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United States v. Walker

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

April 26, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ANGELA WALKER

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert E. Payne Senior United States District Judge.

         Angela Walker, a federal inmate proceeding pro se7 submitted this motion and a supporting memorandum under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion, " ECF No. 67.). The Government has responded. (ECF No. 79.) Walker filed an unsworn Reply. (ECF No. 82.) The matter is ripe for disposition.

         In her § 2255, Walker lists five Claims that are comprised of various subparts and are repetitive, conclusory, and wholly meritless. For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny the § 2255 Motion.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 20, 2013, the grand jury charged Walker with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable about of heroin (Count One), and possession with the intent to distribute one hundred grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of heroin (Count Two). (Indictment 1-2, ECF No. 1.) On April 11, 2014, Walker pled guilty, pursuant to a written plea agreement, to Count One of the Indictment. (Plea Agreement ¶ 1, ECF No. 17.) In the Statement of Facts supporting the Plea Agreement, Walker agreed that "the following facts [were] true and correct and that had the matter gone to trial the United States could have proven each of them beyond a reasonable doubt":

From in or about January 2007, and continuing through in or about November 2013, in the Eastern District of Virginia and elsewhere within the jurisdiction of this Court, ANGELA WALKER did knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with others to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, one kilogram or more of heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, this amount of heroin being reasonably foreseeable to the defendant, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846.
On May 25, 2012, law enforcement officers of the Virginia State Police made a lawful traffic stop of a vehicle in Henrico, Virginia. The defendant, WALKER, was a passenger in that vehicle. The troopers conducted a search of the car and found 759.5 grams of heroin located inside. Prior to the stop of this vehicle, law enforcement had been alerted to the fact that WALKER was traveling to the area to deliver a large amount of heroin to several buyers in the Richmond area. In fact, WALKER possessed the heroin found in the vehicle with the intent to distribute it.
Moreover, several reliable cooperating sources corroborated that WALKER was a heroin trafficker from the New Jersey area, who traveled to the Richmond area to distribute heroin. Many of these cooperators made statements against their penal interest and admitted to purchasing heroin in the Eastern District of Virginia from WALKER numerous times over the course of the conspiracy period.
The parties agree that the attributable amount of drugs for sentencing purposes is at least one kilogram, but less than three kilograms of heroin.

(Statement of Facts 1-2, ECF No. 18 (paragraph numbers omitted).)

         In her Plea Agreement, Walker agreed that she understood that she could receive a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of ten years and a maximum term of life. (Plea Agreement ¶ 1.) Walker agreed that she was pleading guilty because she was "in fact guilty of the charged offense" and that she "admit[ted] the facts set forth in the statement of facts . . . and agree[d] that those facts establish guilt of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt." (Id. ¶ 3.) Walker also agreed that she was "satisfied that [her] attorney has rendered effective assistance, " and that by entering into the Plea Agreement that she surrendered her right to "plead not guilty, " and her "right to a jury trial, " including her right "at trial to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses . . . ." (Id. ¶ 4.)

         During the Rule 11 hearing, Walker agreed that she understood that Count One carried a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years of imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. (Apr. 11, 2014 Tr. 5, ECF No. 78.) Walker agreed that she "had a sufficient opportunity to discuss with [her] attorney everything about [her] case, including any possible defenses, as well as . whether or not to plead guilty" (Apr. 11, 2014 Tr. 6), and that she was "entirely satisfied with what [her] attorney has done for [her] ." (Apr. 11, 2014 Tr. 7 J Walker agreed that she understood that she was waiving her right "to demand that the government prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt" about her guilt. (Apr. 11, 2014 Tr. 8.) Walker understood that by pleading guilty, she was "admitting the elements and [she was] admitting that the government can prove the charges." (Apr. 11, 2014 Tr. 8.) She also indicated that she understood that she was waiving her trial rights, including "[t]he right to see and hear all the evidence against [her], the right to the effective assistance of counsel at all stages . . . includ[ing] a trial, [and t]he right to confront and cross-examine any witness." (Apr. 11, 2014 Tr. 8.)

         Walker agreed that, if the Court accepted her guilty plea, "the only issue remaining would be what sentence is to be determined." (Apr. 11, 2014 Tr. 9.) Walker agreed that she was pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute one kilogram of more of heroin because she was guilty of that charge and the facts set forth in the Statement of Facts were true. (April 11, 2014 Tr. 16, 17.) When asked whether there was "anything in these facts that [she thought was] wrong or should be changed, or corrected or explained or deleted, " Walker stated: "No ma'am." (Apr. 11, 2014 Tr. 17.)

         The Court found that Walker's guilty plea was knowing and voluntary, that it was " supported by an independent basis in fact containing each of the essential elements of the offense, " and that Walker was "competent and capable of entering an informed plea." (Apr. 11, 2014 Tr. 17.)

         The Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR, " ECF No. 33), also provided the following information pertaining to the charges:

In addition to the Statement of Facts, a review of the Government's file revealed that the defendant first came to the attention of the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2 007, when a conspirator identified her as being a major source of heroin. He stated that from 2004 until 2007, he purchased between 10 and 15 ounces of heroin from the defendant approximately once or twice per month.
A second individual was interviewed in 2 009, and again in 2013. He indicated that from 2007 until 2009, he purchased a total of approximately 6 kilograms of heroin from the defendant over multiple transactions.
In May 2012, another conspirator was developed as a cooperating source by law enforcement. He cooperated and revealed to law enforcement authorities that he had arranged a heroin drug transaction with the defendant that was to occur on May 25, 2012, in Richmond, Virginia. The drug transaction was to involve approximately 25 ounces of heroin.
On May 25, 2012, law enforcement authorities monitored the defendant's cellular telephone and tracked the defendant's vehicle, a rented 2012 Acura TSX with Maryland plates, from New Jersey to Virginia. The vehicle traveled southbound on Interstate 95, and it was subsequently stopped by law enforcement authorities on Parham Road in Henrico County, Virginia. Three individuals, including the defendant, occupied the vehicle. The vehicle was driven by the defendant's sister, Stephanie Barrett, and a friend, Tierra Powell, was seated in the back seat. The defendant was seated in the front passenger seat. A subsequent search of the vehicle recovered 759.5 grams of heroin in a purse located in the back seat of the vehicle. The defendant and two other occupants of the vehicle were thereafter arrested.
After her arrest, Tierra Powell [admitted] during an interview by law enforcement authorities to accompanying the defendant on four prior trips to the Richmond, Virginia area to conduct heroin transactions. Ms. Powell also stated that the defendant had rented a vehicle as the defendant's Honda Accord was having work performed by a mechanic. Ms. Powell revealed that the defendant's Honda Accord had a "trap" or secret compartment in the dash board that could be opened and closed by pulling the emergency brake and then pushing the sunroof button. On May 31, 2012, law enforcement authorities executed a search and seizure warrant on a 2004 Honda Accord EX located at Tishcer Acura, Laurel, Maryland, which revealed this concealed compartment as indicated by Ms. Powell.
When questioned by law enforcement authorities after their arrest, Stephanie Barrett and the defendant denied any knowledge of the heroin recovered from the vehicle.

(PSR ¶¶ 10-15.)

         The PSR determined that Walker's base offense level was 32 because the offense involved between one and three kilograms of heroin as the parties agreed in the Plea Agreement. (PSR Wkst. A, at 1.) Walker received a three-point reduction for acceptance of responsibility, resulting in an offense total of 29. (Id. Wkst. D, at 1.) Walker's criminal history category was IV, resulting in a sentencing guidelines range of 121 to 151 months of incarceration. (Id.) On September 11, 2014, the Court sentenced Walker to the mandatory minimum of 12 0 months of incarceration below the recommended guidelines range. (J. 2, ECF No. 3 9.) Walker filed no appeal.

         On August 25, 2015, Walker filed the instant § 2255 Motion.

         II. GROUNDS FOR RELIEF

         Walker lists five claims that are comprised of various subparts. Walker's claims are essentially in list format and are repetitive, vague, conclusory, belied by the record, and wholly meritless. In her § 2255 Motion, Walker raises the following claims for relief:[1]

         Claim One: Counsel provided ineffective assistance[2] at the "Indictment Stage" by:

(a) "fail[ing] to challenge the Indictment as it listed a conspiracy charge and the explanation by the witnesses in my case is clearly a buyer-seller relationship" (§ 2255 Mot. 4);
(b) ''fail[ing] to challenge the witness statements as the dates given Ms. Walker was in prison in New York" (id.);
(c) failing to "challenge [] all aspects of charge Count Two which was dropped when Ms. Walker pled to Count ...

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