United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
Ramseyer, Assistant United States Attorney, Abingdon,
Virginia, for United States; William “Bill” F.
Adams, Jr., Pro Se Defendant.
P. JONES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
defendant, William “Bill” F. Adams, Jr., has
filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, challenging his conviction
and sentence. The United States has filed a Motion to Dismiss
and Adams has responded. After reviewing the record and
considering the arguments of the parties, I will grant the
United States' Motion to Dismiss and deny Adams'
§ 2255 motion.
August 19, 2013, Adams and four codefendants were charged in
a Third Superseding Indictment for various crimes related to
a business scheme to avoid payment of taxes. Adams was
charged with one count of conspiracy to impede the collection
of taxes and engage in structuring, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 371, 5324(a)(3), and fifteen counts of
structuring, in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5324(a)(3).
Adams proceeded to trial along with three of his
codefendants. After a 12-day trial, the jury found Adams
guilty of the conspiracy charge and 13 of the illegal
structuring transaction charges. The jury also found another
codefendant, John B. Ward, guilty of most of the charges
against him, including the conspiracy charge and multiple
illegal structuring transaction charges. The jury acquitted
the two other codefendants of all charges.
sentenced Adams to 36 months incarceration on each count to
be served concurrently. In addition, I sentenced him to two
years' supervised release on each count, to run
appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence both
that he participated in the conspiracy and that the actions
of Ward, his coconspirator, were reasonably foreseeable to
him, such that he should be held accountable for Ward's
conduct in furtherance of the conspiracy. United States
v. Adams, 638 F. App'x 189 (4th Cir. 2016)
(unpublished). The Fourth Circuit affirmed the underlying
conviction and sentence. Id. at 195.
thereafter filed the present § 2255 motion arguing that
he received ineffective assistance because his counsel had
failed to move for a severance of the trial from Ward. §
2255 Mot. 4, ECF No. 538. Adams has been released from
custody and is currently serving his two-year term of
supervised release. Accordingly, his § 2255 motion is
not moot. United States v. Pregent, 190 F.3d 279,
283 (4th Cir. 1999) (noting that a defendant “on
supervised release is considered to be ‘in custody'
for purposes of a § 2255 motion”).
state a viable claim for relief under § 2255, a
defendant must prove: (1) that his or her sentence was
“imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of
the United States”; (2) that “the court was
without jurisdiction to impose such sentence”; or (3)
that “the sentence was in excess of the maximum
authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral
attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Adams bears the
burden of proving grounds for a collateral attack by a
preponderance of the evidence. Miller v. United
States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958).
argues that he received ineffective assistance because
counsel failed to file a motion requesting that he be tried
separately from the rest of his codefendants. More
specifically, Adams claims that because he was tried with
codefendants, he was not able to present exculpatory
evidence, namely a phone log showing that he did not receive
phone calls from certain individuals involved in the fraud;
he was not able to call codefendant Ward to testify in his
defense; and he was implicated by association because the
government's main witness never mentioned or identified
claim lacks merit. Adams cannot establish that counsel either
provided deficient performance or that he suffered prejudice
from counsel's actions. Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984).
counsel's decision not to make a motion for severance was
“reasonable considering all of the
circumstances.” Id. at 688. The Supreme Court
has established that “[t]here is a preference in the
federal system for joint trials of defendants who are
indicted together.” Zafiro v. United States,
506 U.S. 534, 537 (1993); United States v. Najjar,
300 F.3d 466, 473 (4th Cir. 2002). Joinder of defendants is
highly favored in conspiracy trials, such as the present
case. United States v. Chorman, 910 F.2d 102, 114
(4th Cir. 1990); see also United States v. Ford, 88
F.3d 1350, 1361 (4th Cir. 1996) (“For reasons of
efficiency and judicial economy, courts prefer to try
should be severed only when “there is a serious risk
that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of
one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a
reliable judgment about guilt or innocence.”
Zafiro, 506 U.S. at 539. For a court to sever a
trial, the defendant must “establish that actual
prejudice would result from a joint trial, and not merely
that a separate trial would offer a better chance of
acquittal.” United States v. Reavis, 48 F.3d
763, 767 (4th Cir. 1995) (internal citations, quotation
marks, and alteration omitted). Because the evidence
presented at trial dealt with the conspiracy, and even if the
evidence was weighted more heavily against his codefendants,
counsel did not provide deficient performance by failing to