United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER United States District Judge
George Wilson has filed a pro se Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his criminal convictions and sentence. The United States opposes the motion. The Court has reviewed the motion carefully and concludes it should be denied because Mr. Wilson’s claims are either barred or without merit.
George Wilson was a defendant in a multi-defendant prosecution that spanned years. An investigation of the M Street Crew by the Safe Streets Task Force, a joint effort in Washington, D.C., by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), began in 2002 and ended on March 16, 2004, when thirty-nine individuals were arrested in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, New York, and California. In a 159-Count Superseding Indictment filed on October 19, 2005, a grand jury charged Mr. Wilson and co-defendants with narcotics conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; racketeering conspiracy, in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–68; narcotics trafficking; murder and other violent crimes; and various weapons crimes. See Superseding Indictment [Dkt. 386].
The defendants were divided into three groups for trial. The first group, consisting of Mr. Wilson, Jonathan Franklin, William Simmons, William Robinson, and Joseph Blackson, was tried by jury before this Court starting on March 6, 2006. See Scheduling Order [Dkt. 389] at 1; March 6, 2006 Minute Entry. On May 25, 2006, the jury convicted Mr. Wilson of narcotics conspiracy (Count 1), RICO conspiracy (Count 2), and unlawful use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug trafficking offense (Counts 104, 105, and 106). See Verdict Form [Dkt. 552] at 41–44.
At trial, the evidence showed that Mr. Franklin was the leader of the M Street Crew, a “large-scale drug ring” that operated “an open air drug market” throughout a four-block area centered on the intersection of 18th and M Streets in Northeast Washington, D.C. See United States v. Wilson, 605 F.3d 985, 997 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (transcript citations and quotation marks omitted). Mr. Franklin operated with a consistent routine: he obtained bulk quantities of phencyclidine (PCP) and ecstasy pills from suppliers and repackaged the drugs for members of the Crew to sell. Id. at 998. Although Mr. Franklin ordinarily functioned as the Crew’s leader, he was assisted in that role by his three “lieutenants,” Messrs. Wilson, Robinson, and Blackson, who supplied narcotics to the Crew and resolved disputes involving money or drugs when Mr. Franklin was absent. Id. Essentially, their job was “to oversee everything for the top man,” i.e., Mr. Franklin. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Mr. Wilson, for example, “played an enforcement role, . . . defend[ing] [the Crew’s] preeminence in the 18th and M area from outsiders, sometimes by force.” Id. at 999. At times, Mr. Wilson also took charge of the M Street Crew in Mr. Franklin’s absence. Id. “Beneath Franklin’s three lieutenants was a class of ‘foot soldiers’ who made individual sales in the 18th and M area.” Id.
On August 17, 2006, this Court sentenced Mr. Wilson to life imprisonment on Count 1, followed by 120 months of supervised release; life imprisonment on Count 2, followed by sixty months of supervised release; and 144 months (twelve years) on Counts 104 through 106, followed by thirty-six months of supervised release. See Am. Judgment [Dkt. 644] at 3–4. Mr. Wilson filed a timely appeal. After full arguments concerning the trial, jury verdict, and sentence, the Court of Appeals affirmed Mr. Wilson’s convictions and sentence on May 25, 2010. See Wilson, 605 F.3d at 1039.
Mr. Wilson filed the instant motion on December 30, 2011. Section 2255 Motion (Def. Mot.) [Dkt. 1181]. On February 14, 2012, the government filed a Motion to Dismiss his claims as time-barred under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which imposes a one-year statute of limitations on habeas petitions. See Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. 1188]. The Court denied the government’s motion on March 25, 2013, finding extraordinary circumstances sufficient to warrant equitable tolling. See Mar. 25, 2013 Order [Dkt. 1205] at 4–5. The parties then resumed briefing the merits. See U.S. Opp’n [Dkt. 1227]; Section 2255 Traverse (Def. Traverse) [Dkt. 1233]. On September 9, 2013, Mr. Wilson filed a related motion for an evidentiary hearing and appointment of counsel. See Mot. for Evidentiary Hearing [Dkt. 1237]. The Court now considers the pending motions.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A federal prisoner claiming the right to be released on the ground that “the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack,” may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Because “Section 2255 is not a substitute for a direct appeal,” “in order to gain relief under any claim, [the movant] is obliged to show a good deal more than would be sufficient on a direct appeal from his sentence.” United States v. Pollard, 959 F.2d 1011, 1020 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (citing United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165 (1982)).
A hearing need not be held on a § 2255 motion when “the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); accord United States v. Morrison, 98 F.3d 619, 625 (D.C. Cir. 1996). When the judge ruling on the § 2255 motion is the same judge who presided over the trial, as is the case here, the decision as to whether an evidentiary hearing is necessary is within the discretion of the Court. See Morrison, 98 F.3d at 625. “When a § 2255 motion involves ineffective assistance of counsel, a hearing is not required if the district court determines that the ‘alleged deficiencies of counsel did not prejudice the defendant.’” United States v. Weaver, 234 F.3d 42, 46 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting United States v. Sayan, 968 F.2d 55, 66 (D.C. Cir. 1992)) (other citation omitted).
Mr. Wilson challenges his convictions and sentence on the following grounds: (1) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; (2) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel; (3) alleged prosecutorial misconduct; and (4) an alleged due process violation based on the Court’s imposition of a three-level sentencing enhancement. See Def. Mot. at 4–8; Def. Traverse at 1–19.
As a threshold matter, the Court finds that no evidentiary hearing is required in this case. Having presided over Mr. Wilson’s trial and sentencing, this Court is familiar with the facts and issues of the case. The parties’ briefs and the record conclusively demonstrate that Mr. Wilson is not entitled to relief and that an evidentiary hearing is not warranted. The Court therefore proceeds to the merits of Mr. Wilson’s claims. The Court will first address those claims that are procedurally barred, then the alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel, and finally the alleged ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.
A. Procedurally Barred Claims
Mr. Wilson advances two substantive challenges to his convictions and sentence. Specifically, Mr. Wilson argues that (1) he was denied a fair trial due to the prosecutor’s alleged misconduct, and (2) he suffered a due process violation based on the three-level sentencing enhancement for his role in the conspiracy. Def. Mot. at 6–8. As discussed ...