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Jonnie H. White v. United States of America

October 26, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge E.A. Preston Deavers



Petitioner, a federal prisoner, brings the instant amended motion to vacate, set aside or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. This matter is before the Court on the instant amended petition, Respondent's return of writ, Petitioner's reply, and the exhibits of the parties. For the reasons that follow, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that this action be DISMISSED.


The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit summarized the facts and procedural history of this case as follows:

White was convicted by a jury on June 14, 2006, of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A)(iii) and 18 U.S.C. § 2, based on his activities in the Southern District of Ohio in 2005. On October 13, 2006, White was sentenced to 293 months in prison, five years supervised release and a $200 special assessment.

A. Pretrial Proceedings

White retained three attorneys during the proceedings and attempted to plead guilty twice. White's first plea agreement was filed with the district court on February 16, 2006. In that agreement, White agreed to plead guilty to the conspiracy count and further agreed that the relevant conduct attributable to him as part of the conspiracy was 486.69 grams of cocaine base. This agreement also stated the government's position that White should receive a two-level enhancement for possession of a firearm in connection with the drug conspiracy pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b), a two-level enhancement for possession of a firearm in connection with the drug conspiracy pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b), and a two-level enhancement for having a supervisory role in the conspiracy pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1. White reserved the right to contest those enhancements at the sentencing hearing. Finally, the plea agreement provided for a potential reduction of three offense levels for acceptance of responsibility, provided he continued to accept responsibility through sentencing.

On February 28, 2006, at the change of plea hearing, White indicated that he did not wish to go through with his guilty plea, and the written plea agreement was withdrawn. White's trial was rescheduled for April 10, 2006.

On March 22, 2006, a second plea agreement was filed. In this second agreement, White agreed to plead guilty to the conspiracy count, and agreed that the relevant conduct was 486.69 grams of cocaine base, for an offense level of 34 under the applicable advisory guideline. This time the government did not reserve the right to produce additional evidence concerning relevant conduct or to seek enhancements for possession of a firearm or for a supervisory role. The change of plea hearing was held the same day. White agreed to enter his guilty plea before the magistrate judge. The magistrate judge refused to accept the guilty plea however, after White indicated that he was "not really" satisfied with counsel's advice and representation because counsel was doing only what the prosecutor told him to do, and that he was pleading guilty because he felt like his attorney was not putting any real effort into his case and "fighting for my rights." White explained that the government's witness, White's girlfriend and co-defendant Shawnda Cordell, would blame him for all of the drugs sold, although she was a known drug dealer before meeting White. White stated that he believed he had "some defenses." Counsel's motion to withdraw was granted and White retained his third attorney, Tom Warshaw, who was granted leave to appear pro hac vice to represent White for trial.

B. Trial

Trial began on June 12, 2006. Detective Chad Wallace of the Gallipolis, Ohio Police Department testified that on March 25, 2005, he stopped a vehicle driven by White after it failed to stop at three consecutive stop signs. Cordell was a passenger. Wallace knew Cordell was on probation. As part of her probation, she was subject to search at any time. Wallace searched Cordell and the vehicle but found no drugs. Cordell was then transported to her home, 193 Windsor Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio, for a further search. There the officers found 27.44 grams of cocaine base, inside a box which was hidden in a large bag of dog food next to the refrigerator. The crack cocaine was packaged in 12 to 13 individual packets. The officers also found a small bag of crack cocaine on top of the refrigerator, a small digital scale, and $14,566 in U.S. currency. No fingerprints were found.

On July 22, 2005, Jerry Abbott, a cooperating informant, made a controlled buy of crack cocaine from Cordell. Cordell confirmed the sale, although she stated that the crack did not come from White, who was in Detroit, but from her cousin.

On July 23, 2005, at 1:30 a.m., Trooper Risner observed a vehicle traveling eastbound on U.S. 35 at an extremely slow speed. He ran a file check on the vehicle and found that it was registered to Cordell. He also determined that Cordell had an outstanding arrest warrant for a probation violation, so he made a traffic stop of her vehicle. Risner took Cordell into custody. White was a passenger. Cordell testified that she was returning with White from Detroit when she was arrested.

The police executed a search warrant on the couple's mobile home located at 2657 State Route 218, Gallia County, Ohio, on July 25, 2005. White and Cordell were present. Officers discovered 486.69 grams of cocaine base in the charcoal grill next to the back porch of the mobile home. The crack cocaine was divided into 23 individual vacuums inside a vacuum sealed package. The officers also found digital scales with crack residue, $3643 in currency, and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol, with a magazine containing 16 live rounds of ammunition. No fingerprints of any kind were found on the seized evidence.

Cordell, who was charged with White, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in return for a reduced sentence. Cordell testified that she was living with White in the mobile home on July 25, 2005. She said that she had known White since October 2003, and began living with him in December 2003/January 2004. To Cordell's knowledge, White was not employed, and he traveled to and from Detroit to Gallipolis for several weeks at a time in each location.

Cordell stated that after about a year she discovered that White was selling crack. Eventually she began making deliveries of the crack to White's customers. Sometimes a customer would come to one of their residences to pick up the crack.

Cordell testified the $14,566 seized in March 2005 belonged to White and came from drug sales. She testified that the crack in the dog food bag belonged to White, as did the crack in the grill.

Three of White's crack cocaine customers also testified-Jerry Abbot and his wife Teresa, and John Rees. All three testified that they made numerous purchases from "Cash," or White, or one of his dealers. On June 14, 2006, the jury found White guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine base and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base. The jury answered special interrogatories determining that the quantity of crack cocaine involved in both charges was at least 50 grams of cocaine base. (Id.) After the jury returned the verdict, White made an obscene gesture at the jury and an obscene remark to the government attorney.

C. Sentencing

White's presentence report (PSR) set his advisory guideline sentencing range at 292-365 months, based on an offense level of 38 and a criminal history category of III. [FN1] The sentencing range was based on the relevant conduct of 853.06 grams of cocaine base, which corresponded to an offense level of 36. Added to that was a two-level enhancement of White's supervisory role of Cordell and an unindicted coconspirator known as Greg.

FN1. The 2005 edition of the U.S. Sentencing

Guidelines Manual was used

White's criminal history category was the result of one point for his 1997 conviction for speeding, obstruction, no license, giving a false name and false birth date in Cobb County Georgia; two points for a conviction of carrying a concealed weapon in 2001 in Detroit, Michigan; one point for a conviction of providing false information and drug abuse in Gallia County, Ohio; and one point for his conviction for possession of marijuana in 2004 in Gallia County; Ohio. This amounted to five criminal history points, which is a criminal history category III. In addition, the PSR listed numerous other arrests not counted for purposes of assessing criminal history points.

White filed one objection, related to his criminal history category, and requested a downward departure on the ground that category III over-represented the true nature of his criminal history.

White did not make any objections at the sentencing hearing to the factual findings in the PSR or to the guidelines range, and the district court adopted both. At sentencing White argued that the offenses were overstated based on the 100/1 crack to cocaine powder ratio and that his criminal history score over-represented the true nature of his past. The district court rejected the latter contention because of White's "rather lengthy criminal past." The court also held that it had discretion to consider the crack/powder cocaine differential, and exercised that discretion, reducing White's advisory guideline range from an offense level of 38 to 36. This reduction decreased Whites' guideline sentencing range to 235 to 293 months. ( Id.) After reducing White's advisory guideline range two levels, the court considered the factors outlined in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), and sentenced White to 293 months' imprisonment.

United States v. White, 308 Fed.Appx. 910, unpublished, 2009 WL 196548, at *1-3 (6th Cir. Jan. 28, 2009).

On appeal [Petitioner] argues the district court erred: 1) by not allowing him to plead guilty; 2) in assigning his offense level calculation at 38; 3) in denying him a reduction for acceptance of responsibility; 4) by making judicial factfindings at sentencing of the amount of crack cocaine; and 5) by imposing an unreasonable sentence. Lastly, he seeks a remand for resentencing based on the recent amendments to the advisory guidelines concerning the crack/powder cocaine ratio.

Id. at 1. On January 28, 2009, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the this Court. Id. On June 1, 2009, the United States Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for a writ of certiorari. White v. United States, 129 S.Ct. 2750 (2009). On August 17, 2011, the Court denied Petitioner's motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to amendments in the United States Sentencing Guidelines regarding the sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine. Doc. 156.

On January 25, 2010, Petitioner filed the instant motion to vacate, set aside or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. On October 3, 2010, the Court granted Petitioner's request to amend his petition. Doc. 152. In his petition, as amended, Petitioner asserts as follows:

1. Counsel was constitutionally ineffective during the plea stage by virtue of him failing to effectively negotiate a plea.

2. Counsel was ineffective by his actions in calling Officer John Perry as a defense witness for White.

3. Counsel was constitutionally ineffective for his failure to move for a judgment of acquittal at the close of the government's case based on failure of proof of venue and allowing the Court to take judicial notice of said.

4. Counsel was constitutionally ineffective for his failure to make an opening statement.

5. Trial counsel was ineffective for agreeing with the Court and the prosecution that the witnesses against White would not be allowed to say that they received inculpatory information from White while in jail.

6. Appellate counsel was constitutionally ineffective for his failure to properly raise the issue that Amendment 709 of USSG applied to White's sentence and that he should be resentenced based on uncountable misdemeanor conviction pursuant to § 4A1.2(c)(1).

7. Counsel was constitutionally ineffective for his failure to present a defense for White.

8. Trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for his failure to object to the prosecutor's adducement [sic] of testimony that was outside and beyond the scope of the ...

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