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Baldwin v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 22, 2019

SYRIANE BALDWIN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON 28 U.S.C. § 2255 MOTION

          JOHN C. NIVISON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         In this action, Petitioner Syriane Baldwin moves, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence. (Motion, ECF No. 267.) Following a guilty plea, Petitioner was convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances; the Court sentenced Petitioner to ninety-six months in prison. (Judgment, ECF No. 257; Indictment, ECF No. 2.) Petitioner did not appeal from the sentence.

         Petitioner claims he received ineffective assistance of counsel and argues that his conviction and sentence were unconstitutional because he had previously been convicted of and served a sentence on a related drug distribution charge. (Motion at 4 - 8.) The Government requests dismissal because, although some conduct was related, the two convictions resulted from prosecutions for separate crimes. (Response, ECF No. 271.)

         Following a review of the record and after consideration of Petitioner's motion and the Government's request for dismissal, I recommend the Court grant the Government's request and dismiss Petitioner's motion.

         Factual Background and Procedural History

         In September 2015, Petitioner was arrested and indicted for distributing cocaine base in or around September 2014. (1:15-cr-00159-JAW-1, ECF No. 8, 19.) In May 2016, Petitioner pled guilty. (1:15-cr-00159-JAW-1, Change of Plea Hearing, ECF No. 91.) During the plea negotiations, “the Government . . . made it clear” that they also “intended to pursue drug conspiracy charges against him, ” which created a dispute between Petitioner and the Government concerning the scope of “relevant conduct” for purposes of calculating Petitioner's sentencing guideline range. (1:15-cr-00159-JAW-1, Defendant's Sentencing Memorandum at 1, ECF No. 109.) In general, “uncharged conduct is relevant if the government proves by a preponderance of the evidence that such uncharged conduct is part of the same course of conduct or common scheme or plan as the charged conduct.” United States v. Eisom, 585 F.3d 552, 557 (1st Cir. 2009); U.S.S.G. § 1B1.3.

         At the presentencing conference, the Court explained that “Mr. Baldwin pleaded guilty to a narrow circle of conduct for which he's clearly responsible, ” but because the Government had evidence of a larger conspiracy involving much larger drug quantities, “he then becomes subject to a very significant range of penalties based on drug quantity and his role in the relevant conduct.” (1:15-cr-00159-JAW-1, Presentence Conference Transcript at 2, ECF No. 146.) The Court continued:

It strikes me that it really comes down to what Mr. Baldwin wants to do. I can tell you that I've always felt a little uneasy about expanded use of relevant conduct in a situation like this, and I can understand if Mr. Baldwin says, look, I did what I've been accused of doing and I am willing to accept whatever punishment is going to be applied for what I've admitted, but if the government wants to prove that I've been involved in a more major conspiracy and wants to prove that drug quantity and . . . my role in that offense separately, that they should be required to indict me and they should be required to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury and that's what I want. If he were to tell me that, I think I'd be inclined to say, well, that's what you have a right to.
On the other hand, I can understand why if he looks hard in the mirror and says, you know, I think they can prove that I was involved in this greater conspiracy. Right now I've only got one federal conviction. If I force them to indict me and to prove the case against me, then I'll have a couple of federal convictions under my belt and I may end up in the same place that I'm now in to begin with, so it . . . may be better for me to simply allow the process to go forward as the government has contemplated.
But I really think that's not the government's choice; I think it's Mr. Baldwin's choice. And if he were to tell me, with his eyes open, no, I accept the relevant conduct and I want you to sentence me as if the government has proven that, I think I . . . would accept that. On the other hand, if he tells me, no, I really object to the relevant conduct, then the government has its own decision to make about whether to indict him and to proceed against him separately.

(Id. at 2 - 3.)

         The Government conditionally offered to disclose to defense counsel its evidence concerning the larger conspiracy:

[I]f [Defense Counsel] talks to Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Baldwin expresses some . . . willingness to entertain the idea of resolving the relevant conduct through this sentencing, what I could do is what I've done in other cases in the past is I have shared for in-house review redacted grand jury transcripts and redacted proffer reports from other witnesses so that those people's names and identities are not revealed to somebody like Mr. Baldwin, but [Defense Counsel] can evaluate that evidence and go back to Mr. Baldwin and say, you know, this is what the government is going to be able to prove either at a conspiracy trial or if you want to have it handled in a sentencing on this pending case, this is what the evidence would be. And then if Mr. Baldwin makes the decision then, no, I don't want to deal with any of this in this pending case, at least there's no misunderstanding between any of us.
The . . . reason why I've held off doing that up to now, Judge, is that from the very beginning, when we first charged Mr. Baldwin back in September of 2015 and I . . . sat down with Mr. Baldwin and his attorney very early on, I wanted to get Mr. Baldwin's cooperation in this larger investigation. And so I have been reluctant to share with Mr. Baldwin what other people are saying about him because that would render him virtually useless as a cooperator if I then have to disclose in some future proceeding that my witness, Syriane Baldwin, has had the opportunity to talk to his lawyer about what all the other witnesses have already come in and said. So I've not done that for [Defense Counsel] because I was holding out some degree of hope that Mr. Baldwin would want to cooperate.
But if [Defense Counsel] wants to look at that stuff, if Mr. Baldwin has made his final decision that he's never, ever going to cooperate, whether it be in this case or in some future conspiracy prosecution, I can let you take a look at it now, [Defense Counsel], but I think that that will ...

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