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United States v. Castillo

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 29, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MODESTO CASTILLO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          WOLF, D.J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In June 2010, a jury convicted defendant Modesto Castillo of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The court sentenced him to 188 months in custody, which was later reduced to 151 months in custody pursuant to a retroactive amendment to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Castillo has moved to vacate his conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. §2255, and for discovery. He alleges that his sentence, which was based in part on a finding by the court that he was responsible for possessing or distributing approximately 140 kilograms of cocaine, violated his Sixth Amendment rights under United States Supreme Court in Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. 99, 116 (2013). Castillo subsequently moved to amend his Petition with a claim that the laboratory results relied on to identify the substance seized from his coconspirator as cocaine were potentially falsified by Annie Dookhan, a former chemist at the Massachusetts Department of Health Hinton State Laboratory.

         The decision in Alleyne was decided after Castillo's conviction and sentence became final and does not apply retroactively. See Butterworth v. United States, 775 F.3d 459, 468 (1st Cir. 2015), cert, denied, 135 S.Ct. 1517 (2015). In addition, Castillo does not provide any reason to believe that Annie Dookhan tested the samples of cocaine recovered from his coconspirator, or that it is reasonably likely he would have been acquitted if her misconduct had been disclosed to him before trial. The evidence at trial indicates that the drugs were analyzed at the Drug Enforcement Administration's Northeast Laboratory, not the Hinton State Laboratory. Moreover, there was other, overwhelming evidence that the substance seized on April 5, 2008 from his coconspirator, Raphael Mercedes, was cocaine. Therefore, Castillo's motions for discovery and to vacate his sentence are unmeritorious and are being denied.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On April 5, 2008, the Massachusetts State Police ("MSP") seized 84 kilograms of what they suspected to be cocaine from a pickup truck in Lynn, Massachusetts. The police arrested six individuals in connection with the seizure, including Castillo. On May 15, 2008, Castillo was charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine.

         Prior to trial, the government filed an exhibit list identifying Exhibit 12 as a "Representative Sample of 10 kilograms of cocaine seized from 84 kilograms of cocaine seized on 04/05/08." Docket No. 214-1 at 7. Castillo and the government stipulated:

That the substance that has been marked for identification as Government's Exhibit 12, was analyzed by the Drug Enforcement Administration's Northeast Laboratory and found to contain cocaine. The total weight of the substance seized that was found to be cocaine was 84.08 kilograms. Following the chemical analysis, Government's Exhibit G was returned to the Drug Enforcement Administration in Boston, Massachusetts, for use at trial.

         Docket No. 210 at 1.

         Castillo's trial began on June 16, 2010. At trial, MSP Sergeant Thomas Quinn testified that the drugs seized on April 5, 2008, "were taken...from Lynn, Massachusetts to Framingham, where the state police narcotics unit is" and subsequently "transferred from state police custody to DEA custody." June 17, 2010 Tr. at 101-02. Exhibit 12 was then admitted and identified by Sergeant Quinn. Id. at 105-06. The stipulation regarding that exhibit was read into evidence. Id. at 110-11. On June 21, 2010, the jury found Castillo guilty of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine. See Docket No. 219.

         Castillo was sentenced on September 21, 2010. The court found that Castillo was responsible for a total of 139.08 kilograms of cocaine, including the 84 kilograms seized on April 5, 2008, 30 kilograms given to the owner of the auto body shop where the cocaine was delivered, and 25 kilograms from a prior uncharged transaction. See PSR at ¶ 21; Sept. 21, 2010 Tr. at 8. The court calculated Castillo's advisory guideline range using this figure. Id. at 11-12. It sentenced him to 188 months in prison, which was at the time the low end of the guideline range. Id. at 11, 21-22. Castillo's conviction was affirmed on appeal. See No. 10-2264 (1st Cir. Oct. 26, 2012)(Docket No. 257). Castillo did not file a petition for certiorari. His conviction became final on January 24, 2013. The court later reduced Castillo's sentence to 151 months in custody pursuant to U.S.S.G. Supp. to App. C, Amendment 782, which lowered the guidelines for his offense and applied retroactively under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2) and U.S.S.G. §1B1.10(d). See Nov. 22, 2016 Memorandum and Order (Docket No. 322).

         In a series of investigations from 2011 through at least 2012, it was discovered that Annie Dookhan, a chemist at the Massachusetts Department of Health Hinton State Laboratory in Jamaica Plain, engaged in repeated misconduct in connection with drug samples she tested from 2003 to 2012. As recently, succinctly summarized by Judge George O'Toole,

Dookhan's offenses are now well-known. She worked as chemist at the Hinton Lab from 2003 through 2012. In 2011, Dookhan was cited for a breach of laboratory protocol. The [Department of Health] launched an investigation which exposed an alarming pattern of lapses and irregularities at the Hinton Lab. Dookhan was ultimately indicted and pled guilty to twenty-seven criminal charges, including perjury and evidence tampering, admitting among other things that she rigged test results by contaminating negative samples with known drugs from completed tests and dry-labbing (i.e., falsely certifying she had tested drug samples when she had only given them a visual examination).

United States v. Fortes, 2016 WL 8692835, at *2 (D. Mass. Sept. 30, 2016). The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court also found that Dookhan falsified the substance of reports intended to verify, before each test, the proper functioning of a sophisticated machine used to confirm the analyses of other ...


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