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United States v. Pratt

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

May 17, 2019




         On October 12, 2016, an indictment was issued which charged Michael Allen Pratt, Jr., and twelve other Defendants with participating in a large-scale conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances. ECF No. 16. Petitioner was charged in Count One, conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and heroin; Count Twenty-Six, distribution of heroin on October 26, 2015; Count Twenty-Seven, distribution of heroin on October 29, 2015; Count Twenty-Eight, distribution of heroin on November 4, 2015; Count Twenty-Nine, distribution of heroin on November 23, 2015; and Count Thirty, distribution of heroin and fentanyl, aiding and abetting.

         Petitioner was represented by Joan Morgan. On September 11, 2017, Petitioner entered into a Rule 11 Plea Agreement, pleading guilty to Count One, conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and heroin. ECF No. 433. On December 21, 2017, the Court accepted the Rule 11 Plea Agreement and sentenced Petitioner to 70 months imprisonment. ECF No. 508.

         On August 30, 2018, Petitioner filed a motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. ECF No. 580. On December 17, 2018, Magistrate Judge Morris issued a Report and Recommendation recommending the Court deny Petitioner's motion.


         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, a party may object to and seek review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2). Objections must be stated with specificity. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 151 (1985) (citation omitted). If objections are made, “[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). De novo review requires at least a review of the evidence before the magistrate judge; the Court may not act solely on the basis of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. See Hill v. Duriron Co., 656 F.2d 1208, 1215 (6th Cir. 1981). After reviewing the evidence, the Court is free to accept, reject, or modify the findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge. See Lardie v. Birkett, 221 F.Supp.2d 806, 807 (E.D. Mich. 2002).

         Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de novo review under the statute. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). “The parties have the duty to pinpoint those portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specially consider.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented, does not sufficiently identify alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. See VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 937 (E.D. Mich. 2004). An “objection” that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's determination, “without explaining the source of the error, ” is not considered a valid objection. Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). Without specific objections, “[t]he functions of the district court are effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrate's Act.” Id.


         Petitioner raises five objections to the report and recommendation, which will be addressed in turn.


         Petitioner's first objection is that he never made certain statements that Judge Morris attributed to him in her Report and Recommendation. ECF No. 644 at 1-3. The sentences in question provide “Petitioner replies that he was clearly misguided and misinformed and that his brief shows that he has met the requirements under Strickland. (R. 609.) Petitioner specifies that he can't be held responsible for a quantity of drugs that were found in another person's home. (R. 609 at PageID.4506.).” ECF No. 618 at 6.

         Judge Morris was not directly quoting Petitioner's brief. Instead, she was summarizing arguments presented in Petitioner's reply brief. Petitioner's argument that Judge Morris “took the Petitioner's words and twisted them into statements that were not made in the order or fashion that they were being recited” is belied by the contents of his reply brief, to which Judge Morris directly cited. In his reply brief, Petitioner argued

Defendant was clearly misinformed and misguided by counsel…Defendant cant [sic] know that the conspiracy involved more than 500 grams of cocaine and more than 100 grams of heroin, when all of these drugs were found in the home of a man who defendant never knew, had any contact with, or even hear do until this offense. Defendant couldn't have and did not know the drug amount involved until defendant was charged with conspiracy after being picked up on a criminal complaint.

ECF No. 609 at 4505-4506. Judge Morris's summary of Petitioner's argument is accurate and does not change the meaning of his words.


         Petitioner next takes issue with Judge Morris's determination that Petitioner understood and agreed to his Rule 11 Plea Agreement. He argues that “he made his decision to plead guilty based on erroneous information.” ECF No. 644 at 7. However, these arguments are the same as those he presented to Judge Morris. They are still unconvincing in light of Plaintiff's statements regarding his Plea Agreement (the “Agreement”) in which he acknowledged and assured the court that he understood its terms, which provides:

By signing below, defendant acknowledges having read (or been read) this entire document, understanding it, and agreeing to its terms. Defendant also acknowledges being satisfied with defense attorney's' [sic] advice and representation. Defendant acknowledges having had a full and complete opportunity to confer with counsel, and that all of defendant's questions have been answered by counsel.

ECF No. 433 at 11. Additionally, during his plea hearing before Judge Morris, he confirmed that he understood the ...

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