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United States v. Gordon

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

January 5, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
WELDON GORDON, Defendant

Decided December 31, 2014.

Page 96

For WELDON GORDON, Defendant: Anthony Douglas Martin, LEAD ATTORNEY, ANTHONY D MARTIN, PC, Greenbelt, MD; Thomas J. Saunders, LEAD ATTORNEY, Baltimore, MD; Douglas James Behr, KELLER & HECKMAN, LLP, Washington, DC.

For USA, Plaintiff: Darlene Michele Soltys, Emory Vaughan Cole, LEAD ATTORNEYS, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 97

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge.

Before the Court is petitioner Weldon Gordon's Motion, ECF No. 268, to vacate, correct, or set aside his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Mr. Gordon alleges that he was denied his counsel of choice in violation of the Sixth Amendment and that he had ineffective assistance of counsel at his trial and sentencing. Mr. Gordon asks the Court to vacate his conviction and sentence. Upon consideration of the Motion [268], the entire record herein, and the applicable law, petitioner's Motion will be DENIED.

Page 98

I. BACKGROUND

A. Defendant's Charges and Conviction

In 2008, Mr. Gordon was charged with two counts of unlawful distribution of 50 grams or more of crack cocaine. See Case No. 08-cr-281 (RMU), ECF No. 1. Following his arrest in that case, the government's confidential DEA informant was identified in discovery. Mr. Gordon subsequently shot the informant three times, killing him in order to prevent him from testifying. ECF No. 235 at 4--5. In 2011, Mr. Gordon was indicted for the drug charges, in addition to conspiracy to obstruct justice by tampering with a witness and tampering with a witness, victim, or informant by killing. ECF No. 108. In 2012, a jury convicted Mr. Gordon on all counts, ECF. No. 219, and the Court sentenced him to life imprisonment, ECF No. 245. On September 9, 2013, Mr. Gordon filed the instant § 2255 motion, in which he argues the Court should vacate his conviction and sentence.

B. Defendant's Counsel

From the time of his initial charges through his sentencing, Mr. Gordon was represented by approximately seven attorneys, several of whom were not to Mr. Gordon's satisfaction. See ECF No. 266-2 at 22:13. Even in the case of his attorneys who ultimately withdrew because of a conflict, Mr. Gordon had expressed dissatisfaction. Id. On August 25, 2011, he filed a Motion to Appoint New Counsel, complaining, inter alia, that his lawyer Mr. Onorato had failed to effectively communicate with him, investigate his leads, and interview defendant's alibi witnesses. ECF No. 166. After the Court found a conflict of interest and permitted the attorneys' withdrawal, it appointed Thomas Saunders to represent Mr. Gordon.

Mr. Gordon subsequently filed a Motion to Appoint New Counsel, asserting that Mr. Saunders' assistance had been " at best ineffective." ECF No. 182. He asserted that Mr. Saunders stated he did not do investigative work, showed " lack of motivation by stating false information in order for [Mr. Gordon] to take a plea Deal," failed to effectively communicate with the defendant, and was " very unprofessional by showing he ha[d] no interest in this matter." Id. The Court held a status conference and conducted a detailed inquiry into Mr. Gordon's allegations. See ECF No. 266-1. The Court heard from both Mr. Gordon and Mr. Saunders and concluded that it had " heard nothing from [defendant] that even remotely suggests Mr. Saunders is not doing his job." Id. at 11:25-12:1. The Court denied Mr. Gordon's motion and set a trial date in February, 2012.

On October 27, 2011, Mr. Gordon moved to retain substitute counsel, Brian McDaniel, and continue the trial date. ECF No. 185. Mr. McDaniel stated he had another trial that would run into April 2012, and could only serve as Mr. Gordon's counsel if the trial were continued until after that date. Id. at 3-4. In a status conference, the Court heard from Mr. McDaniel, Mr. Saunders, counsel for the United States, and Mr. Gordon. ECF No. 266-2. The Court weighed Mr. Gordon's right to counsel of choice against the interest in prompt administrative of justice and found " no reason to believe that [Mr. Saunders] will not proceed in a fashion that protects Mr. Gordon's rights and represents him at trial to the best of his ability, which is considerable." Id. at 29:16-19. In light of the logistical difficulties involved in postponing the trial and because it had already been postponed before, the Court concluded that " beginning anew, yet again, would be a disruption." Id. at 29:25-30:1. The Court thus denied Mr. Gordon's motion to continue the trial and retain substitute counsel.

Page 99

Mr. Gordon's trial began on February 3, 2012, and he was convicted ...


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