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United States v. Bowman

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 3, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM MARTIN BOWMAN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is Defendant William Bowman's [961] Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Defendant, William Bowman (“Mr. Bowman” or “Defendant”), who is proceeding pro se, requests that this Court vacate or reduce his sentence based upon his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and his challenges to the constitutionality of his sentence regarding the firearms charge and the drug conspiracy charge. Upon a searching review of the parties' submissions, [1] the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that Mr. Bowman is not entitled to the requested relief. Accordingly, the Court shall DENY Mr. Bowman's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Arrest and Conviction

         In a superseding indictment filed on September 17, 2012, Mr. Bowman was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, three counts of using, carrying and possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking offense, three counts of distribution of cocaine, and two counts of unlawful distribution of cocaine base occurring on July 1 and 7, 2000. Redacted Superseding Indictment, ECF No. 440. Upon motion by the Government, the two counts of unlawful distribution of cocaine base occurring on July 1 and 7, 2000 were dismissed by the Court on October 11, 2012. Two of the counts of using, carrying and possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking offense were consolidated into one count before the case went to the jury.

         On November 20, 2012, following a month long jury trial, the jury found Mr. Bowman guilty on the following charges: 1) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine (21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841 (a)(1) and (b)(1)(A)(ii)) (Count One), three counts of distribution of cocaine (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841 (b)(1)(C))(Counts Three-Five), and one count of using, carrying, and possessing a firearm (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)) (Count Two). Verdict Form, ECF No. 653.[2] The facts underlying these charges may be summarized as follows: Mr. Bowman was an upper level manager of a wholesale cocaine trafficking organization operating in the District of Columbia (the “District”) metropolitan area from January 2009 through April 26, 2011, when he was arrested as a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Metropolitan Police Department. Mr. Bowman and his co-conspirators acquired large quantities of cocaine in California, shipped it to the District and distributed it to mid-level and street-level dealers. Mr. Bowman was primarily responsible for the logistics of paying the suppliers and arranging shipments of cocaine from California to the District. In this role, Mr. Bowman directed his co-conspirators to rent shipping pods in which to ship money and cocaine between the District and California. He also provided financing for the drug-trafficking organization, and he was involved in cutting and processing the cocaine received from California. See Govt's Mem. in Aid of Sentencing, ECF No. 696, at 1-2. During most of his pretrial and trial proceedings, Mr. Bowman was represented by a court-appointed attorney, Mr. Dwight Crawley. CJA 20 Appointment, ECF No. 24.

         B. Sentencing and Appeal

         The court held a sentencing hearing on April 9, 2013, and Mr. Bowman was sentenced to two hundred forty (240) months of imprisonment on Counts 1, 3, 4 and 5, to run concurrently, and a term of three hundred (300) months of imprisonment on Count 2, to run consecutively to Counts 1, 3, 4 and 5, together with a supervised release period of one hundred and twenty (120) months on Count 1, sixty (60) months on Count 2, and seventy-two (72) months on Counts 3, 4, and 5, with supervised release running concurrently. Judgment in a Criminal Case, ECF No. 761. Mr. Bowman and co-defendant Mr. Williams directly appealed the judgment, arguing that: (1) the Court erroneously denied their motions to suppress evidence gained from wiretapping; (2) the Court erroneously allowed the government to present lay opinion testimony from the case investigator; (3) the Court should have granted the Mr. Williams' motion for severance and judgment of acquittal; and (4) the government engaged in unconstitutional overreaching in “wiring” the plea offers extended to Mr. Bowman and Mr. Williams.

         The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Mr. Bowman's claims and affirmed his conviction on July 8, 2016. United States v. Henry Brandon Williams, 827 F.3d 1134 (D.C. Cir. 2016). Notably, the Circuit Court found that Mr. Bowman's due process challenge on the wired plea deals failed under United States v. Pollard, 959 F.2d 1011 (D.C. Cir. 1992). Under Pollard, a plea offer that is wired to co-defendants does not automatically offend due process so long as there is no indication of government coercion or bad faith, and in this case, “[n]othing in the record suggests that the Government wired Bowman's plea in a bad-faith effort to coerce him into involuntarily accepting a plea…” United States v. Williams, 827 F.3d at 1164-65. Furthermore, because the Government had probable cause to arrest and prosecute both Bowman and co-defendant Williams, Bowman “had ‘no right to be offered a plea' at all much less the particular plea agreement of his choosing.” Id. at 1165 (citing Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 134, 148 (2012)).

         C. Present Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255

         Pending before the Court is Mr. Bowman's Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (“Motion”). Mr. Bowman's Motion is premised on allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel related to his trial counsel, Dwight Crawley, and his appellate counsel, Julian S. Greenspun. More specifically, Mr. Bowman claims that his trial counsel failed to “address[ ] the fact that [he] was willing to accept a plea without inducing any other co-defendants to plea[d]” and to inform the Government that Mr. Bowman “still wanted to accept a plea” before trial and further, that counsel did not properly advise him of the consecutive nature of sentencing on the firearms counts. Def.'s Mot. To Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence, ECF No. 961, at 4-5. Mr. Bowman asserts generally that his appellate counsel failed to raise these [same] issues on appeal. Additionally, Mr. Bowman claims that his trial counsel visited him rarely and he challenges the alleged unconstitutionality of the punishment imposed for his firearms and drug conspiracy convictions.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, federal prisoners may file a motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence if he believes that the otherwise final 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 standard for granting such a motion is high, as courts want to generally respect the finality of judgments and note the opportunities already afforded to prisoners to raise objections during trial or on 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). The petitioner has the burden of proof to demonstrate his right to such relief by a preponderance of the evidence. United States v. Basu, 881 F.Supp.2d 1, 4 (D.D.C. 2012). A court shall grant a hearing to determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law “[u]nless 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).

         With few exceptions, 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) (citation omitted), aff'd, 22 Fed.Appx. 3 (D.C. Cir. 2001).

         A defendant claiming ineffective assistance of counsel may raise it for the first time as a collateral attack, rather than on direct appeal, but 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). For the first prong, “[j]udicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential” and defendant must “overcome the presumption that under the circumstances, the challenged action might be considered sound trial strategy.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 689 (1984) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “The benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 686. 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, 104 (2011). The Court must consider “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.

         Furthermore, the defendant must meet the second Strickland prong and “affirmatively prove prejudice.” Id. at 693. That is, “[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. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Id. at 669. See also Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011) (To find prejudice, the petitioner must show that there is “a substantial, not just ...


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