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Meadows v. United States

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

December 20, 2019

DANNY DOUGLAS MEADOWS, JR., Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GLEN E. CONRAD, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Danny Douglas Meadows, Jr., a federal inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The Government filed a motion to dismiss Meadows' petition. Thereafter, the Clerk of Court issued Meadows a Roseboro notice informing him that he had the right, but no obligation, to submit a response to the Government's motion in further support of his claims. ECF No. 270. Meadows has not provided the court with further information. The matter is thus ripe for consideration. For the reasons stated, the court will grant the Government's motion to dismiss and deny Meadows' motion.

         Background

         On January 19, 2017, a federal grand jury issued a multi-count indictment, charging Meadows and several other defendants with drug-related crimes. Count One charged Meadows and others with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C) and 846. Counts Two and Four charged Meadows with distribution and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, respectively, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C). ECF No. 3.

         Guilty Plea

         On May 2, 2017, Meadows pled guilty to Count One. ECF No. 127. In his written plea agreement, Meadows 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. Meadows stipulated that his offense level under the United States Sentencing Guidelines should account for 500 to 1, 500 grams of methamphetamine and possession of a dangerous weapon. Id. at 3. Meadows further agreed that, at the time of his plea agreement, he had “no dissatisfaction or complaint with [his] attorney's representation, ” and agreed to inform the court of any such complaint “no later than at the time of sentencing.” Id. at 11. Pursuant to that agreement, the Government moved for dismissal of Counts Two and Four against Meadows. Id. at 2; ECF No. 189.

         Meadows later appeared before the court for a plea hearing. ECF No. 265, May 2, 2017 Hr'g Tr. (“Plea Transcript”). During the hearing, the court conducted a thorough Rule 11 colloquy. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 11. As part of the plea colloquy, the court questioned Meadows about his understanding of the plea agreement. Meadows affirmed that he understood the agreement. Plea Transcript at 7-10. The court specifically inquired whether Meadows was voluntarily pleading guilty and whether he was satisfied with his attorney's representation. Id. at 11. Meadows affirmed that he was satisfied with all the elements of his attorney's services in his case, including counsel's work in gathering facts. Id. at 31, 38-39. The court further established that Meadows had spoken with his attorney about how the United States Sentencing Guidelines might apply in his case. Id. at 14-15. Later, Meadows agreed under oath that he was responsible for between 500 and 1, 500 grams of methamphetamine. Id. at 34.

         During that same hearing, Meadows' counsel relayed that there had been some points of contention between himself and the Government while negotiating Meadows' plea agreement. Id. at 10 (“There were some initially, I won't say sticking points, but . . . the two-point enhancement, was added because when there was a search warrant where some drugs were found, he had his grandfather's shotgun and groundhog rifle sitting in the corner. So I guess, under the present standard of the two-point enhancement, it's a point well taken.”). The court acknowledged counsel's argument, and noted that these facts “may be a mitigating factor down the road.” Id.

         Sentencing

         On August 31, 2017, the probation officer assigned to Meadows' case prepared a presentence investigation report (the “PSR”). ECF No. 192. The PSR described Meadows as one of three “street-level dealers” in the drug conspiracy, alongside two other co-conspirators described as “mid-level dealers, ” another defendant who was responsible for obtaining “pound quantities” of methamphetamine, and one defendant who “directed large amounts of methamphetamine into southwest Virginia.” Id. at 6. Meadows entered the conspiracy after a co-defendant told him that “he had a lot of methamphetamine and wanted to do business.” Id. at 8.

         The PSR also recounted that a search pursuant to a warrant yielded four firearms located in Meadows' home, along with baggies, digital scales, methamphetamine, other drugs, and drug paraphernalia. Id. at 7, 13. The PSR relayed that Meadows made a Mirandized statement to investigators after his arrest, in which he admitted to purchasing nearly 1, 400 grams of methamphetamine for distribution, including over 500 grams in a two-day period. Id. at 7-8. The PSR computed Meadows' recommended sentence under the Guidelines using amount of methamphetamine that Meadows had admitted to, leading to a base offense level of 30. Id. at 13.

         Ultimately, the PSR recommended a net decrease in Meadows' offense level. After applying a two-level enhancement for the firearms, U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1), the PSR recommended a 3-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility under U.S.S.G. §§ 3E1.1(a)-(b), resulting in an offense level of 29. Id. at 14. However, the PSR did not adjust the offense level based on Meadows' role in the offense. Id. After finding that Meadows had a criminal history category of II, the PSR calculated a recommended Guideline sentence of 97-121 months. Id. at 15, 18. In addition, the PSR stated that if Meadows had not received credit for acceptance of responsibility, his recommended sentence under the Guidelines would have been 135-168 months. Id. at 18.

         On August 24, 2017, Meadows appeared before the court in a sentencing hearing. Meadows did not object to the factual findings or calculations in the PSR, and the court adopted the PSR. ECF No. 264, Aug. 24, 2017 Hr'g Tr. (“Sentencing Transcript”) at 4-7. Meadows' counsel also presented mitigation evidence at the hearing. For example, counsel questioned Meadows extensively about the guns found in his residence, asking who the guns belonged to, where they were located, and what they were used for. Id. at 13-14. In response to these questions, Meadows testified that three of the four guns found were used for hunting-not to “protect” any methamphetamine-and that the guns belonged to Meadows' grandfather at one time and Meadows' cousin. Id. Meadows conceded, however, that a pistol was in the house, lying on a coffee table, in addition to two rifles and a shotgun. Id.

         The court was also made aware that Meadows was not a leader in the conspiracy. See Sentencing Transcript at 24 (contrasting Meadows to “the people at the top of the conspiracy”); see also Plea Transcript at 35 (Government proffering that “Mr. Meadows was a fairly late joiner, an early exiter from this conspiracy”). In sentencing Meadows, the court concluded that the recommended sentence under the Guidelines was “way too high.” Sentencing Transcript at 21. After considering the factors set forth in 18 ...


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