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Robinson v. Warden, Pickaway Correctional Institution

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 13, 2019

JAMES ROBINSON, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, PICKAWAY CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, Respondent.

          MICHAEL H. WATSON JUDGE

          ORDER and REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Elizabeth A. Preston Deavers Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         Petitioner, a state prisoner, brings this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner seeks release from confinement imposed pursuant to a state-court judgment in a criminal action. This case has been referred to the Undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(b) and Columbus' General Order 14-1 regarding assignments and references to United States Magistrate Judges.

         Petitioner has filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 4.) Upon consideration, the Court finds the Motion is meritorious, and, therefore, it is GRANTED. WHEREUPON, IT IS ORDERED THAT the Petitioner be allowed to prosecute this action without prepayment of fees or costs and that judicial officers who render services in this action shall do so as if the costs had been prepaid.

         This matter is before the Court on its own motion under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (“Rule 4”). Pursuant to Rule 4, the Court conducts a preliminary review to determine whether “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief . . .” If it does so appear, the petition must be dismissed. Id. With this standard in mind, and for the reasons that follow, these are the circumstances here.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Petitioner challenges his convictions after a jury trial in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on eight counts of trafficking in heroin. The Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals summarized the facts and procedural history of the case as follows:

{¶ 2} On December 11, 2014, a Franklin County Grand Jury indicted Robinson with eight counts of trafficking in heroin in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2), felonies of the second degree. The charges arose out of a criminal investigation of drug activity in the south end of the Columbus area. Robinson entered a not guilty plea and proceeded to a jury trial.
{¶ 3} At the trial, Detective Whitacre testified that the city of Columbus, Division of Police, had received a citizen complaint from a group of individuals regarding drug activity in the south end of Columbus in the area of Groveport Road and State Route 104. After talking with informants, patrol officers and other detectives, it was determined that there were several individuals who were working together in this area to sell heroin, cocaine, pills, and marijuana. Based on the information gathered, Detective Whitacre applied for and received authorization to wiretap the phone of Keith Pippins. Eventually, the wiretap expanded to Jack Morris and three other individuals.
{¶ 4} During the investigation, the police intercepted a total of 55 calls between Pippins and 589-xxxx. In some of the calls, Pippins would tell the other person what drugs he had available, and the person would say what he wanted. Other calls concerned the timing and location when the two would meet. Detective Ehrenborg, who was assigned to listen to intercepted calls, testified that he immediately recognized Robinson's voice as the other person on the phone with Pippins in these calls. Detective Ehrenborg stated that he had known Robinson approximately 18 years and met with him five to ten times during that period. The detective had no doubt that it was Robinson talking with Pippins.
{¶ 5} After one of the intercepted calls with 589-xxxx on February 8, 2014, a surveillance team was sent out to the location that Pippins had arranged to meet with the other person. The surveillance team located Pippins' Range Rover and also a green Expedition. The tag on the Expedition was registered to Robinson. The surveillance team was sent out again following an intercepted call with 589-xxxx on February 17, 2014. The videotape showed the green Expedition arriving at the location that Pippens had directed the other person to come to. The driver got out the vehicle and entered the residence that had Pippins' Range Rover in the driveway. Shortly thereafter, the driver reemerged from the house and drove away. Detective Ehrenborg was shown the video at trial, and he identified Robinson as the person who drove the green Expedition, entered the residence, and left soon after.
{¶ 6} Detective Whitacre testified that the investigation came to an end on March 7, 2014. A search warrant executed at Pippins' residence resulted in approximately 180 grams of heroin and a cellphone being seized among other items. The cellphone's SIM card was analyzed and showed a contact entry identified as Jimmy with the number 589-xxxx.
{¶ 7} At the end of the state's case, Jack Morris testified that he was partners with Pippins. He also knew Robinson as they had grown up in the same neighborhood. Morris entered a plea agreement with the state which required him to testify as required by the state. He identified the voices on the intercepted calls as belonging to Robinson and Pippins. After the state rested, Robinson made a Crim.R. 29 motion for acquittal. The trial court denied it.
{ΒΆ 8} The jury found Robinson guilty of all 8 counts of trafficking and also found that the amount of heroin involved was greater than or equal to 10 grams but less than 50 grams. The trial court sentenced Robinson to 2 years on each count and ...

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