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United States v. Nelson

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

February 11, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
GREGORY SCOTT NELSON, Defendant

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For GREGORY SCOTT NELSON, Defendant: Jonathan Jeffress, Rosanna Margaret Taormina, LEAD ATTORNEYS, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER FOR D.C., Washington, DC.

For USA, Plaintiff: Barry Wiegand, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Asset Forfeiture/Money Laundering Section, Washington, DC; Cassidy Kesler Pinegar, Julieanne Himelstein, LEAD ATTORNEYS, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD W. ROBERTS, Chief United States District Judge.

Gregory Nelson pled guilty to traveling from Virginia to Washington, D.C. to engage in illicit sexual conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b), and was sentenced to 25 months of imprisonment. Nelson's later 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion to vacate his sentence was granted on the ground that Nelson's guilty plea was involuntary since the government violated its duty to disclose material exculpatory evidence to Nelson. The government now moves for reconsideration of the Memorandum Opinion and Order (" Opinion" ) granting Nelson's motion. Because the government has failed to demonstrate a clear legal error, the government's motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

The facts are more extensively described in the earlier Opinion. United

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States v. Nelson, No. 11-59 (RWR), 979 F.Supp.2d 123, 2013 WL 5778318 (D.D.C. Oct. 25, 2013).

Briefly, Nelson pled guilty to traveling from Virginia to Washington, D.C. to engage in illicit sexual conduct and was sentenced to a 25-month term of imprisonment. A year after he was sentenced, Nelson filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging that his guilty plea was " induced through the government's violation of its constitutional obligation to produce exculpatory evidence under Brady v. Maryland" because the government failed to disclose an e-mail (" 1:44 p.m. e-mail" ) and that Nelson " did not receive the effective assistance of counsel." Petitioner Gregory Nelson's Mot. to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (" Nelson's § 2255 Mot." ) at 1. Nelson's Brady v. Maryland claims were fully briefed before the Opinion was issued, although briefing on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims had not concluded.

Nelson's motion to vacate his conviction and permitting him to withdraw his guilty plea was granted in the Opinion issued on October 25, 2013. Nelson, 2013 WL 5778318. The Opinion concluded that " [b]ecause the prosecution suppressed exculpatory evidence before Nelson pled guilty, Nelson's due process rights were violated to his prejudice and his guilty plea was not voluntary and knowing." Nelson, 2013 WL 5778318 at *9. The Opinion suspended briefing on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Id.

The government now moves for reconsideration of the Opinion, arguing that (1) " the Order reflects an overly narrow reading of United States v. Ruiz, 536 U.S. 622, 122 S.Ct. 2450, 153 L.Ed.2d 586 (2002), and draws a distinction between impeachment material and other exculpatory evidence which the text of that opinion does not support" ; (2) " the Order inappropriately relieves defendant of the ramifications of his actual possession of the e-mail he claims the government withheld from him" ; and (3) " the Order bypasses the well-recognized principles of Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 90 S.Ct. 1463, 25 L.Ed.2d 747 (1970), and its progeny, which articulate the standard for assessing the voluntariness of a plea." Govt.'s Mot. to Reconsider This Court's Order Granting Def.'s 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Mot. (" Govt.'s Mot." ) at 2-3. The government asserts that " the court misunderstood the government's arguments and misconstrued the holding in United States v. Ruiz, with the result that the Court's ruling reflects a clear error of law." Govt.'s Reply to Nelson's Opp'n to the Govt.'s Mot. to Reconsider This Court's Order Allowing Def. to Withdraw His Guilty Plea (" Reply" ) at 3 n.2. Nelson opposes. Nelson's Opp'n to the Govt.'s Mot. to Reconsider This Court's Order Granting Def.'s 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Mot. (" Opp'n" ).

DISCUSSION

The government did not identify a rule under which it is moving for reconsideration. However, the government " does not take issue with the [defendant's] suggestion that the proper avenue for a motion to reconsider should be found in the civil rules of procedure, rather than in this Court's criminal jurisprudence." Reply at 2. Accordingly, the government's motion will be assessed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Id. at 3 (acknowledging that the " motion to reconsider is properly filed under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b)" (citing Ackerland v. United States, 633 F.3d 698, 701 (8th Cir. 2011)); see also Owen-Williams v. BB & T Inv. Servs., Inc., 797 F.Supp.2d 118, 121-22 (D.D.C. 2011) (" As a general matter, courts treat a

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motion for reconsideration as originating under Rule 59(e) if it is filed within 28 days of the entry of the order at issue and as originating under Rule 60(b) if ...


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