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United States v. Watson

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 2, 2015


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For U.S.A, Plaintiff: David J. D'Addio, U.S. Attorney's Office - MA, Boston, MA; George W. Vien, Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP, Boston, MA; Zachary R. Hafer, United States Attorney's Office, Boston, MA.

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Trevor A. Watson (" Watson" ) brings this federal habeas corpus motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, seeking postconviction relief from his conviction and sentence for witness tampering. In December 2010, Watson was found guilty of one count of attempting to kill a federal witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(A) and (a)(1)(C). Here, Watson seeks collaterally to attack his sentence on the ground that, during his trial, he received ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights.

A. Procedural Posture

1. Initial Charges and Trials

On March 3, 2010, a criminal complaint was filed against Trevor A. Watson (" Watson" ) in this Court for tampering with a federal witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(A) and (a)(1)(C), and for retaliating against a federal witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1513(a)(1)(B). Criminal Compl., ECF No. I.[1] Watson was subsequently indicted by a grand jury on March 21, 2010, charging two counts: (1) attempting to kill a federal witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(A) and (C), and (2) using physical force and the threat of same against a federal witness with the requisite intent to intimidate. Indictment, ECF No. 10.

An eight-day jury trial, concluding on November 5, 2010, resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial. Elec. Clerk's Notes, Nov.

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5, 2010. Shortly thereafter, the Court presided over a second trial, lasting four days and concluding in early December, in which the jury found Watson guilty of one count of attempting to kill a federal witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(A) and (a)(1)(C). Elec. Clerk's Notes, Dec. 2, 2010. The government moved to dismiss the second count against Watson as a lesser included offense, and the Court granted the motion. Dismissal Count Two Indictment, ECF No. 58; see also Order, Dec. 6, 2010, ECF No. 56. The Court imposed a sentence on Watson of thirty years' imprisonment followed by five years of supervised release. Order, Mar. 11, 2011, ECF No. 61.

2. Watson's Direct Appeal

Watson appealed his conviction on March 17, 2011. Notice Appeal, ECF No. 67. He challenged his conviction on multiple grounds, alleging that evidence was improperly admitted at trial and that the prosecution's closing arguments contained unfairly prejudicial remarks. See United States v. Watson, 695 F.3d 159, 162, (1st Cir. 2012). On September 25, 2012, the First Circuit affirmed Watson's conviction. Id. at 169.

3. The Instant Motion

On January 14, 2014, Watson timely filed a motion to vacate his conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Mot. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Vacate, Set Aside, Correct Sentence Person Federal Custody, ECF No. 93. Watson's motion, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, further requests that the Court grant him an evidentiary hearing and leave further to supplement the record with evidence supporting his claims. Def.'s Mot. & Mem. Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (" Pet.'s Mem." ) 1, ECF No. 94. The government filed a response to Watson's motion on March 4, 2014. Gov't's Opp'n Def.'s 2255 Mot. Vacate & Req. Ct. Inquire Pursuant 18 U.S.C. § 3006A (" Gov't's Opp'n" ), ECF No. 96. The Court heard oral argument on Watson's motion on March 25, 2014. Elec. Clerk's Notes, Mar. 25, 2014, ECF No. 99.

B. Background Facts

1. Curtis Best and the Camacho Conspiracy

On June 12, 2008, Curtis James Best (" Best" ) was indicted along with seven others in the District of Massachusetts for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. United States v. Best, No. 08-cr-10168-NG-8 (Gorton, J.), Indictment, ECF No. 44. The indictment was the result of a Drug Enforcement Administration (" DEA" ) investigation into a cocaine trafficking and distribution enterprise (" the Camacho conspiracy" ) led by John Camacho. Trial Tr. vol. 1, 197:17-198:2, 200:9-12, Nov. 29, 2010, ECF No. 77. Best was arrested for his role in the conspiracy on April 25, 2008, and he began cooperating with the government shortly thereafter, providing information about the enterprise and his co-conspirators. Id. at 200:3-8, 202:1-7. From Best's information, the government identified additional members of the enterprise -- one of whom was the petitioner, Watson. Id. at 202:8-22.

Best pled guilty to the charges pending against him in April 2009 and agreed to work as a DEA confidential informant. Id. at 211:6-11; Trial Tr. vol. 2, 183:23-184:3, Nov. 30, 2010, ECF No. 79. He continued assisting the government in this capacity through at least 2010, when the events giving rise to the petition at bar occurred. See Trial Tr. vol. 1, 215:14-22.

2. Curtis Best's Stabbing and Watson's Arrest

On February 27, 2010, Best met a friend, Albert Rue, Jr. (" Rue" ), at Ann's

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Barbershop in the South End neighborhood of Boston. Trial Tr. vol. 2, 205:10-19. Outside the barbershop, Watson approached Best and asked to speak privately with Best further down the street. Id. at 207:6-8, 207:16-21. After conversing briefly, Watson attacked Best with a knife, stabbing him repeatedly. Id. at 208:3-15. According to Best's testimony at trial, as Watson was attacking him, Watson said, " So you talking. So you telling, huh?" Id. at 208:18-20. After the attack was over, Rue drove Best to Boston Medical Center, where Best was treated for multiple stab wounds to his chest and arm. Id. at 5:14-6:3; see also Trial Tr. vol. 1, 150:3-5.

The following day, Best met with federal agents and described his attacker as a man with light to medium skin, short, stocky, and who spoke with a Spanish accent. Trial Tr. vol. 1, 218:6-14. Shortly thereafter, however, on March 2, Best was shown a photographic lineup and identified Watson as his attacker by nodding and giving a thumbs-up signal to the police officer conducting the procedure. Trial Tr. vol. 3, 44:6-15, 46:7-47:3, Dec. 1, 2010, ECF No. 80. On March 3, a warrant was issued for Watson's arrest. Trial Tr. vol. 1, 220:5-8. Watson, accompanied by counsel, turned himself into the Boston Police Department on March 10. Id. at 221:4-7.

3. Watson's Trial

a. Judicial Notice of Paul Pierce Case

At the outset of Watson's second trial, the Court delivered remarks to the jury taking judicial notice of facts related to a prior criminal proceeding against Watson involving the 2000 assault and battery of a Boston Celtics basketball player, Paul Pierce (" Pierce" ). See Trial I Tr.[2] vol. 1, 22:2-12, Oct. 25, 2010, ECF No. 83; Trial Tr. vol. 1, 83:20-86:25. Although Watson had been acquitted of the more serious charges against him, the government sought judicial notice of facts related to the case on the basis that they were needed to contextualize key references in letters written by Watson after his 2010 arrest and seized from his prison cell and outgoing mail at the Plymouth County House of Correction. See Hr'g Tr., 2:18-25, 4:719, Oct. 6, 2010, ECF No. 86. Having earlier ruled that the letters could be admitted in evidence, id. at 4:13-14, the Court agreed that it ought take judicial notice of certain public facts from the Pierce trial transcript, id. at 12:3-6.

To that end, the Court recited facts to the jury describing, among other things, a September 25, 2000, attack on Pierce outside a Boston nightclub and the testimony of an eyewitness, Krystal Bostick (" Bostick" ), incriminating Watson in the attack. Trial Tr. vol. 1, 83:20-84:18. After providing testimony to a grand jury and to Providence Police identifying Watson and a co-defendant as Pierce's attackers, Bostick had recanted her statements. Id. at 85:2-86:6. Watson's counsel, Martin K. Leppo (" Leppo" ), made no contemporaneous objection. Pet.'s Mem., Ex. A, Aff. Martin K. Leppo (" Leppo Aff." ) ¶ 22, ECF No. 94-1.

b. Tomasetta Affidavit

On the second day of trial, the government introduced in evidence the complete affidavit written by DEA Special Agent Brian Tomasetta (" Special Agent Tomasetta" ), which had supported the original criminal complaint against Watson. Trial Tr. vol. 2, 12:22-13:5; see also Criminal Compl., Ex. 1, Affidavit DEA Special Agent Brian Tomasetta, ECF No. 1-1. A footnote in the affidavit describing Watson's

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prior criminal history was not redacted before the document was submitted to the jury. The footnote reads:

WATSON has a significant and violent criminal history. In addition to numerous state arrests for assault and battery and drug and gun-related charges, WATSON was convicted of the following felonies: (1) Possession of a Class B controlled substance, Roxbury District Court, in 2008; (2) Assault and Battery, Suffolk Superior Court, in 2000; (3) Felon in Possession of a Firearm, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, 1995; (4) Armed Robbery, Suffolk Superior Court, 1986; and (5) Robbery, Roxbury District Court, 1986.

Id. at 2 n.1. Another footnote in the affidavit asserts Special Agent Tomasetta's belief that Best " was fearful and hesitant due to WATSON's reputation ...

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