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Jones v. United States

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

November 4, 2014

STEVEN JONES, Petitioner,


RICHARD MILLS, District Judge.

Steven Jones was sentenced to 262 months following a plea of guilty.

Pending is Petitioner's Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence.

As directed, the Government filed a Response to the Motion.

The Petitioner has filed a Reply.

The Court concludes that no evidentiary hearing is warranted.

Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief.


A. Factual History

In September of 2008, Inspector Lee Mangold and Officer Matt McElfresh of the West Central Illinois Drug Task Force received information that Petitioner Steven Jones ("the Petitioner" or "Jones") was distributing cannabis and crack cocaine. On September 25, 2008, Inspector Mangold saw Walter Thompson leaving the Petitioner's residence. Walter Thompson and his wife, Janet, were registered confidential informants with the Illinois State Police and worked as confidential informants with Adams County law enforcement. Mangold believed both individuals to be reliable informants.

Janet and Walter Thompson informed the officers that Janet was going with Jones in the next few days on a trip to St. Louis to purchase drugs. Jones and Janet Thompson planned to travel together in a red Plymouth van. On September 26, 2008, in the early morning hours, Janet Thompson directed officers to the van, which was parked near a public alley at an apartment complex. Officer McElfresh and a supervisor later returned to the van and put a tracking device on it.

The tracking device was monitored by officers. After a one-to-two minute delay, the device transmitted its whereabouts to a remote computer. Shortly after 3:00 p.m. on September 26, 2008, Inspector Mangold saw the red van pull up to the Thompsons' residence, with Jones driving and Janet Thompson as a passenger. Officers continued monitoring the van through the remote computer as it traveled toward St. Louis. During the trip, Janet Thompson placed cell phone calls to Walter Thompson, who relayed information from her to Officer McElfresh. Inspector Mangold testified officers did not have direct contact with Janet Thompson because they did not want Jones to know she was passing on information regarding the trip to law enforcement agents.

Eventually, the van arrived in St. Louis. The narcotics transaction occurred at a house on Linton Avenue. Janet Thompson communicated through Walter Thompson that narcotics were purchased and she was carrying cocaine for Jones. Officer McElfresh continued monitoring the tracking device on a computer in his squad car, and others officers also set up surveillance. At 10:30 p.m., Inspector Mangold and Officer McElfresh observed the van, began to follow directly behind it, and saw it fail to signal at an exit.

Canine Officer Saalborn, part of the surveillance team, started to follow the van. He initiated a traffic stop after learning from Inspector Mangold that the van had failed to signal at an exit. Officer Saalborn made contact with Jones, asked for his driver's license, and conducted a canine sniff of the van. After the canine alerted on the passenger door, Saalborn conducted a pat down search of Jones, but found nothing. Janet Thompson then exited the van, walked back to Officer McElfresh, who had just arrived, and handed him the drugs. Saalborn issued Jones a written warning citation for the traffic violation. Jones was transported to the Adams County Sheriff's Office, where he was interviewed by officers. Jones then made incriminating statements regarding his drug activity.

On May 6, 2009, a federal grand jury charged Jones with knowingly and intentionally possessing with the intent to distribute 5 or more grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B).

B. Motion to Suppress Evidence

On January 19, 2010, the Petitioner filed a motion to suppress evidence, wherein he sought to suppress all items seized at the time of his arrest, in addition to all statements made subsequent to his arrest. Jones claimed he did not commit a traffic violation prior to the stop, the Government had failed to establish the reliability of the canine used to conduct a sniff on Jones's vehicle, and the length of his detention prior to the finding of any contraband far exceeded the scope of the original stop.

The motion to suppress was referred to Judge Cudmore for an evidentiary hearing and Report and Recommendation. On March 9, 2010, Judge Cudmore heard evidence and the arguments of counsel and, after taking the matter under advisement, issued a Report and Recommendation on March 15, 2010. Judge Cudmore found the law enforcement officers to be credible witnesses and determined that the stop of Jones's van was constitutional and supported by probable cause.[2] Moreover, Judge Cudmore considered Officer Saalborn's testimony regarding the canine sniff, finding that the officer was credible and the canine sniff was reasonable and not in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Judge Cudmore further found that even if no traffic violation occurred, reasonable suspicion supported a Terry stop of the vehicle. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22 (1968). This conclusion was based on Judge Cudmore's finding that two informants, Janet and Walter Thompson, provided "extensive, detailed information to law enforcement" that was reliable and corroborated by law enforcement. Judge Cudmore further noted that officers received "contemporaneous transmissions from the tracking device that were consistent with the information provided by the Thompsons regarding the van's whereabouts." Finally, the Report and Recommendation concluded that the stop was constitutional, even if a traffic violation did not occur. Therefore, Judge Cudmore recommended that Jones's motion to suppress be denied.

On April 14, 2010, United States District Judge Jeanne E. Scott adopted the Report and Recommendation and denied Jones's motion to suppress.

C. Guilty Plea and Change of Plea Hearing[3]

At a pre-trial conference held the day before the trial was scheduled, the Petitioner's counsel asked the Court to inquire of Jones if he still intended to exercise his right to a jury trial. Jones responded by saying that he had decided to plead guilty. The hearing was recessed to provide Jones the opportunity to think about his decision, discuss his ...

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