Robinson would be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. Id. at 13. Robinson affirmed that he understood that if the court were to accept the plea agreement, he would "get 17 years, which is three years off the mandatory minimum, with the 851." Id. at 22. The court further explained:

In the pre-sentence report, probation is going to make some recommendation to me as to determining what the guidelines are. In fact, you and the government have agreed in the plea agreement as to certain stipulations as to the guidelines; that the crime involved more than 280 grams of crack cocaine and that you were an organizer or leader. You agreed with the United States as to that. I'm going to tell you I don't have to agree with that. I can decide, based on the facts, based on the law, that those stipulations aren't appropriate and I can make different findings at sentencing based on what I believe the law requires and what the facts show. . . In other words, simply because you agree with the government as to a guideline stipulation doesn't mean I have to accept. But again, the bottom line in this Rule 1.1(c)(1)(C) plea is if I accept it, you know the sentence you will get, and that will be 17 years.

Id. at 25-26. Robinson affirmed that he understood. Id. at 26. He also stated that he understood that he was giving up the right to collaterally attack his sentence other than claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, and that he was "fully satisfied with the advice and representation provided to [him] by [his] counsel... in this case." Id. at 30-31.

         Robinson signed a written statement of facts, and the government summarized it on the record at the plea colloquy: In 2012 and 2013, Robinson traveled approximately every three weeks from Florida, where he purchased large quantities of drugs, to Winchester, Virginia to distribute crack cocaine to both end users and further distributors. Id. at 32. Robinson directed customers to those distributors to whom he supplied crack cocaine, when he was not available and customers would call Robinson to ensure that Robinson's distributors had crack cocaine available. Id. at 33, 35. Police searched Robinson's hotel room, and seized 166 grams of crack and $3, 263. Id., at 34. Robinson stated that he agreed with the statement of facts. Id. at 36.

         The court found that Robinson was fully competent and capable of entering an informed plea and that his guilty plea was knowingly and voluntarily made; nonetheless, the court took the plea and plea agreement under advisement pending the Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR"). Id. at 39.

         The PSR recommended a base offense level of 32 and applied a four-level enhancement for being an organizer or leader of a criminal activity that involved five or more participants, in accordance with the amended plea agreement. PSR ¶ 28, 31. The PSR ultimately recommended a total offense level of 33, and a criminal history category of III, which resulted in an advisory guideline range of 169 to 210 months. PSR ¶ 60. Neither party filed any objections to the PSR.

         However, defense counsel did file a sentencing memorandum arguing that the court should sentence Robinson to the agreed-upon 17 years in the amended plea agreement as that punishment was adequate to advance the cause of justice in this case and provide adequate deterrence. Sent. Mem. at 5, ECF No. 328. During the sentencing hearing, the court reviewed the applicable advisory guideline range, but both parties agreed that because Robinson entered the amended plea agreement pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C), it was not "based on the guidelines." Sent. Hr'g Tr. at 14-15, ECF No. 370. The court again asked Robinson if he wanted the court to accept the guilty plea and sentence Robinson to 17 years. Robinson said he wanted the court to accept the plea. Id. at 15. The court adopted the findings in the PSR, accepted Robinson's plea and sentenced him to 17 years. Id. at 26. In so doing, the court noted that "Mr. Robinson was at the highest level in this conspiracy, " that he brought the drugs into Virginia from Florida, and that the statement of facts, to which Robinson averred, supported a leadership role finding. Id. at 26.

         Robinson filed a pro se motion to reduce his sentence in light of Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The court denied the motion because Robinson was sentenced pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C) to an agreed-upon 17 years; his sentence was not "based on a guideline range applicable to the offense of conviction" so he was not eligible for a sentence reduction. Order Denying Motion to Reduce Sentence at 1, ECF No. 381. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. United States v. Robinson. 627 F.App'x 267 (4th Cir. 20161 Robinson filed the ยง 2255 motion alleging two ineffective assistance claims: (1) counsel failed to object to the four-level enhancement for being a leader or organizer of ...


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