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Hunt v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio

December 29, 2017

JESSICA L. HUNT, Petitioner,



         Before the Court are Petitioners Jessica L. Hunt and Jordie L. Callahan's Motions Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody (ECF Nos. 224 and 226).[1] The Court has been advised, having reviewed the record, the parties' briefs, and the applicable law.[2] For the reasons stated below, the motions are denied.

         I. Background

         A. Procedural Background

         On July 16, 2013, a federal grand jury, in the Northern District of Ohio, returned a five-count indictment charging Jessica L. Hunt and Jordie L. Callahan (“Petitioners”) along with another individual named Dezerah Silsby with: conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count 1); holding the victims (“S.E.” and “B.E.”) in a condition of forced labor and involuntary servitude, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1589(a) and (d) (Count 2); theft and embezzlement of federally-funded benefits in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641 (Count 3); acquiring possession of hydrocodone (Vicodin), a Schedule III controlled substance by deception, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(a)(3) and (d)(1) (Count 4); and witness tampering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1589(a) and (d), and 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1), (b)(3), and (c)(2) (Count 5). Indictment (ECF No. 10).

         On November 19, 2013, the Court held a pretrial conference. During this hearing, the Court discussed with Hunt the fact that her attorneys, Carolyn M. Kucharski and Edward G. Bryan, were under investigation for an unrelated matter. ECF No. 207 at PageID #: 6552-53. Hunt then expressed that she was aware of this issue and wanted to proceed with her current counsel. ECF No. 207 at PageID #: 6552-53. Callahan was represented by attorney Donald Butler. ECF No. 226 at PageID #: 7170.

         Between November 2013 and the trial date, Petitioners' counsel (“trial counsel”) filed numerous pretrial motions, including: Joint Motion to Produce Juvenile Witnesses (ECF No. 42); Motion to Prepare Official Transcripts at Government's Expense by Callahan (ECF No. 70); Motion to Revoke Hunt's Detention Order (ECF No. 48); Motion to Compel Production of Transcripts/Records by Hunt (ECF No. 49); Motion In Limine to Preclude Testimony by Callahan (ECF No. 68); Motion for Psychiatric Exam of S.E. by Callahan (ECF No. 69). Hunt's counsel also filed responses in opposition to the government's Motions In Limine. ECF No. 80.

         On February 4, 2014, the Court held a final pretrial, where Petitioners' counsel argued extensively for their clients. ECF No. 209 at PageID #6603. Petitioners' counsel did not ask the court for another continuance, nor did they indicate that they needed additional assistance in locating witnesses. ECF No. 209 at PageID #6603. Prior to the trial date, Petitioners' counsel also filed detailed trial briefs (ECF Nos. 92, 95) and proposed jury instructions (ECF No. 93).

         On February 18, 2014, the twelve-day trial commenced. ECF No. 188 at PageID #: 6387. During the trial, the jury was presented with extensive evidence. “The government called thirty-five witnesses and [the Court] admitted hundreds of exhibits, including photographs, social media records, medical records, audio and video recordings, police reports, and financial records.” ECF No. 233 at PageID #: 7214. On March 7, 2014, the jury convicted Petitioners of: conspiracy (Count 1); forced labor (Count 2); and acquiring a controlled substance by deception (Count 4). ECF No. 130 at PageID #: 2361-65; ECF No. 131 at PageID #: 2373-77. The jury also found, via special verdict forms, that each forced labor violation included the offense of kidnapping or attempted kidnapping under 18 U.S.C. § 1589(d). ECF No. 130 at PageID #: 2363; ECF No. 131 at PageID #: 2375.

         On May 28, 2014, Petitioners' counsel filed a lengthy 80-page joint motion for acquittal and a 27-page motion for a new trial based on the sufficiency of the evidence. ECF Nos. 167, 168. The motions challenged the sufficiency and weight of the evidence presented, the legal instructions and verdict forms given to the jury, and the Court's rulings denying a mental examination of S.E. and limiting the cross-examination of a witness. ECF No. 188 at PageID #: 6396. The motion for acquittal directly referred to a man named Glenn Stackhouse in reference to a “broken window” story that was already presented to the jury. ECF No. 167 at PageID #: 5983-84. The motions were denied on July 21, 2014. ECF No. 188.

         Prior to sentencing, trial counsel also filed numerous sentencing memoranda on behalf of Petitioners. See ECF Nos. 179, 180, 185. On July 22, 2014, the Court conducted Callahan's sentencing hearing, during which his counsel successfully argued that he should receive a sentence below the guideline's range of life imprisonment. ECF No. 190 at PageID #: 6427-29. The Court then sentenced Callahan to concurrent terms of imprisonment as to each count, with the longest term being 360 months for the forced labor violation. ECF No. 190 at PageID #: 6427-29. On July 24, 2014, the Court conducted Hunt's sentencing hearing, at which her counsel also successfully argued that she should receive a sentence below the guideline's range of life imprisonment. ECF No. 191 at PageID #: 6433-35. The Court sentenced Hunt to concurrent terms of imprisonment for each count, the longest of which was 384 months for her forced labor conviction. ECF No. 191 at PageID #: 6433-35.

         On August 5, 2014, the Court entered final judgments against Petitioners. ECF Nos. 190, 191. Petitioners filed notices of appeal on the same day. ECF Nos. 192, 193. Petitioners retained their trial counsel for the appeals. ECF Nos. 192, 193.

         On September 8, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentencing. United States v. Callahan, 801 F.3d 606, 613 (6th Cir. 2015) (ECF No. 215). Petitioners moved for a rehearing en banc, which was denied. Id.

         On February 15, 2016, Petitioners jointly filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. ECF No. 217. The writ was denied on March 25, 2016. Hunt v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1477 (2016).

         One of the instant motions was filed on March 20, 2017 by Hunt with the assistance of counsel, Vanessa Malone, from the Office of the Federal Public Defender. ECF No. 224. Vanessa Malone has since withdrawn as counsel in the instant case, after the Court denied Hunt's motion to substitute counsel. ECF Nos. 225, 236. Callahan's pro se motion was filed on March 27, 2017. ECF No. 226.

         B. Factual Background

         The Sixth Circuit described the factual background of the instant case as follows:

         The evidence presented at trial told the story of two vulnerable individuals - S.E., a developmentally-disabled young woman, and her minor daughter, B.E. - held in subhuman conditions and subjected to continual and prolonged abuse.

         S.E. has a documented history of cognitive impairment, and she and B.E. struggled to eke out an existence at the margins of society. When S.E. turned eighteen, she was kicked out of her mother's house. She did not have a relationship with her biological father, and she had no family members willing to take her in. S.E. moved frequently and was often homeless. She relied on her social security benefits and other government assistance to survive and care for her daughter.

         S.E. became acquainted with Defendants through their mutual association with a group of people in their small town who abused narcotics and shoplifted together. On one occasion, S.E. was arrested for shoplifting and spent several weeks incarcerated. When she was released from jail in May 2010, she agreed to move in with Defendants because she had no other place to stay. Shortly thereafter, she regained custody of B.E., who was then three years old.

         Defendants lived in Apartment 2 of a building that contained three units. Although S.E. and B.E. initially lived with Defendants as traditional roommates, the relationship quickly deteriorated. Defendants forced S.E. to clean the apartment, do yardwork, care for their dogs, and run various errands for them. Defendants also forced S.E. and B.E. to sleep in the unfinished basement of the apartment, and later, in a sparsely furnished upstairs bedroom. Both rooms locked from the outside, and Defendants confined S.E. and B.E. to these rooms at night. Because S.E. did not have access to the lavatory when she was locked in these rooms, she was forced to soil herself or relieve herself on the floor. In one instance that S.E. soiled herself, Hunt forced her to smear the feces on her face.

         Defendants would let S.E. out of the locked room in the morning, on the condition that she do their bidding. She was forced to work from morning until night, and there was witness testimony that S.E. was constantly cleaning the apartment, often while Defendants sat and watched. On one occasion, Defendants' drug dealer saw S.E. performing maintenance work on the building, and Hunt told the drug dealer that S.E. had better do the work “if she knows what's good for her.” S.E. complied with Defendants' demands because she believed they would physically assault her, as they had done in the past.

         Defendants also forced S.E. to care for their dogs. S.E. had to feed the dogs and take them for walks individually. She also had to clean up after the dogs when they urinated or defecated in the house. There were numerous occasions when Hunt grabbed S.E. by the hair and shoved her face in dog urine and feces if she did not clean up the messes quickly enough. Witnesses testified that S.E. seemed terrified and that Callahan boasted that it was S.E.'s job to clean everything and keep the house tidy. Defendants also allowed the dogs to abuse S.E. and B.E.

         It apparently was also S.E.'s job to run errands for Defendants. They forced her to go to a nearby convenience store and purchase cigarettes, candy, and soda for them. They imposed strict time limits for these trips and warned S.E. not to talk to anyone while she was out. If S.E. exceeded the time limit or Defendants suspected that she had talked to anyone, she was punished. On one occasion when S.E. exceeded Defendants' time limit, Callahan interrogated S.E. while forcing her to submit to “five finger fillet”-a “game” wherein S.E. spread her fingers and laid her hand on a table, and Callahan stabbed back and forth between her fingers with a knife. On another occasion when S.E. took too long to run an errand, Callahan threatened B.E. at gunpoint. S.E. was also punished if she purchased items that were not on Hunt's shopping list, with Hunt punching S.E. in the face or otherwise striking S.E. in the head on such occasions. All of these ways Defendants used to control S.E. and B.E. had their intended affect-both victims were terrorized.

         When S.E. and B.E. were forced to live in the basement, they slept on the concrete floor and only had the clothes they were wearing and blankets covered in filth to keep warm. The cold, rank basement environment was especially hard on B.E., whose face would turn ghostly white because of the cold; S.E. would give B.E. her sweater to wear and hold B.E. close to her chest to keep her warm. Defendants rarely allowed S.E. and B.E. to shower or bathe. Witnesses reported that S.E. often appeared unclean and sickly, emitted a foul odor, seemed fearful, and had bruises on her body.

         Defendants would let S.E. out of the basement in the mornings, but forced B.E. to stay there while S.E. performed the work they required of her. S.E. thought about running away to her mother's house while on an errand, but because Defendants kept B.E. locked in the basement while S.E. was working, S.E. never acted on that desire. Defendants also forbade S.E. from eating or feeding B.E. until she returned to the basement at night after completing all assigned tasks. S.E. and B.E. typically ate one meal a day, and their diet generally consisted of unheated canned food, bread, and unrefrigerated lunch meat. Defendants would leave S.E. and B.E.'s food for the evening on the steps leading into the basement, and Hunt beat S.E. when S.E. tried to take food from the refrigerator.

         B.E. was not immune from abuse-one of Hunt's sons tied her up with rope and kept her bound all night because she tried to drink a soda that was not intended for her. Defendants also beat B.E. themselves. Although she was a toddler, they struck her on numerous occasions for soiling herself. Hunt's sons also assaulted B.E. on various occasions, and Callahan once threw a snake on her.

         Callahan also punished S.E. by putting a dog collar around her neck, forcing her into the cage for the dogs, and ordering her to eat dog food. One of Hunt's sons shot S.E. multiple times with a BB gun for disobeying an order. Daniel Brown, an indicted co-conspirator, also helped Defendants assault and humiliate S.E. when they discovered that S.E. planned to escape. Brown shaved S.E.'s head, wrote degrading obscenities on her face, and slammed her head into a kitchen ...

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