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Jones v. United States

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 9, 2019

BYRON JONES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HON. PATTI B. SARIS CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Pro se petitioner Byron Jones moves under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to challenge his conviction for drug trafficking on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. After a review of the record, the Court DENIES the motion (Dkt. No. 214).

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In January 2012, Jones was indicted on drug trafficking charges involving cocaine and cocaine base. The amount of cocaine base triggered a ten-year mandatory minimum under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). The government also filed an information notifying Jones of its intent to seek an enhanced mandatory penalty based on a prior felony drug conviction pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851.

         At his initial appearance, the magistrate judge appointed Michael Natola as counsel for Jones. Fifteen days later, Jones moved to replace Natola for failing to speak to his family to gather relevant information before his bond hearing. After a hearing, the judge relieved Natola and appointed Edward Lee as new counsel. In August 2012, Jones again moved for new counsel, this time because Lee was not communicating with him. After another hearing, a third attorney, Daniel Cloherty, was appointed in September. Throughout this period, the magistrate judge excluded time under the Speedy Trial Act to permit the parties to exchange discovery and to hear Jones's two motions for new counsel.

         On March 15, 2013, Cloherty filed a motion to withdraw, citing an irreparable breakdown of his relationship with Jones. The Court held an ex parte hearing and found no irreparable breakdown. The Court informed Jones that he had to choose between proceeding with Cloherty and proceeding pro se with Cloherty as standby counsel. Although Jones indicated an intention to proceed pro se, he refused to participate in the waiver of counsel colloquy. At another ex parte hearing on April 3, 2013, the Court learned that Jones and Cloherty's disagreement involved a motion to suppress and a motion for reconsideration of detention. After the second ex parte hearing, Jones elected to proceed pro se on these motions with Cloherty as standby counsel. During the waiver colloquy, Jones indicated that he knowingly and voluntarily decided to proceed pro se. He also signed a waiver of counsel form.

         On April 22, 2013, Jones filed a pro se motion to suppress. Cloherty acted as standby counsel at the evidentiary hearing. The Court denied the motion to suppress and a motion for reconsideration. Raising Speedy Trial Act concerns, Jones also filed a pro se motion to reconsider the Court's order continuing his detention.

         After the denial of his motion to suppress, Jones, represented by Cloherty, agreed to plead guilty to all five counts in exchange for a withdrawal of the § 851 petition. His plea agreement contained a waiver of his right to challenge his conviction or a sentence of 188 months or less on direct appeal or collaterally. During the plea colloquy, the Court had the following exchange with Jones:

THE COURT: Have you been satisfied with the representation of your counsel?
JONES: Yes.
THE COURT: And I know that there have been certain points where you've decided to go pro se, but since we are now at the plea colloquy stage, are you satisfied with his representation of you throughout the plea colloquy and leading up to this plea agreement?
JONES: Yes.
THE COURT: All right. Are you in any way feeling pressured into pleading guilty? Has anyone made threats against you?
JONES: No.
THE COURT: Anyone that - do you feel as if your lawyer's pressuring you and you really want to go to trial?
JONES: No.

Dkt. No. 171 at 9. The Court also reviewed the appellate waiver. The Court accepted Jones's guilty plea and sentenced him to a term of imprisonment of 135 months.[1]

         On appeal, Jones, represented by a fourth attorney, argued that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary and raised two challenges to the Court's guideline calculations. See United States v. Jones, 778 F.3d 375, 381-86 (1st Cir. 2015). Jones also filed a pro se brief arguing that the Court should have allowed Cloherty's motion to withdraw as counsel and that his waiver of the right to counsel was invalid. See id. at 386-89. The First Circuit rejected all of these arguments and affirmed his conviction and sentence. See id. at 390.

         On June 20, 2016, Jones moved to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Jones argues that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary because Cloherty rendered ineffective assistance of counsel in four ways: 1) incorrectly telling him that he could not argue at trial that he had no connection to the apartment where the drugs were found since he testified to the contrary at the suppression hearing; 2) operating under a conflict of interest that caused Cloherty to fail to file motions to reconsider the Court's orders denying the motion to suppress and to withdraw the guilty plea; 3) failing to move to suppress or move to reconsider the Court's denial of his motion to suppress on the basis that the officers executing the search did not leave him a complete copy of the search warrant in violation of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(f)(1)(C); and 4) failing to advise him of his rights under the Speedy Trial Act and to move to dismiss on this basis.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Stand ...


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