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United States v. Hill

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

October 10, 2017




         Antoine Hill, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, submitted this motion and a supporting memorandum under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence.[1] Hill raises the following grounds for relief:

Claim 1 "Trial counsel's failure to request Brady[2] material constituted ineffective assistance . . . ." (§ 2255 Mot. 5, ECF No. 165.)
Claim 2 A genuine conflict of interest existed with trial counsel before trial that adversely affected counsel's performance during the trial . . . ." (Id at 6.)
Claim 3 "Trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance during the plea bargain, negotiation process." (Id. at 8.)

         For the reasons set forth below, Hill's claims will be dismissed and the § 2255 Motion will be denied. In the summary below, the Court provides details regarding Hill's relations with trial counsel Reuben V. Greene in order to provide context for Hill's claim that Greene labored under an actual conflict of interest.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         On August 10, 2007, the police searched Hill's apartment. (July 2, 2008 Tr. 34.) Prior to the search, Hill told Detective Bevington, "he did have a firearm inside the apartment .... on the nightstand next to his bed." (July 2, 2008 Tr. 37.) Hill * further stated he had heroin sitting on a plate ... by the living room couch." (July 2, 2008 Tr. 37.) Upon entering the apartment, Detective Bevington found the heroin and firearm in the locations described by Hill. (July 2, 2008 Tr. 38.) The police also recovered a digital scale, cellophane wrapping, aluminum foil, and plastic baggies consistent with packaging heroin for street-level distribution. (July 2, 2008 Tr. 43.) Additionally, the police seized approximately $7, 000. (July 2, 2008 Tr. 44.)

         After the search, Hill admitted to Detective Killingsworth that he had owned the gun for a couple of years and he kept it for his protection. (July 2, 2008 Tr. 63.) Hill stated that he purchased the heroin in the apartment from an individual called Truck. (July 2, 2008 Tr. 64.) Hill explained that he dealt heroin to pay his bills and provided a description of his drug trafficking for the past four years. (July 2, 2008 Tr. 63.) Hill further admitted that he had stopped selling drugs "for a brief period of time" when he received a $170, 000.00 settlement from an accident. (July 2, 2008 Tr. 67.) Hill, however, acknowledged that as of August 2007, he had resumed dealing heroin. (July 2, 2007 Tr. 67.)

         On August 13, 2007, prior to the referral of the above matters to federal authorities for prosecution, Hill paid Reuben V. Greene $20, 000.00 to represent him. (ECF No. 29, at 10; see ECF No. 32, at 1.)

         On October 16, 2007, a grand jury charged Hill in a three-count sealed indictment with: possession with the intent to distribute heroin (Count One); possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (Count Two); and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Count Three). (Indictment 1-2, ECF No. 3.) Although an arrest warrant for Hill was issued on October 17, 2007, Hill was not arrested on the warrant until April 28, 2008. (Warrant 1, ECF No. 7.)

         In a letter dated November 7, 2007, Hill wrote to the Virginia State Bar Intake Office complaining:

I informed Reuben V. Greene that I don't want him to represent me. I was not charged with a crime at th[at] time. I paid him $20, 000.00 and he said "It don't work like that!" when I ask[ed] for a refund to hire someone else less his fees for his assistance in this matter. I called him numerous times regarding this matter since October 17, 2007. He hasn't returned my calls as of November 7, 2007.

(ECF No. 29, at 7.)

         On April 28, 2008, Hill was arrested for the charges in the Indictment. (Warrant 1, ECF No. 7.) Thereafter, Greene appeared as Hill's counsel at the detention hearing (ECF No. 9, at 1), and at the arraignment (ECF No. 11, at 1). On May 30, 2008, Greene moved to suppress the statements Hill made to police prior to the search of his residence on the grounds that such statements had been obtained in violation of Hill's rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). (ECF No. 12.) On June 23, 2008, Greene filed an addendum to his Motion to Suppress wherein he sought to suppress the evidence obtained from a search of Hill's residence on the ground that the affidavit supporting the search warrant cited an unreliable confidential source. (ECF No. 15, at 1-2.) On June 24, 2008, the Court conducted a hearing on the Motion to Suppress and denied the Motion. (ECF No. 17.)

         On July 2, 2008, a jury found Hill guilty of the three counts charged in the Indictment. (ECF No. 27, at 1.) The Court set the matter for sentencing on October 7, 2008. At no point during his trial did Hill inform the Court that he did not want Greene to continue to represent him.

         On September 4, 2008, the Court received a letter from Hill. (ECF No. 29, at 2.) In that letter, Hill complained that

I am writing to request this Honorable Court to appoint new counsel due [to] the conflict of interest in the matter of my attorney Reuben V. Greene .... Reuben V. Greene failed to effectively represent me. After several attempts to inform Mr. Greene that I wanted to hire someone else prior to trial he stated "It don't work like that." I respectively ask the court to appoint new counsel prior to sentencing. Judge Your Honor, I received a serious head injury due to being a victim of a robbery [at] the end of April 2008. I was arrested in the hospital. I was still recovering during my hearings and trial. I did not know I could have told you about my situation with Reuben V. Green until the day of my conviction when the Investigator, Mr. Robert Heinzman from the Virginia State Bar contacted my mother and I. Mr. Greene took advantage of my situation from the very beginning because of my lack of understanding.

(Id.) Hill attached to his letter copies of documents relating to the bar complaint he had filed against Greene. (Id. at 3- 10.) By letter dated September 5, 2008, the late Richard L. Williams, United States District Judge, responded to Hill's letter. (Id. at 1.) Judge Williams informed Hill that "the Court has no authority to interfere with the contractual relationship you have with Mr. Greene. ... In the meantime, by copy of this letter to Mr. Greene, I am informing him that the Court expects him to properly represent you at your forthcoming sentencing." (Id.)

         On October 6, 2008, Greene moved to withdraw as counsel. (ECF No. 32.) On October 7, 2008, the Court denied the Motion to Withdraw and sentenced Hill to 300 months of imprisonment. (J. 2, ECF No. 36.) Prior to and during the sentencing proceeding, Greene failed to take any action on behalf of Hill. On October 8, 2008, Greene filed a notice of appeal and a Second Motion to Withdraw as Counsel. ...

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