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United States v. Chin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 21, 2014

NEGUS CHIN, Defendant

For USA, Plaintiff: John A. Wortmann, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney's Office, Boston, MA.

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Patti B. Saris, Chief United States District Judge

In the wake of the now infamous scandal involving Annie Dookhan, a former chemist at the William F. Hinton Drug Laboratory in Jamaica Plain, Defendant Negus Chin has moved to vacate his conviction and set aside his guilty plea pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Docket No. 60). Defendant contends that his plea was involuntary, unintelligent, and unknowing because Dookhan's derelictions at the drug lab were unknown to him at the time of his plea. Had the government disclosed these misdeeds, defendant argues that he would have proceeded to trial instead of pleading guilty. The government opposes defendant's motion and has requested summary dismissal. (Docket No. 73). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Vacate is DENIED.


The facts underlying defendant's guilty plea are largely undisputed. Around 3 a.m. on February 28, 2010, defendant was arrested after selling to an undercover police officer a substance believed to be crack cocaine. The undercover officer had been brought to defendant by a man later identified as Shawn Boyd. On Boyd's instruction, the officer asked defendant for " 3 for 40." Defendant initially resisted, saying that he did not know the officer " like that" and asking to see the officer's identification. When the officer stated that he had no identification, defendant asked to see the $40 instead. The officer responded that he wanted to see the crack first. Defendant opened his mouth, revealing several wrapped packages of what appeared to be crack cocaine, and told the officer, " I have the shit."

The officer then handed defendant $40 in prerecorded bills. Defendant took the money and removed two packages of suspected crack cocaine from his mouth and handed them to Boyd, telling him that he wanted the officer to smoke one of the rocks in front of him. Boyd complied, handing one of the two bags to the officer

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and placing the contents of the second bag into a pipe. The officer refused to smoke the crack cocaine and walked away from defendant and Boyd with one bag of suspected crack cocaine.

Shortly after the undercover informed his partner that the transaction was complete, police arrested defendant. The police recovered the $40 that the undercover officer had given him, along with an additional $116 in cash and a cell phone. Police also inspected the remaining bag of suspected crack cocaine purchased by the undercover and field tested the substance, which tested positive for the presence of cocaine.

The focal point here is that the police next sent the bag of suspected crack cocaine to the Hinton Drug Laboratory in Jamaica Plain for analysis. The lab returned a certification, signed by chemists Nicole Medina and Daniel Renczkowski, stating that the substance contained 0.08 grams of cocaine. Chemist Annie Dookhan's name does not appear on any of the relevant documentation relating to defendant's case, although she was employed at the lab as a chemist while the substance was analyzed.

On December 7, 2010, defendant pleaded guilty to one count of possessing with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2.[1] At the plea hearing, defendant did not disagree with the government's statement that he had been in possession of cocaine and distributed it to Shawn Boyd, knowing that Boyd would give it to the undercover officer in exchange for money. He told the court on several occasions during the colloquy that he distributed cocaine. Defendant also told the Court that he had previously been treated for addiction to marijuana and crack cocaine, and he was suffering from addiction at the time of his arrest.

Because defendant had two previous drug trafficking convictions in 2002 and 2006, and one for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, the Presentence Report classified defendant as a career offender pursuant to United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) § 4B1.1. Because of this designation, defendant's total offense level jumped from 10 to 29, which correlated with a guidelines range of 151 to 188 months of imprisonment after taking into account defendant's criminal history category of VI. The government recommended a downward variance to 132 months of imprisonment. The Court sentenced defendant to 96 months of imprisonment on June 23, 2011.

In August 2012--a little more than a year later--the public first heard the news that chemist Annie Dookhan had falsely certified drug test results and tampered with samples at the Hinton Drug Lab. On August 30, 2013, defendant filed his ยง 2255 motion, (Docket No. 60), which was stayed at the parties' request until the Massachusetts Inspector General (OIG) released its report following an ...

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