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United States v. Jackson

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 16, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
D-2 HOWARD ERIC JACKSON, Defendant/Petition.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT HOWARD JACKSON'S MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE [114]

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Howard Jackson and his two co-defendants all pled guilty to participating in a drug conspiracy. As part of his plea deal, Jackson admitted to distributing cocaine in an amount that resulted in an agreed-upon sentencing guidelines range of 135-168 months. Under the deal, Jackson waived his right to a direct appeal if the sentence did not exceed 168 months. Jackson was sentenced to 135 months.

         Although Jackson has no right to appeal, he did reserve a limited right to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. And Jackson has now invoked that right. Proceeding pro se, he claims “his counsel was ineffective for failing to advocate at sentencing that there was insufficient evidence to support” the quantity of cocaine that Jackson was being held responsible for. (R. 135, PID 775.) Jackson's argument has no merit. His Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is DENIED.

         I.

         Jackson's ex-wife, Tanika Jackson, worked at a bookstore in Madison Heights, Michigan where, from approximately July 2013 through May 2014, parcels containing cocaine were shipped to her from Southern California. (R. 68, PID 214.) She gave the drugs to Jackson who further distributed them to others. (Id.; R. 71, PID 234.) Law enforcement began investigating Jackson and obtained UPS and Fed-Ex shipping labels for 14 parcels sent to the Jacksons. They seized one such parcel in May 2014. The parcel contained approximately 4.9 kilograms of powder cocaine and 27.5 grams of crack cocaine. (R. 87, PID 329.)

         Both Tanika and Howard Jackson admitted that the total amount of (powder) cocaine they were involved in distributing exceeded 50 kilograms. (R. 68, PID 214; R. 71, PID 234.) Indeed, after waiving his Miranda rights, Jackson “described [for law enforcement] receiving approximately five (5) kilograms of cocaine on nearly a weekly basis from a California source for about the past two (2) years with the assistance of Tanika Jackson.” (Presentence Investigation Report, ¶ 13; R. 87, PID 330.)[1]

         The Government charged Jackson (along with his ex-wife and Jethro Powers, the distributer of the drugs) in a Superseding Indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a controlled substance. (R. 37.) He was also charged with two additional drug counts and four gun counts. (Id.)

         A few weeks before trial, but well after the plea cut-off date, the Court allowed Jackson to have a change-of-plea hearing pursuant to a Rule 11 Plea Agreement. The Plea Agreement provided that Jackson would plead guilty to the drug conspiracy count and the Government would agree to dismiss the remaining counts. (R. 71.)

         The parties agreed that, based primarily on the quantity of drugs involved, Jackson's sentencing guidelines range was 135-168 months, with a mandatory minimum of ten years. (R. 71, PID 232, 233, 235.) They further agreed that, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), the sentence of imprisonment could not exceed the top of the guidelines range (168 months). (R. 71, PID 236.) And Jackson agreed to waive his right to appeal the sentence if it did not exceed 168 months. (R. 71, PID 239.)

         During the change-of-plea hearing, the Court questioned Jackson pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11. Jackson was advised of the charges against him and the essential elements of the offense, the consequences of pleading guilty, including the maximum and mandatory minimum prison terms, and the terms of the plea agreement. (R. 112.) The Court determined that Jackson was mentally competent to enter into a guilty plea, that his plea was knowing and voluntary, and that it was supported by an adequate factual basis. (Id.) Jackson had a disagreement with the amount of crack cocaine being attributed to him and the parties revised the Plea Agreement accordingly immediately before going on the record-they agreed to change the reference from 280 grams of crack cocaine to 28 grams. Pursuant to this revision, the agreed upon factual basis set forth in the Plea Agreement states as follows:

In or about July 2013 and continuing through on or about May 7, 2014, in the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, and elsewhere, Defendants Howard Eric Jackson and Tanika L. Jackson, together with others, knowingly and intentionally entered into an agreement to possess, with the intent to distribute, and distribute, a controlled substance, specifically, 5 kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, and [28] grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base (crack cocaine).
More particularly, prior to and during the period of July 2013 through May 7, 2014, Howard Jackson and Tanika Jackson agreed with others to, and did, on 14 or more occasions, receive and distribute quantities of cocaine in amounts just slightly under 5 kilograms and quantities of cocaine base in amounts just slightly under 28 grams, which were concealed in parcels shipped from locations in Southern California to locations in the Eastern District of Michigan, particularly including a bookstore in Madison Heights, Michigan, where Tanika Jackson sometimes worked and regularly, knowingly received the parcels containing cocaine and cocaine base. As a further part of the agreement, Tanika Jackson provided the parcels containing cocaine and cocaine base to Howard Jackson, who further distributed the controlled substances. Cumulatively, during this roughly 10 month period alone, the amount of controlled substances Howard Jackson and Tanika Jackson agreed to, and did, receive, possess, and distribute well exceeded 50 kilograms of cocaine and [28] grams of cocaine base (crack cocaine).

(R. 71, PID 234 (emphasis added).)

         During the plea colloquy, Jackson advised the Court, under oath, that he had the opportunity to review this factual basis and that he agreed with it. (R. 112, ...


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