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United States v. Stoddard

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 24, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
LIONEL STODDARD, Defendant. Civil Action No. 12-1322

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, District Judge.

On July 15, 2005, Lionel Stoddard ("Stoddard") was convicted by a jury in this Court of: conspiracy to conduct and participate, directly and indirectly, in the affairs of an enterprise, through a pattern of racketeering activity ("Count I"), including the armed robbery of the Industrial Bank located at 2012 Rhode Island Avenue, N.E., Washington, D.C., on or about June 12, 2004 ("Racketeering Act 3"), the armed robbery of the Chevy Chase Bank located at 3601 St. Barnabas Road, Silver Hill, Maryland, on or about May 10, 2004 ("Racketeering Act 5"), assault with intent to kill while armed of Edwin Arrington on or about April 23, 2004 ("Racketeering Act 7"), and assault with intent to kill while armed of Police Officer Katie Collins on or about May 10, 2004 ("Racketeering Act 8"); conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, that is, armed robberies of banks the deposits of which were then insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("Count II"); armed robbery of the Industrial Bank on or about June 12, 2004 ("Count X"); using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence on or about June 12, 2004 ("Count XI"); and unlawful possession of a firearm on or about June 12, 2004, by a person convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year ("Count XIV"). The jury also found Stoddard not guilty of assault with intent to kill while armed of Edwin Arrington on or about April 23, 2004 ("Count XVIII"). Presently before the Court is Stoddard's pro se [773] Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Upon a searching review of the parties' submissions, [1] the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds no grounds for setting aside Stoddard's conviction and sentence. Accordingly, the Court shall DENY Stoddard's [773] Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence.

I. BACKGROUND

On August 3, 2004, a federal grand jury indicted Stoddard and six codefendants in connection with a string of bank robberies that occurred in the District of Columbia and Maryland.[2] Indictment, ECF No. [10]. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ("D.C. Circuit") described the factual scenario:

[Stoddard and his codefendants] indulged in a violent crime spree throughout the District of Columbia metro area that lasted for nearly a year and a half. Appellants, who began by cultivating and selling marijuana, evolved into a ring that committed armed bank robberies, using stolen vehicles to travel to the targeted banks and make their escapes. By the summer of 2004, the robbers had developed a signature style. The gang wore bullet-proof vests, masks, and gloves, and relied on superior fire power, preferring to use military weapons like AK-47s instead of handguns because they surmised the metropolitan police "wouldn't respond" when Appellants "robb[ed] banks with assault weapons." The gang made use of several stolen vehicles, strategically placed along the get-away-route, for each robbery. The robbers would serially abandon the vehicles, often torching them in an attempt to destroy any forensic evidence that might be left behind.

United States v. Burwell, 642 F.3d 1062, 1064-65 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (internal citations omitted). The matter proceeded to trial in this Court, and Stoddard was tried alongside five other codefendants. On July 15, 2005, a jury convicted Stoddard on five counts upon which he was charged in the indictment; the jury found Stoddard not guilty of a sixth count, Count XVIII. Verdict Form, ECF No. [472].

On May 19, 2006, this Court sentenced Stoddard to 365 months on Count I, 60 months on Count II, 300 months on Count X, and 120 months on Count XIV to run concurrently to each other. The Court also sentenced to Stoddard to 360 months of imprisonment on Count XI to run consecutive to all counts. Judgment in a Criminal Case, ECF No. [639]. Stoddard filed a timely appeal of his conviction and on April 29, 2011, the D.C. Circuit affirmed Stoddard's conviction in a published opinion. United States v. Burwell, 642 F.3d 1062 (D.C. Cir. 2011), aff'd in part en banc, 690 F.3d 500 (D.C. Cir. 2012). Stoddard did not file a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States. Stoddard currently is serving his sentence.

Pending before the Court is Stoddard's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Stoddard's motion is premised on ineffective assistance of counsel claims related to his trial and appellate counsel, W. Gregory Spencer. Specifically, Stoddard claims that his counsel rendered him ineffective assistance of counsel by: (1) failing to challenge the violation of his statutory and constitutional right to speedy trial; (2) failing to raise double jeopardy challenges to the indictment prior to trial and failing to move to dismiss based on this challenge, and for failing to raise this issue on appeal; (3) failing to raise a Confrontation Clause challenge to certain evidence; and (4) failing to request an informant jury instruction at trial.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a prisoner in custody under sentence of a federal court may move the sentencing court to vacate, set aside, or correct its sentence if the prisoner believes 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." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). The circumstances under which such a motion will be granted, however, are limited in light of the premium placed on the finality of judgments and the opportunities prisoners have to raise most of their objections during trial or on direct appeal. "[T]o obtain collateral relief a prisoner must clear a significantly higher hurdle than would exist on direct appeal." United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 166 (1982). Nonetheless, "[u]nless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court shall... grant a prompt hearing thereon, determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

A prisoner may not raise a claim as part of a collateral attack if that claim could have been raised on direct appeal, unless he can demonstrate either: (1) "cause" for his failure to do so and "prejudice" as a result of the alleged violation, or (2) "actual innocence" of the crime of which he was convicted. Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998). However, "[w]here a petitioner raises claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in a § 2255 motion, he need not show cause and prejudice' for not having raised such claims on direct appeal, as these claims may properly be raised for the first time in a § 2255 motion." United States v. Cook, 130 F.Supp.2d 43, 45 (D.D.C. 2000), aff'd, 22 F.Appx. 3 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (citation omitted).

A defendant claiming ineffective assistance of counsel must show (1) "that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness under prevailing professional norms, " and (2) "that this error caused [him] prejudice." United States v. Hurt, 527 F.3d 1347, 1356 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). "Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential. It is all too tempting for a defendant to second-guess counsel's assistance after conviction or adverse sentence." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 689 (1984). It is the petitioner's burden to show that counsel's errors were "so serious" that counsel could not be said to be functioning as the counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, ___, 131 S.Ct. 770, 787 (2011). "The reasonableness of counsel's actions may be determined or substantially influenced by the defendant's own statements or actions.... [I]nquiry into counsel's conversations with the defendant may be critical to a proper assessment of... counsel's other litigation decisions." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 691. In evaluating ineffective assistance of counsel claims, the Court must give consideration to "counsel's overall performance, " Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 386 (1986), and "indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance, " Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. Moreover, "[t]he defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. A "reasonable probability" is "a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id.

III. DISCUSSION

A district court may deny a Section 2255 motion without a hearing when "the motion and files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). "The decision whether to hold a hearing is committed to the district court's discretion, particularly when, as here, the judge who is considering the § 2255 motion also presided over the proceeding in which the petitioner claims to have been prejudiced.'" United States v. Orleans-Lindsey, 572 F.Supp.2d 144, 166 (D.D.C. 2008), appeal dismissed, No. 08-3089, 2009 U.S.App. LEXIS 20833 (D.C. Cir. Sept. 18, 2009) (quoting Fears v. United States, No. Civ. A. 06-0086 (JDB), 2006 WL 763080, at *2 (D.D.C. Mar. 24, 2006) (citations omitted)); see also United States v. Agramonte, 366 F.Supp.2d 83, 85 (D.D.C. 2005), aff'd, 304 Fed.App'x 877 (D.C. Cir. 2008). "The judge's own recollection of the events at issue may enable him summarily to deny a Section 2255 motion." Agramonte, 366 F.Supp.2d at 85 (citing United States v. Pollard, 959 F.2d 1011, 1031 (D.C. Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 915 (1992)). To warrant a hearing, the petitioner's Section 2255 motion must "raise[] detailed and specific' factual allegations whose resolution requires information outside of the record or the judge's personal knowledge or recollection.'" Pollard, 959 F.2d at 1031 (quoting Machibroda v. United States, 368 U.S. 487, 495 (1962)).

Based on a thorough review of the parties' pleadings and the entire record in the criminal proceeding, the Court finds that there is no need for an evidentiary hearing on the instant motion. As explained below, Stoddard has not proffered detailed and factual allegations outside of the record such that a hearing is required on the issues raised in his motion. Accordingly, the Court shall render its findings based on the parties' pleadings and the record.

Stoddard raises four ineffective assistance of counsel claims related to counsel allegedly: (1) failing to challenge the violation of his statutory and constitutional right to speedy trial; (2) failing to raise double jeopardy challenges to the indictment prior to trial and failing to move to dismiss based on this challenge, and for failing to raise this issue on appeal; (3) failing to raise a Confrontation Clause challenge to certain ...


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