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United States v. Robinson

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 20, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
ANTHONY ROBINSON, Defendant-Petitioner.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Petitioner Anthony Robinson is currently serving concurrent sentences of 360 months and 120 months for violating 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(2). Robinson has moved, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence. For the reasons stated below, Robinson's § 2255 Motion is denied.

BACKGROUND[1]

On March 23, 2006, Anthony Robinson and his cousin, Darryl Bennett, were pulled over during a traffic stop by the Chicago police. After searching the two men, Officer James Weyforth confiscated more than $3, 800 but found no drugs. Robinson unsuccessfully tried to bribe Officer Weyforth by suggesting that Officer Weyforth keep half of the money and that everything would "be all good." ( United States v. Robinson , Case No. 06-cr-850, Trial Transcript ("Tr.") 28.) Officer Weyforth reported the bribe offer to his supervisor, and the police set up a sting operation for Officer Weyforth to re-approach Robinson about the bribe.

Robinson and Officer Weyforth subsequently met, during which time Robinson offered to pay the officer weekly to "get the heat off" of Robinson's drug activity. (Tr. 38-40, 54-55.) Robinson also offered to pay Officer Weyforth "extra" if Officer Weyforth could bring narcotics to Robinson. (Tr. 58-59.) Robinson directed Officer Weyforth to make contact with Robinson through his cousin, Bennett, to obtain the bribe money. (Tr. 52, 54.)

Over the next several weeks, Robinson and Officer Weyforth continued to meet to discuss obtaining narcotics and the bribery arrangement. (Tr. 159, 162.)[2] Both Robinson and Bennett, acting on Robinson's behalf, paid Officer Weyforth bribe money. (Tr. 121-22; 155.) During this time, Officer Weyforth told Robinson that he would sell him two kilograms of cocaine for $5, 000 per kilo. On May 3, 2006, Robinson and Officer Weyforth met, and Robinson paid $5, 000 for the two kilos, agreeing to pay the rest later. (Tr. 215-17.) Immediately following the exchange, officers arrested Robinson.

Robinson was indicted on two counts: federal-funds bribery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(2), and attempt to possess 500 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. On April 28, 2008, Robinson proceeded to trial before a jury and testified on his own behalf. Robinson admitted that he had paid Officer Weyforth bribes, but claimed that he did so out of fear that Officer Weyforth would plant drugs on him and arrest him if he did not cooperate. (Tr. 325.) After a three-day trial, Robinson was convicted on both counts. This Court sentenced Robinson to concurrent prison terms of 360 months for the drug possession and 120 months for the bribery. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Robinson's conviction on direct appeal.

Robinson has now filed the instant habeas petition, asserting six claims of ineffective assistance of counsel based on the following grounds: (1) failure to investigate, interview or subpoena Bennett; (2) failure to investigate an entrapment defense; (3) failure to challenge the sufficiency of the indictment; (4) introduction of improper evidence and prejudicial statements during trial; (5) failure to challenge jurisdiction; and (6) failure to object to the use of false testimony.

LEGAL STANDARD

Historically, habeas corpus relief has been viewed as "an extraordinary relief, a bulwark against convictions that violate fundamental fairness.'" Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 633-34 (1993) (quoting Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 126 (1982)) (other internal citations omitted); see also Prewitt v. United States, 83 F.3d 812, 816 (7th Cir. 1996) (relief under § 2255 is "reserved for extraordinary situations."). Section 2255 allows a prisoner to move to vacate, set aside, or correct his or her sentence if "the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States... or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack...." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). The district court must review the record and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the government. See Carnine v. United States, 974 F.2d 924, 928 (7th Cir. 1992).

Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are reviewed under the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Under this test, a petitioner must show both: (1) that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness under the circumstances and (2) that the deficient performance prejudiced the defendant. Id. at 688-94. To establish prejudice, the petitioner must prove there is a reasonable probability the proceeding would have had a different result but for the errors of counsel. Id. at 694. If a petitioner fails to make a proper showing under one of the Strickland prongs, the court need not consider the other. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697 ("In particular, a court need not determine whether counsel's performance was deficient before examining the prejudice suffered by the defendant....").

A district court's "review of the attorney's performance is highly deferential' and reflects a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; that is, the defendant must overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action might be considered sound trial strategy.'" Koons v. United States, 639 F.3d 348, 351 (7th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted); see also Cooper v. United States, 378 F.3d 638, 641 (7th Cir. 2004) ("Defense counsel is strongly presumed to have rendered adequate assistance and to have made significant decisions in the exercise of his or her reasonable professional judgment.").

ANALYSIS

Failure to Investigate, Interview or Subpoena Bennett

Robinson first argues that his defense trial counsel, Ronald Clark, was ineffective for failing to interview or call as a witness Robinson's cousin, Bennett, in support of Robinson's coercion defense. Robinson contends that Bennett would have corroborated that Robinson was harassed by Officer Weyforth to set up a meeting and to begin a drug operation, that Officer Weyforth demanded money and threatened to plant drugs on Robinson, and that Robinson did not agree to meet with Officer Weyforth until he offered to sell the cocaine. In support, Robinson offers his own affidavit, as well as an affidavit ...


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