United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER United States District Court.
Blackson filed a pro se motion to vacate, set aside,
or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
See Def.'s Mot. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to
Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence [Dkt. 1268]. For the
reasons explained below, the Court will deny the motion.
motion arises from a long and complicated set of criminal
convictions after a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI) and the District of Columbia
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) into a group of drug
dealers in D.C. known as the “M Street Crew.” The
investigation resulted in two indictments: United States
v. Babson, 04-cr-127, charging persons in New York,
California and elsewhere with supplying drugs to the
D.C.-based M Street Crew, and United States v.
Franklin, 04-cr-128, the instant case, charging alleged
Crew members. In all, about forty (40) persons were charged
and were convicted or pled guilty.
relevant here, Mr. Blackson was charged in a 159-count
superseding indictment that also named 18 other defendants
and alleged a host of federal crimes relating to a narcotics
conspiracy. See Superseding Indictment [Dkt. 386].
Through testimony, pole camera footage, wiretaps of phone
calls, and audio recordings, the evidence convinced the jury
that Jonathan Franklin led the M Street Crew as a cohesive
and hierarchical business and social unit.
Blackson is the half-brother of Mr. Franklin, and the
government argued he was a “lieutenant” to Mr.
Franklin. After trial of five alleged M Street Crew members,
the jury convicted all, including Mr. Blackson, of conspiracy
to distribute and possess with intent to distribute
phencyclidine, ecstasy and cocaine base, also known as crack
cocaine; conspiracy to participate in a Racketeer Influenced
Corrupt Organization (RICO); multiple counts of drug
distribution; violent crimes; and numerous gun offenses.
See Verdict [Dkt. 552]. On August 31, 2006, this
Court sentenced Mr. Blackson to 35 years in prison, followed
by 10 years of supervised release. The sentence included an
enhancement stemming from the Court's finding that Mr.
Blackson served as a “lieutenant” in the M Street
Blackson appealed his convictions to the United States Court
of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which
affirmed all but one conviction. See United States v.
Wilson, 605 F.3d 985 (D.C. Cir. 2010). The Circuit
reversed Mr. Blackson's conviction on Count 31; this
Count had alleged an incident of drug distribution, but the
government had presented no evidence on it and told the
Circuit that the judgment was in error. Id. 605 F.3d
at 1032. On remand, this Court found no reason to disturb Mr.
Blackson's original sentence. See Tr. of
Sentencing on Remand [Dkt. 1218] at 22:8-23:10.
Blackson filed the instant motion on November 7, 2014, in
which he alleges ineffective assistance of trial and
appellate counsel, and asks the Court to vacate his
convictions or, in the alternative, to hold an evidentiary
hearing. See Def.'s Mot. at 10. In a letter
accompanying his motion, Mr. Blackson stated that he intended
to supplement the motion with supporting affidavits from
potential defense witnesses who were not called by his trial
counsel. See Def.'s Nov. 7, 2014 Letter [Dkt.
1269]. He later supplemented his § 2255 motion with
three supporting affidavits, only one of which was signed.
See § 2255 Supp. [Dkt. 1276]. The government
opposed the motion on May 7, 2015. See Pl.'s
Opp. [Dkt. 1299]. Mr. Blackson subsequently requested-and the
Court granted-several extensions of time in which to file a
reply. Although he filed an unrelated Motion to Reduce
Sentence [Dkt. 1314] during one extension period, he did not
submit any reply.
2255 allows a federal prisoner to ask the sentencing court to
vacate, set aside or correct a sentence on the grounds 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). A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel
is one such collateral attack. A defendant must prove his
claim by a preponderance of the evidence. See United
States v. Simpson, 475 F.2d 934, 935 (D.C. Cir. 1973);
see also Parker v. United States, No. CR 12-59
(EGS), 2016 WL 4148174, at *2 (D.D.C. Aug. 4, 2016). 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)); see also Parker, 2016 WL 4148174,
at *2 (applying Pollard standard).
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); see also United
States v. Morrison, 98 F.3d 619, 625 (D.C. Cir. 1996).
To warrant a hearing, the petitioner's Section 2255
motion must “raise ‘detailed and specific'
factual allegations whose resolution requires information
outside the record or the judge's personal knowledge or
recollection.” United States v. Pollard, 959
F.2d 1011, 1031 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (quoting Machibroda v.
United States, 368 U.S. 487, 495 (1962)). “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)). Further, “a district judge's
decision not to hold an evidentiary hearing before denying a
§ 2255 motion is generally respected as a sound exercise
of discretion when the judge denying the § 2255 motion
also presided over the trial in which the petitioner claims
to have been prejudiced.” Morrison, 98 F.3d at
Blackson complains that his trial and appellate lawyers
provided him with ineffective assistance. Def.'s Mot. at
5-13. To prevail, he must show that (1) “counsel made
errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the
‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth
Amendment, ” and (2) this “deficient performance
prejudiced the defense, ” meaning “counsel's
errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair
trial.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S.
668, 687 (1984). Strickland's framework
“requires (1) showing ‘counsel's
representation fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness' and (2) demonstrating ‘there is a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would
have been different.'” United States v.
Hughes, 514 F.3d 15, 17 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-88, 694).
outset, the Court finds that no evidentiary hearing is
required in this case. Having presided over Mr.
Blackson's trial and sentencing (and all other
proceedings involving the M Street Crew and its suppliers),
this Court is familiar with the facts and issues of the case.
Further, as discussed infra, the parties' briefs
and record sufficiently demonstrate that Mr. ...