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Jessie Traylor v. United States of America

October 5, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY U.S. District Judge


Friday, 05 October, 2012 02:01:11 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


On January 3, 2012, Petitioner, Jessie Traylor, filed a pro se Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (#1). On March 8, 2012, the Government filed its Response to Petitioner's Motion (#4). On March 26, 2012, Petitioner filed a Reply (#6) and also filed an Affidavit (#5) seeking discovery so he can establish the need for an evidentiary hearing.

This court has carefully and thoroughly reviewed the arguments of the parties and the documents provided. This court has also reviewed the transcripts from Petitioner's jury trial and the sentencing hearing held before this court. Following this careful consideration, Petitioner's Motion (#1) is DENIED and, because Petitioner has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right, a certificate of appealability is DENIED.


In Case No. 08-CR-20036, Petitioner was charged in a 13-count superseding indictment which alleged drug-related crimes along with his co-defendants, Dana Hawkins, Djuan Davis, and Kelly Gallagher. Petitioner was charged with conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and two counts of using a telephone in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.*fn1

Petitioner was represented by appointed counsel, John Taylor of the Federal Defender's office and Elisabeth Pollock. Petitioner's co-defendants pleaded guilty to the charges against them.

Petitioner proceeded to a jury trial, which commenced on September 21, 2009. Dana Hawkins and Djuan Davis testified against Petitioner. Kelly Gallagher elected not to cooperate and testify. The evidence presented at trial showed that Hawkins, Davis, and Petitioner had been friends for about 20 years. Hawkins and Davis began distributing cocaine in May 2007. Hawkins was based in Decatur, Illinois, and supplied funds to Davis, who was located in Chicago. Davis bought cocaine from suppliers in Chicago and delivered the drugs to Hawkins, who sold them. In August 2007, Hawkins began to pay Petitioner to drive him to Chicago with purchase money. Davis would then buy the drugs and deliver them to Hawkins in Decatur. In September 2007, Davis was arrested and ceased delivering cocaine for the next four months. In January 2008, Hawkins and Davis resumed buying cocaine at a rate of one to two kilograms of cocaine each week. Hawkins and Davis both testified that, for most of the deliveries during the first six months of 2008, Petitioner carried the drugs by bus from Davis in Chicago to Hawkins in Decatur.

On January 30, 2008, Hawkins was in Chicago when Petitioner arrived in Decatur by bus with a kilogram of cocaine. Gallagher, one of Hawkins's principal distributors, met Petitioner at the Greyhound bus stop and drove him to a local motel for the night. Hawkins returned to Decatur the next day and retrieved the kilogram of cocaine from Petitioner. On March 28, 2008, a police detective saw and videotaped Petitioner boarding a Greyhound bus. Petitioner was carrying a backpack.

The evidence showed that, in early June 2008, Hawkins and Davis arranged to purchase another kilogram of cocaine. Davis testified that he gave the drugs to Petitioner on June 5, 2008, and Petitioner put the drugs in a backpack. Intercepted phone calls were played for the jury and confirmed that Davis then told Hawkins that Petitioner had the cocaine. Later that day, Petitioner boarded a bus from Chicago to Decatur. When the bus arrived in Kankakee, Decatur Police Officer Matt Knuckles posed as a passenger, boarded the bus, and saw the black backpack that Petitioner had previously carried stowed directly above Petitioner's seat. Knuckles put his bag next to the backpack. The bus arrived in Champaign, Illinois, and police officers from Decatur boarded the bus and announced that they were conducting a drug investigation. When the officers questioned Petitioner, he said he did not have a bag. None of the other passengers on the bus claimed the backpack, so the officers seized it as abandoned property. They searched the backpack and found a kilogram of cocaine and some clothes and personal items belonging to Petitioner. The cocaine was wrapped in plastic, inside a manilla envelope that was enclosed in a plastic shopping bag. Petitioner's fingerprints were lifted from the plastic shopping bag which contained the cocaine.

Petitioner testified at trial. He testified that he had two prior convictions of possession of a controlled substance. Petitioner admitted that he was a long-time friend to both Hawkins and Davis. Petitioner also admitted that he drove Hawkins many times between Chicago and Decatur. Petitioner testified that Hawkins compensated him for driving but insisted that the reason was because Hawkins was often too drunk and did not like to drive. Petitioner denied transporting money or drugs for Hawkins and Davis. Petitioner testified that he had previously borrowed the backpack and admitted that it contained several of his personal belongings. Petitioner denied possessing the backpack on the day of his arrest. He testified that the backpack was already on the bus when he boarded.

On September 24, 2009, the jury found Petitioner guilty of all four of the charges against him. On January 8, 2010, Petitioner was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment for the conspiracy offense. He received concurrent terms of imprisonment for the other offenses. Petitioner filed a Notice of Appeal. On appeal, Petitioner was represented by Elisabeth Pollack and argued that the Government failed to present evidence sufficient to sustain his conspiracy and possession convictions. On January 6, 2011, the Seventh Circuit entered an Order and affirmed this court's judgment. United States v. Traylor, 405 Fed.Appx. 73 (7th Cir. 2011). The Seventh Circuit first rejected Petitioner's argument that the Government presented insufficient evidence to support his conspiracy conviction. The court stated:

Hawkins and Davis both testified that Mr. Traylor knowingly participated in the conspiracy, first driving Hawkins to drug transactions and later transporting funds and cocaine by bus between Chicago and Decatur. The Government corroborated this testimony with several recorded phone conversations between the coconspirators. Furthermore, both Hawkins and Davis acknowledged at trial that they had cooperated in hope of securing favorable treatment at sentencing; consequently, the jury was privy to their motivations when it assessed their credibility. [Citation omitted.] Mr. Traylor claimed that he was not a knowing participant, but he admitted to several acts consistent with his knowledge and participation (including driving Hawkins ...

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