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Sampson v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

November 14, 2017

ELIJAH AKEEN SAMPSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN K. EPPS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Petitioner, an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia, has filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. The Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS the § 2255 motion be DENIED without an evidentiary hearing, this civil action be CLOSED, and a final judgment be ENTERED in favor of Respondent.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Indictment

         On February 10, 2012, the grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia issued an indictment charging Petitioner with eight counts of distribution of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Counts One, Two, Four, Seven-Nine, Thirteen, and Sixteen); one count of distribution of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count Three); one count of unlicensed dealing in firearms, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(a)(1)(A) and 924(a)(1)(D) (Count Five); six counts of felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Counts Six, Eleven, Twelve, Fifteen, Sixteen, and Eighteen); three counts of carrying a firearm during/in relation to drug trafficking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Counts Ten, Fourteen, and Seventeen); and one count of possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(k) (Count Nineteen). United States v. Sampson, CR 412-018, doc. no. 3 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 10, 2012) (hereinafter “CR 412-018”). The Court appointed attorney Robert P. Phillips, III to represent Petitioner. Id., doc. no. 16.

         B. Agreement to Plead Guilty

         On June 6, 2012, Petitioner pleaded guilty to Counts Seventeen and Eighteen. Id., doc. nos. 30, 32, 39, 53. The plea agreement contained the following factual basis for the plea:

[O]n or about December 19, 2012, in Chatham County, within the Southern District of Georgia, the defendant, ELIJAH AKEEN SAMPSON, aka [“]SHAWN, ” knowingly and unlawfully, and during and in relation to the drug trafficking offense charged in Count 16, used and carried a firearm, that is, a Taurus, Model PT-25, .25ACP caliber semiautomatic pistol, with obliterated serial number . . . .
[O]n or about December 19, 2012, in Chatham County, within the Southern District of Georgia, the defendant, ELIJAH AKEEN SAMPSON, aka [“]SHAWN, ” who before that time had been convicted of a felony, an offense punishable by imprisonment for more than one year, did knowingly possess, in and affecting interstate commerce, a firearm, that is, a Taurus, Model PT-25, .25ACP caliber semiautomatic pistol, with obliterated serial number . . . .

Id., doc. no. 39, p. 4. Petitioner attested in the plea agreement he had sufficient time to review his case with his attorney, fully understood his rights and those he was giving up by pleading guilty, and voluntarily agreed to the plea agreement. Id. at 7.

         C. Change of Plea Hearing

         During the change of plea hearing, United States District Judge William T. Moore, Jr., established Petitioner's competence to enter a guilty plea if he desired. Id., doc. no. 53, pp. 18-19. Petitioner testified under oath he had adequate time to discuss his case with his attorney and was entirely satisfied with the services rendered by Mr. Phillips. Id. at 10-11. Judge Moore read the indictment and asked if Petitioner understood the charges therein. Id. at 11-13. Petitioner confirmed he understood. Id. Judge Moore also explained the rights Petitioner would be waiving by pleading guilty, and Petitioner affirmed he understood those rights. Id. at 6-8.

         Among the rights explained, Judge Moore reviewed the right to trial by jury, the presumption of innocence, the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to present and cross-examine witnesses, and the right to remain silent. Id. Petitioner affirmed he had not been pressured or promised anything to plead guilty, id. at 17, 19, nor had anyone predicted Petitioner's exact sentence. Id. at 17-18. Judge Moore specifically asked Petitioner whether “anyone [had] done anything that you consider to be wrong or unfair which has forced you to plead guilty, ” to which Petitioner responded, “No, sir.” Id. at 16. Judge Moore found Petitioner's plea to be made voluntarily and with an understanding of the charges and the plea's consequences. Id. at 18-19.

         Judge Moore heard the factual basis for Petitioner's guilty plea from Special Agent Michelle Kaufman with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”). Id. at 20. Agent Kaufman summarized the facts underlying Petitioner's offense as follows:

On December 19, 2011, [Petitioner] entered the [ATF undercover] store and met with ATF undercover agents, at which point they negotiated the sale of a quantity of cocaine. It was approximately over 13 grams of cocaine, as well as the purchase of a Taurus PT-25 .25 caliber firearm . . . .

Id. at 20. After negotiating the sale, the undercover agents and Petitioner consummated the sale. Id. at 20-21. Testing found the drugs positive for cocaine hydrochloride and the gun was not manufactured within the state of Georgia. Id. at 21. Petitioner admitted to the factual basis for his offense, stating, “On December 19th I walked [in] the store. I met the undercover ...


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