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United States v. Payton

November 8, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gilbert, District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Antonio J. Payton's (Payton) Motion Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence By a Person in Federal Custody. Payton filed a pro se Motion (Doc. 1) because he was concerned his retained counsel would not file in time to meet the statute of limitations deadline. Payton's counsel filed a separate Motion (Doc. 7), and the two Motions were consolidated (Doc.6). Payton then amended his Motion, adding more claims (Doc. 8). For the followings reasons, the Court DENIES Payton's Motions.


I. Procedural Posture

In May 2001, Payton was convicted by a jury of three counts: (1) conspiracy to distribute more than five grams of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(A0(1) and (b)(1)(B)(iii), (2) use of a weapon during the conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and (3) possession with intent to distribute and distribution of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). This Court sentenced him to 480 months in federal custody. At sentencing, Payton's Guideline Offense Level was enhanced two levels for obstruction of justice because he instructed Donathan Brown to provide false information to investigators.

Payton's appeal of his conviction and sentence was denied by the United States Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit on May 12, 2003. His petition for certiorari review by the United States Supreme Court was denied on October 6, 2003. He timely filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for the Court to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence.

II. Evidence Presented at Trial

The Government presented evidence at trial in support of the following facts. Beginning at least in 1996, Payton worked as a crack cocaine dealer in Carbondale, Illinois. One of his best customers was his father, Milton Payton. During a controlled buy in 1996, Milton Payton, working as a confidential source for the Government bought crack cocaine from his son. The deal resulted in the federal prosecution of several other individuals, but not Payton, because he was only 17 years old at the time.

Payton was in a partnership of sorts with Shurron Sherrill (Sherrill). Sherrill and Payton had the same source and the same go-between from whom they obtained their crack cocaine. When either Sherrill or Payton were in arrears to their source, both were cut off from getting more crack. If one found his supply of crack had run out, the other would "throw some his way."

Anthony Barnett and Eldridge Hardley worked as "runners" for Payton. Hardley had previously worked for Musenda Traylor, and Lukyan Traylor. The Traylors were arrested as a result of the 1996 controlled buy, but Hardley continued working as a "runner" for Payton. Barnett earned a $20 rock of crack cocaine for every $100 worth of business he sent to Payton.

In addition, Wendell Wooley worked as a runner for Payton until May 22, 1998, when Wooley was shot with a gun Payton later sold to a confidential police source. At the time of the shooting, Wooley was in arrears to Payton for $150 worth of crack cocaine. Payton told Sherrill that he shot Wooley because Wooley owed him money. Following the shooting, Wooley still obtained crack from Payton, but he used an intermediary.

In 1999, Demetrius Johnson acted as a confidential source for the police in a controlled buy of crack cocaine. Johnson contacted Milton Payton, who at this time was acting as a "runner" for his son, and Milton Payton secured the drugs for Johnson from Payton. The pre-recorded money exchanged for the crack cocaine during the controlled buy was later recovered from Payton's girlfriend, Sophia Covington. Payton had given the money to Covington during a traffic stop.


I. Standard for Habeas Corpus Relief

The Court must grant a § 2255 motion when a defendant's "sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. However, "[h]abeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for extraordinary situations." Prewitt v. United States, 83 F.3d 812, 816 (7th Cir. 1996). "Relief under § 2255 is available only for errors of constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude, or where the error represents a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice." Kelly v. United States, 29 F.3d 1107, 1112 (7th Cir. 1994) (quotations omitted). It is proper to deny a ยง 2255 motion ...

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