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United States v. Zenon

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

October 28, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TORRY VON ZENON, Petitioner.

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

          HENRY E. HUDSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Tony Von Zenon, a federal inmate proceeding by counsel, submitted this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion, " ECF No. 401). Zenon contends that he experienced ineffective assistance of counsel[1] in conjunction with his pre-trial proceedings. Specifically, Zenon demands relief because:

Claim One: "Movant's trial counsel, John Mann, Esq., was ineffective in his representation in that he failed to relay any information regarding the Sentencing Guidelines, how they work and how they applied to the Movant's offense." (Supp. to § 2255 Mot. 2, ECF No. 401-1.)
Claim Two: "Trial Counsel failed to investigate and review discovery and apprise the movant of the same and said acts or omissions fall within the purview of ineffective assistance of counsel." (Id. at 4 (emphasis omitted).)

         The Government responded, asserting that Zenon's claims lack merit. (ECF No. 462.) For the reasons set forth below, Zenon's § 2255 Motion (ECF No. 401) will be denied.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On April 3, 2012, a grand jury charged Zenon with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine hydrochloride, and one count of attempting to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine hydrochloride. (Indictment 1-10, ECF No. 3.) On November 7, 2012, the grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment, again charging Zenon with one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine hydrochloride (Count One), and one count of attempting to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine hydrochloride (Count Two). (Superseding Indictment 1-7, ECF No. 156.) On January 24, 2013, a jury found Zenon guilty of both counts of the Superseding Indictment. (ECF No. 270, at 1-2.)

         On June 12, 2013, the Court entered judgment against Zenon and sentenced him to 384 months of imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently. (J. 2, ECF No. 338.) Zenon appealed. (ECF No. 340.) On appeal, Zenon and co-defendant Vincent Williams challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting their convictions. United States v. Williams, 569 F.App'x 169, 170 (4th Cir. 2014). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed Zenon's convictions. Id. at 173. The United States Supreme Court subsequently denied Zenon's petition for a writ of certiorari. Zenon v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 297 (2014).

         II. SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE

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

Vincent [Williams's] stepfather Dion Williams ("Dion") was a drug dealer in Richmond Virginia. Beginning in 2012, he contacted a man named Hiram Alvarez, who lived in California, concerning Dion's interest in purchasing a large quantity of cocaine. Dion told Alvarez he could raise as much as $2.5 million for the purchase of 100 kilograms of cocaine. Alvarez, in turn, contacted a man known to him by the name "Jose." Unbeknownst to Alvarez or Dion, Jose, whose full name was Jose Burgueno Urias, was working as a confidential source for the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"), and Urias reported the solicitation to the DEA. The DEA and Urias agreed that Urias would set up the transaction, even though the drugs would never actually be delivered.
On that basis, Urias undertook to set up the deal. Dion offered to allow Alvarez or his representative the chance to come to the East Coast and make the transaction with Dion. Alvarez selected Pedro Santana to be his agent. Accordingly, Urias and Santana, along with one other confidential informant, flew into Richmond, Virginia on January 26, 2012. Upon arriving, they rented a car, drove to a Baltimore-area hotel, and met with Dion in the early morning of January 27. At approximately 9:30 a.m., Dion led the group to a nearby apartment in a gated complex. The apartment was leased to Zenon.
The fact that the apartment was in a gated community made it difficult for law enforcement to conduct surveillance. However, almost immediately after Dion brought Urias and Santana to the apartment, DEA Special Agent Jason Alznauer observed Zenon standing near the apartment complex's front gate where he appeared to be watching cars coming and going through the gates. In fact, Alznauer told his partner that he believed Zenon was conducting counter-surveillance. Zenon was wearing a black knit skull cap and black puffy jacket. Zenon was observed soon thereafter standing at the end of the apartment building talking on a cellular telephone and then walking around the back of the building. Within a few minutes, a man matching Zenon's description was observed at the other corner of the apartment complex, standing in the middle of the road, looking around.
The meeting inside the apartment lasted less than an hour, during which time Dion showed the confidential informants approximately $300, 000 in currency and told them he would need more time to obtain the rest of the money.[2] At about 10:30 a.m., Santana and the confidential informant left the apartment and returned to the hotel.
Dion later contacted them and they agreed to return to the apartment around 6:00 p.m. Approximately 10 minutes before the men arrived, officers observed a green pickup truck drive into Zenon's garage, and they saw Zenon exit the vehicle wearing a black puffy jacket, a reflective vest, and a hardhat. He removed a plastic trashbag from the truck and placed it in front of the garage, then moved the truck out of the garage and parked it in a parking space nearby. Zenon next reentered the garage on foot and shut the outer door.
When Santana, Dion, and the informants arrived a few minutes later, they parked in the same garage and entered the apartment through stairs from the garage. Vincent was waiting in the garage when the men arrived. Vincent picked up a box containing a ...

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