Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Francis

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

March 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
SOLOMON A. FRANCIS, Defendant. Civil Action No. 3:16CV81171

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge

         Solomon A. Francis, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed this action as a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The government has filed a motion to dismiss, and the time allotted for Francis to respond has expired, making the matter ripe for consideration. For the reasons that follow, the government's motion to dismiss will be granted and Francis' motion to vacate will be denied.

         Background

         On July 23, 2014, Francis was named in a multi-count indictment returned by a grand jury in the Western District of Virginia. The indictment charged Francis with the following offenses: conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A), and 846 (Count One); conspiracy to distribute a detectable amount of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C), and 846 (Count Two); distribution of a detectable amount of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) (Count Seventeen); distribution of a detectable amount of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) (Count Eighteen); and distribution of a detectable amount of cocaine base within 1, 000 feet of a playground, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 860 (Count Twenty-One).

         On February 6, 2015, Francis entered pleas of guilty to Counts One and Two of the indictment, pursuant to a written plea agreement. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the parties agreed that Francis should be held responsible for between 1, 000 and 3, 000 kilograms of marijuana for purposes of calculating his base offense level under § 2D 1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines.[1] The parties also stipulated that three enhancements were warranted in Francis' case: a one-level enhancement under § 2D 1.2(a)(2) for engaging in drug trafficking in a protected location; a two-level enhancement under § 2D 1.1 (b)(1) for possessing a dangerous weapon; and a two-level enhancement under § 3B 1.1(c) for being an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor.

         For its part, the government agreed to move to dismiss the remaining counts of the indictment in which Francis was charged. The government also agreed to recommend a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility under § 3E1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines, if Francis, in fact, accepted responsibility for his actions and complied with his obligations under the plea agreement. In exchange, Francis agreed to waive the right to appeal his sentence "on any ground" except "as to any issue which cannot be waived, by law." Plea Agreement at 7, Docket No. 7. Francis also agreed to "waive any right [he] may have to collaterally attack, in any future proceeding, any order issued in this matter, unless such attack is based on ineffective assistance of counsel." Id. at 8.

         Francis initialed every page of the plea agreement, including the page containing the waiver of collateral-attack rights. By signing the plea agreement, Francis affirmed that he had carefully reviewed every section of the agreement with his attorney, that he understood the agreement, and that he was voluntarily agreeing to its terms. See Id. at 12.

         During the plea hearing conducted pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the court established that Francis possessed the capacity to make a voluntary, intelligent, and informed decision. Rule 11 H'rg Tr. at 7-8, Docket No. 350-1. The court also established that Francis understood the charges to which he was pleading guilty, as well as the purpose of the hearing. Id.

         The court instructed the prosecutor to review the charges to which Francis was pleading guilty, the applicable statutory penalties, and the most important provisions of plea agreement that Francis had reached with the government. The prosecutor advised that Francis had agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base (Count One) and conspiracy to distribute heroin (Count Two). The prosecutor explained that Count One carried "a mandatory minimum sentence often years in prison, " along with "a term of supervised release of at least five years." Id. at 9. He explained that Count Two carried a "maximum . . . term [of imprisonment] of up to 20 years, plus a term of supervised release of at least three years." Id. The prosecutor then outlined several sections of the plea agreement, including Section B(2), in which Francis stipulated that he should be responsible for between 1, 000 and 3, 000 kilograms of marijuana, and that he should receive enhancements under §§ 2D 1.1 (b)(1), 2D 1.2, and 3B 1.1(c) of the Sentencing Guidelines. Id. at 10-11. The prosecutor also summarized Sections C(1) and (2) of the plea agreement. He explained that, pursuant to those sections, Francis was "waiving his right to appeal and collaterally attack his conviction subject to certain exceptions, " including an exception for "ineffective assistance of counsel claims." Id. at 11. Upon being asked if the prosecutor's summary of the plea agreement was consistent with his own understanding of the agreement, Francis responded in the affirmative. Id. at 12.

         The court then questioned Francis regarding his understanding of particular terms of the plea agreement. Francis acknowledged that he had agreed to "give[] up the right to appeal any issue to a higher court, . . . save for those very limited number of issues for which waiver of appeal is not permitted." Id. at 14, 29. Francis also affirmed that he had agreed to "give up [his] right to collaterally attack the court's judgment down the road, save for an attack based on a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel." at 14. Additionally, the court specifically inquired as to whether Francis was voluntarily pleading guilty. In response, Francis affirmed that no one had promised him a particular outcome or sentence, that no one had attempted to coerce or compel him to plead guilty, and that he was "considering a plea of guilty because [he believed that it was] best for [him] and because [he was], in fact, guilty of the crimes charged in Counts 1 and 2." Id. at 13.

         As part of his agreement with the government, Francis signed a multi-page statement of facts. The prosecutor summarized the statement of facts during the Rule 11 hearing, as follows:

Mr. Francis came to the Charlottesville area from Culpeper and was identified as the leader of a group of individuals that basically set up shop in the residence of Renee Harris, who lived at Riverside Avenue. Mr. Francis and his coconspirators weren't living there, but that was sort of the base of operations where they stored narcotics and firearms. Mr. Francis would drive around with other coconspirators in vehicles, often times rented. Informants that bought drugs from Mr. Francis and co-conspirators said they almost always had a firearm in their possession. They described several different firearms, but they described an assault rifle specifically. They described the color and its appearance. That firearm was recovered from Renee Harris's house after a shooting that occurred in April of 2014, and when shown the picture, several of the informants and cooperators said that that was in the possession of Mr. Francis and other coconspirators when they would sell drugs.
There was heroin and crack cocaine involved with the conspiracy. Mr. Francis was present during several recorded and controlled buys. There were also phone records obtained. There were rental vehicle records. There were some cell phone dumps that occurred. Hotel records. There were several informants that participated in controlled buys that were recorded. There were also several addicts that came in and gave statements and testified in front of a federal grand jury, describing the organization and operation of the conspiracy.
Quite frankly, . . . Mr. Francis was sort of the identified person that was the leader and the organizer and would give instructions to others. I think he was the source of the cocaine and heroin from both New York, and an identified, but unindicted local source, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.