Edger v. United States

Decision Date02 March 2023
Docket Number4:20 CV 397 CDP
PartiesJOE EDGER, Movant, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri


JOE EDGER, Movant,

No. 4:20 CV 397 CDP

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 2, 2023



Movant Joe Edger pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm as a previously convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Case No. 4:15CR385.) In a separate case, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(o). (Case No. 4:15CR335.) The cases were consolidated for sentencing. On March 9, 2018, I sentenced Edger to consecutive terms of imprisonment aggregating 360 months, which was the advisory guidelines sentence and represented the total of the statutory maximum sentences for both convictions, which was 10 years for § 922(g)(1) and 20 years for § 924(o). Alleging error in sentencing, Edger appealed the judgments. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, United States v. Edger, 924 F.3d 1011 (8th Cir.), and the Supreme Court denied certiorari, 140 S.Ct. 420 (2019). Edger now moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging several claims of trial court


error, ineffective assistance of counsel, and prosecutorial misconduct. For the reasons that follow, I will deny Edger's motion to vacate.


On July 16, 2015, a grand jury in this district returned a three-count indictment against Dwane Taylor charging Taylor with one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute heroin and crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846; and two counts of possessing, brandishing, and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 924(c)(1)(A). The two § 924(c) counts alleged that in the course of the violations, Taylor murdered Erin Davis and Juanita Davis through the use of the firearm, making the offenses punishable under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 924(j)(1), that is, death-penalty eligible. See Case No. 4:15CR335 (CR335, or “the Taylor case”), ECF 2.

In a seven-count superseding indictment returned on October 7, 2015, a grand jury charged Taylor with the three offenses set out above and added four additional charges against him, namely, one count of conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(o); one count of obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(1); and two counts of witness tampering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1). The superseding indictment also added Joe Edger, the movant here, as a defendant and charged him with the § 924(o) conspiracy offense and the two § 924(c) offenses


punishable under § 924(j)(1).[1] (CR335, ECF 27.)

In the meanwhile, on August 12, 2015, Edger was charged in a separate indictment with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). See Case No. 4:15CR385 (CR385, or “the FIP case”), ECF 9. Pursuant to a plea agreement with the government in that case, Edger pleaded guilty to the charge on June 22, 2016. (Id., ECF 49.)

Two months later, on August 18, 2016, Edger pleaded guilty to the § 924(o) conspiracy charge in the Taylor case. Pursuant the plea agreement in that case, the government agreed to dismiss the two § 924(c) counts against Edger at the time of sentencing. (CR335, ECF 102.) The Taylor case (CR335) and the FIP case (CR385) were then consolidated for purposes of Edger's sentencing. The CR335 case against Taylor remained on track for trial.

In his guilty plea to the § 924(o) conspiracy charge in the Taylor case, Edger admitted that he was an associate of Taylor's and knew that Taylor was involved in drug trafficking. Taylor asked for Edger's help in locating Juanita Davis, whom Taylor believed had stolen some of his drugs and money as well as his car. Edger drove Taylor around looking for the intended victim. At some point, Edger agreed to trade his 9-mm caliber firearm to Taylor for Taylor's .22 caliber firearm. In the


guilty plea agreement, the parties agreed that “Defendant understood that Taylor intended to use the nine millimeter firearm in connection with, among other things, Taylor's desire to locate his vehicle, drugs, and/or money which Taylor routinely used in connection with his drug trafficking and to retaliate against Juanita for taking those drug trafficking-related items from Taylor.” As set out in more detail in the plea agreement and the presentence report, Taylor used the 9-mm firearm to kill both Juanita Davis and Erin Davis, whom Taylor believed was also involved in the theft of his drug-related property.[2]

In the initial presentence report, the probation office concluded that the two charges to which Edger pleaded guilty would be grouped for sentencing and that the guidelines for the § 924(o) conspiracy charge would be used since it was the more serious crime with a higher offense level. The report concluded that the base offense level was 14 under USSG § 2K2.1(a)(6)(B) because Edger was a prohibited person. It then added four levels under § 2K2.2(b)(6)(B), as agreed by the parties in the plea agreement. After deducting three levels for acceptance of responsibility, the report concluded that Edger's Total Offense Level was 15. With Edger's criminal history category of VI, the probation office calculated Edger's advisory guidelines range at 41 to 51months.


The government objected to the presentence report, arguing that the crossreference provision under USSG § 2K2.1(c)(1)(B) applied because the firearm was used in connection with another offense where death resulted, and that therefore the base offense level should be that from the most analogous offense guideline concerning homicide. Both the plea agreement and the presentence report acknowledged that the most analogous guideline here, if § 2K2.1(c)(1)(B) applied, would be for first-degree murder. The government argued that with such crossreference, Edger's base offense level should be 43 and his Total Offense Level 40, resulting in a guidelines range of 360 months. At a hearing held April 25, 2017, both sides presented their arguments on the government's objections. In a Memorandum and Order entered May 18, 2017, I determined that § 2K2.1(c)(1)(B)'s cross-reference provision applied. I therefore sustained the government's objection, determined that Edger's Total Offense Level was 40, and concluded that the advisory guidelines range was 360 months. (CR335, ECF 179.) At the time, trial for Dwane Taylor was scheduled to begin June 19, 2017.

I set Edger's sentencing for September 13, 2017. In July 2017, however, Edger's attorneys moved to withdraw, which I granted after a hearing. Upon appointing new counsel, I removed Edger's sentencing from the docket and, after conferring with counsel on both sides, I provided Edger the opportunity to file a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas in the two cases. (See CR335, ECF 195.) Prior to the deadline for filing such a motion, however, Edger's new counsel also


sought to withdraw from representing him.

Information presented to the Court at a hearing on new counsel's motion to withdraw indicated that Edger's dispute with his new attorney, as it was with his previous counsel, involved jail recordings of certain of Edger's telephone calls that the government indicated it might rely on for sentencing purposes. Because Edger asserted that he had not heard the recordings and did not say anything on the phone calls that could affect his sentencing, I ordered the government to produce and play the recordings at a hearing with Edger present so that I could resolve the dispute between him and his counsel. Upon hearing the recordings, I granted new counsel's motion to withdraw.

After appointing another attorney for Edger, I again provided him the opportunity to file a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas (see CR335, ECF 208); but he informed the Court that he did not intend to file a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, and he requested that the matter be set for sentencing. Through counsel, he objected to the revised presentence report, which had incorporated my May 2017 Order regarding the cross-reference provision, and he filed a comprehensive sentencing memorandum arguing for a downward departure and a sentence within the 41-to-51-month range initially calculated by the probation office. On March 9, 2018, I sentenced Edger to 360 months' imprisonment.

In its sentencing memorandum and at sentencing, the government advised the Court that it would not file a 5K motion for downward departure as it


conditionally promised in the plea agreement, because it had determined that Edger's post-plea conduct rendered him ineligible for the departure. Edger's postplea conduct included his informing the government that he no longer wished to testify against Taylor, and Edger's statements made in jail recordings that “I'm going to say whatever I want” and that “I don't have to tell the truth because I'm telling the Government if I don't get what I want, they're not going to get what they want.” Because of Edger's refusal to testify against Taylor and his recorded assertions that he did not have to tell the truth, the government determined that it was no longer bound to move for downward departure under the agreement given that Edger himself violated his agreement to provide fully truthful information in any court proceeding. Moreover, the government averred in its sentencing memorandum that it had to dismiss the indictment against Taylor because of the impracticality of calling Edger as a witness against him given Edger's statements that he planned to not tell the truth.[3]

Edger appealed his sentence, arguing that I erred in applying the crossreference guideline and in permitting the government to breach the plea agreement when it refused to move for...

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