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United States v. Taylor

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

June 26, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LARRY LAWSON TAYLOR, JR., Petitioner.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          M. Hannah Lauck, United States District Judge.

         Larry Lawson Taylor, Jr., a federal inmate proceeding pro se, submitted this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence ("§ 2255 Motion," ECF No. 71).[1] Taylor contends that the Court made various errors at his sentencing, and that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel prior to and at sentencing. Specifically, Taylor argues:[2]

Claim One: The District Court committed sentencing errors because:
(a) his "guidelines produced a sentence greater than necessary to satisfy [18 U.S.C. §] 3533(a);"
(b) the District Court "did not adequately explain the reasonableness of [Taylor's] sentence . . . according to [18 U.S.C. §] 3533(a);"
(c) the District Court "did not take [Taylor's] evidence into consideration at sentencing in light of 18 U.S.C. [§] 3661;" and,
(d) the District Court "violated Rule 609(2) by not allowing evidence to be admitted or considered for the purpose of imposing an appropriate sentence." (§ 2255 Mot. 4.)
Claim Two: Taylor received the ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel failed to "conduct a reasonable investigation into mitigating evidence" before sentencing and failed to present mitigating evidence at sentencing (id. at 7), such as:
(a) evidence of his childhood upbringing and abuse and evidence of the psychiatric effect of such childhood abuse (Mem. Supp. § 2255 Mot. 1); and,
(b) evidence of the "coercion and duress" Taylor faced at the time of the crime for which he was convicted (id. at 5).

         The Government has responded, arguing that Taylor has procedurally defaulted Claims One (a) through (d), and that his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are meritless. (ECF No. 79.) In support of its argument, the Government has submitted an affidavit from Jeffrey L. Everhart, Taylor's sentencing counsel. ("Everhart Aff," ECF No. 79-1.) Taylor replied to the Government's Response with a Memorandum in Support of his § 2255 Motion. (ECF No. 87.) The matter is ripe for disposition.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 7, 2013, Taylor was named in a one-count Indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)(iii). (Indictment 1, ECF No. 13.) On June 18, 2013, Taylor pled guilty to the one-count Indictment. (Plea Agreement ¶ 1, ECF No. 18.) In his Plea Agreement, Taylor waived his right to appeal. (Id. ¶ 5.)

         On October 24, 2013, Taylor's counsel submitted a Motion for a Psychiatric Exam of Taylor and a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel. (ECF Nos. 37-38.) Thereafter, counsel filed amended versions of these two Motions. (ECF Nos. 39-40.) On November 4, 2013, the Court granted both Motions. (ECF Nos. 43-44.) That same day, the Court appointed new counsel for Taylor. (ECF No. 45.)

         On December 13, 2013, the Court received the report of Taylor's psychiatric exam. (ECFNo. 47.) This report was issued by Evan S. Nelson, Ph.D. (Id. at 10.) Also on December 13, 2013, Taylor moved for a second psychiatric exam. (ECF No. 46.) On January 13, 2014, the Court held a status conference and heard from Taylor about why he requested a second psychiatric exam. (See Jan. 13, 2014 Tr. 1-7, ECF No. 62; ECF No. 50.) After hearing from Taylor and his counsel, the Court granted Taylor's request for a second psychiatric evaluation. (Jan. 13, 2014 Tr. 7-8.) On March 6, 2014, the Court received the second psychiatric report. (ECF No. 51.) This report was issued by Ahmed Sherif Abdel Meguid, MD, FRCPC. (Id. at 9.)

         On April 14, 2014, the Court conducted a sentencing hearing. (See Apr. 14, 2014 Tr. 2, ECF No. 61.) The Court entered judgment against Taylor and sentenced him to 130 months of imprisonment and four years of supervised release. (J. 2-3, ECF No. 53.) Taylor appealed. (ECFNo. 55.)

         On appeal, Taylor's counsel filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), asserting that there were no meritorious grounds for appeal but questioning whether the Court appropriately considered the statutory sentencing factors. United States v. Taylor, 585 Fed.Appx. 159, 159 (4th Cir. 2014). Taylor also filed a pro se supplemental brief, wherein he alleged that he was improperly sentenced because the Court did not subpoena his psychiatrist or consider his mitigating evidence at sentencing, and because his counsel did not properly prepare and present mitigating evidence. Id. On November 6, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that Taylor's appellate waiver was valid and dismissed Taylor's appeal. Id. at 159-60.

         III. ...


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