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United States v. Bravo

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 21, 2018

LUIS ROSARIO, Defendant.



         In August 2012, it came to light that Annie Dookhan, a chemist at a Massachusetts state testing laboratory, had been falsely certifying drug-tests. Ms. Dookhan has since been convicted and imprisoned for her misconduct, but the reverberations from her actions continue to be felt across the criminal justice system. As the First Circuit has explained, Ms. Dookhan's misconduct has "called into question a large number of federal and state drug convictions." Wilkins v. United States, 754 F.3d 24, 26 (1st Cir. 2014).

         The two matters now before me join a parade of challenges in this court by individuals seeking to vacate their convictions due to Ms. Dookhan's misconduct. Because of Ms. Dookhan's involvement in the drug convictions of Carlos Bravo and Luis Rosario, both now seek to vacate their guilty pleas to obtain a new trial. Bravo and Rosario contend that as a result of their lack of awareness of Ms. Dookhan's misconduct, their pleas were involuntary in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Moreover, they allege that the United States' failure to provide true and accurate discovery regarding Ms. Dookhan's misconduct prior to their pleas deprived them of due process.

         Bravo and Rosario undertake to revoke their guilty pleas by bringing a motion for a new trial under Fed. R. Crim. Proc ., Rule 33. That, however, is not the appropriate vehicle to bring these post-conviction claims. First, there cannot be a new trial because there was never an initial trial in the first place. Bravo and Rosario pled guilty. United States v. Graciani, 61 F.3d 70, 78 (1st Cir. 1995) ("A defendant who enters a guilty plea cannot thereafter use Rule 33 as a wedge to undo his acknowledgement that he committed the offense.") Second, the time period in which to bring such a motion on the basis of newly discovered evidence - three years following the "verdict or finding of guilty" - had long passed when Bravo and Rosario filed their motions.[1] Rule 33(b)(1).

         Under the circumstances, I treat the claims of Bravo and Rosario as being pursued through a motion for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28. U.S.C. § 2255.

         For the reasons stated below, I will deny the relief Bravo and Rosario seek.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In September 2006, law enforcement commenced an investigation relating to criminal activity associated with cocaine. The investigation revealed that Luis Castillo was a cocaine source in the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts. As a result of the investigations, law enforcement made five seizures of kilogram quantities of cocaine. The investigation resulted in a five-count indictment charging sixteen individuals, including Bravo and Rosario, who were both charged in Counts One (conspiracy to distribute) and Two (possession with intent). Bravo and Rosario pled guilty to both counts.

         A. Contemporaneous Evidence Regarding Offense Conduct By Rosario and Bravo

         On February 22, 2017, shortly after 1:50pm, Castillo and another associate arrived at the building located at 333 Howard Street, Lawrence, Massachusetts.

         Approximately ten minutes later, a GMC Yukon arrived at the front of 333 Howard Street; Rosario and Bravo exited the car and attempted to enter the front entrance of the building, but were unable to gain access. Rosario and Bravo then drove around to the rear of the building and parked the vehicle. Investigators thereafter observed Castillo exit the building carrying a blue plastic bag, which he handed to Bravo, who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the GMC Yukon. Castillo reentered the building, and the GMC Yukon left the area at a high rate of speed. As agents pursued, the GMC Yukon ran two stop signs and continued to travel at a high rate of speed. The passenger, Bravo, was observed dropping the blue plastic bag out the window. When they finally stopped, Rosario and Bravo were arrested. Agents retrieved the blue bag and found it contained approximately one kilogram of a white-powdery substance, which field-tested positive for the presence of cocaine.

         Shortly thereafter, law-enforcement agents arrested Castillo and another associate at 333 Howard Street. Pursuant to a search warrant of an apartment at 333 Howard Street, agents found approximately two kilograms of a white powdery substance, believed to be cocaine; approximately $8, 980 in cash; "three pieces of drug notes"; a digital scale; and miscellaneous documents in Castillo's name.

         B. Lab Testing

         On February 28, 2007, the white substance in the blue plastic bag dropped from the GMC Yukon was submitted to the Hinton State Laboratory Institute.

         Assistant Analyst Delia Saunders was assigned as the primary chemist to analyze the substance (designated laboratory number of 792497). As the primary chemist, she checked the evidence in the envelope and ensured it was consistent with the description on the evidence control card. Thereafter, she signed the sample in the evidence log book and took it to her laboratory bench where she secured it in her evidence locker until she was ready to analyze it. To Ms. Saunders' knowledge, only she and the lab supervisor, Charles Salemi, had access to the evidence locker.

         On April 9, 2007, Ms. Saunders conducted her analysis. She performed a series of preliminary tests and filled out a powder analysis sheet with the lab number, the submitting agency, the balance that she used (along with calibration check values), and her initials. She then recorded the gross weight (with packaging included) and the net weight of the evidence (recorded as 1000.70 grams), and conducted further tests, including color tests and microcrystalline tests. Pursuant to ...

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