U.S. v. Smith, CRIM.A.2:93CR162-11.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
Writing for the CourtDoumar
Citation113 F.Supp.2d 879
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, v. Kemba Niambi SMITH, Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. CIV. A. 2:97CV411-2.,No. CRIM.A.2:93CR162-11.,CRIM.A.2:93CR162-11.,CIV. A. 2:97CV411-2.
Decision Date04 August 1999
113 F.Supp.2d 879
Kemba Niambi SMITH, Defendant.
No. CRIM.A.2:93CR162-11.
No. CIV. A. 2:97CV411-2.
United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division.
August 4, 1999.

Page 880


Page 881


Page 882


Page 883

Fernando Groene, Asst' U.S. Attorney, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Norfolk, VA, for US.

Gerald Thomas Zerkin, Gerald T. Zerkin & Associates, Richmond, VA, for Defendant.


DOUMAR, District Judge.

Petitioner, Kemba Niambi Smith (hereinafter "Smith"), has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In her petition, Smith alleges the following: (1) her guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary; (2) the government breached the terms of her plea agreement; (3) her sentence was unlawful and excessive; (4) her sentence is illegal because it is based upon an unconstitutional distinction between crack cocaine and cocaine hydrochloride; (5) she received ineffective assistance of counsel; and (6) her defense lawyers were laboring under a conflict of interest.

Smith requests that the Court conduct an evidentiary hearing and she has submitted numerous interrogatory and other discovery requests. See Rule 6 & Rule 8, Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings. For the reasons set forth, Smith's motion is DENIED.

I. Background

Cocaine Ring

Smith was a college student at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia when she got involved in a drug ring that distributed cocaine and crack cocaine from New York City to the District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, and elsewhere. Presentence Report ("PSR") ¶ 14; Detention Hearing Transcript ("Detention Tr.") 36. Smith was raised in a middle class family

Page 884

in Richmond, Virginia. PSR ¶¶ 114-115. Smith's father is an accountant and her mother is a school teacher. Id. Smith enrolled as a freshman student at Hampton University in the fall of 1989. The following spring, in May of 1990, she met Peter Michael Hall (hereinafter "Hall") at a party. PSR ¶ 94. Hall was the principal leader of the cocaine network along with his brother, Wainsworth Marcellus Hall. Detention Tr. 36.

Hall had moved from the New York area to Hampton, Virginia in late 1988 or early 1989. PSR ¶ 18. Once there, Hall devised a scheme for transporting money and drugs along the eastern corridor. PSR ¶ 22. Hall recruited Hampton University students, most of whom were female, to serve as drug couriers. PSR ¶ 22. Typically, cars would be driven to New York City and would be met by Wainsworth Hall and other ring members. Id. The cars would be taken to another location, loaded with drugs in secret compartments, and then driven back south. Id. Once received, the drugs would be sold on the streets. PSR ¶ 14. Originally, cocaine was brought down from New York and sold in its powder form. By the spring of 1990, however, Hall began to cook the powder into cocaine base or "crack" cocaine and the distilled product would be sold. PSR ¶ 14; Guilty Plea Hearing Transcript ("Plea Tr.") 29. Money would be collected and sent to New York by way of drug courier. Detention Tr. 37. In New York, there would be an exchange of money for drugs, and the process would be repeated. Detention Tr. 37.

The cocaine network was profitable and generated at least $4,000,000 in receipts based on distribution of over 200 kilograms of cocaine. PSR ¶ 17. The remunerative rewards came at a high price to human life. Two murders were committed by members of the ring, and two co-conspirators were murdered. PSR ¶¶ 54, 64; Detention Tr. 37.

Smith was not a leader in the drug conspiracy, but her involvement was substantial. Detention Tr. 42; PSR ¶ 94. In fact, Smith obtained apartments for Peter Hall under false names, she flew to New York to drop off money, and she drove vehicles concealed with drugs from New York to North Carolina.1 Sentencing Hearing Transcript ("Sentencing Tr.") 105-108; PSR ¶ 49; Detention Tr. 39-44. Also, Smith purchased a 1992 Jeep Wrangler in her name for the benefit of Peter Hall and his brother Wainsworth Hall.2 PSR ¶¶ 79, 84. From time to time, Smith delivered money to Hampton University students who had been recruited as drug couriers for transport to New York City. Plea Tr. 31.

When Peter Hall was incarcerated under alias names in Newport News, Virginia for money-laundering charges, in Virginia Beach for selling cocaine, and in New York City for selling cocaine, Smith posted bond through other co-conspirators or through Peter Hall's lawyers. Plea Tr. 31; Sentencing Tr. 118-20. Smith utilized alias names in aiding and abetting the conspiracy. She utilized the name Candace McGhee, Jeanette Morris, and Kemba Maynard to post bond for Peter Hall, to obtain phony driver's licenses, to lease automobiles, and to rent a storage locker to hide incriminating evidence. Plea Tr. 31-32; PSR ¶¶ 58, 65; Sentencing Tr. 107-108. In addition, Smith manufactured a fraudulent birth certificate on behalf of a drug member so the member could drive with a false license between New York City and Virginia. PSR ¶ 48; Sentencing Tr. 104-106.

By early 1992, law enforcement authorities were zeroing in on Hall and his situation had grown desperate. Indeed, in January or February 1992, bounty hunters

Page 885

arrived at the home of Smith's parents in Richmond, Virginia and inquired about Hall's whereabouts. Sentencing Tr. 80. Smith was home at the time and spoke with the bounty hunters. Id. After the bounty hunters left, Smith called Hall and told him that bounty hunters were looking for him. Sentencing Tr. 80-81.

In the fall of 1992, Hall moved his end of the drug operation to Charlotte, North Carolina. Sentencing Tr. 82-83. Rather than matriculating at Hampton University for another semester, Smith moved to Charlotte and enrolled in Johnson C. Smith College in Charlotte that fall. Sentencing Tr. 83. In early 1993, Smith withdrew from Johnson C. Smith College and enrolled in Central Piedmont College in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sentencing Tr. 94. Around this time, Smith became pregnant with Hall's baby. Sentencing Tr. 84. Smith suffered a miscarriage and did not carry the baby to term. Id.

In May 1993, Hall returned to Charlotte, North Carolina from New York and learned that law enforcement authorities had searched an apartment he shared with Smith. PSR ¶ 63. Hall was edgy and nervous that a member of the network was cooperating with authorities. Id.; Sentencing Tr. 85. On May 24, 1993, Hall instructed Smith to contact her attorney in Richmond, Virginia to ascertain what law enforcement authorities knew about the cocaine ring. PSR ¶ 63; Sentencing Tr. 85.

Hall became increasingly convinced that a co-member of the ring, Derrick Taylor, was an informant for the federal authorities. Sentencing Tr. 92. On May 25, 1993, Hall and Taylor drove a van to Charlotte, North Carolina with another female, who was driving in a separate car. Sentencing Tr. 41. After stopping for lunch in Greensboro, the three individuals switched cars. Sentencing Tr. 41-42. The female and Hall drove in the van and Taylor followed in the other vehicle. Sentencing Tr. 41-42. While in the van, Hall told the female that he was going to kill Taylor. Sentencing Tr. 42. Eventually, the cars pulled off the road and Hall, who was armed with a gun, got out of the van and into the car driven by Taylor. Id. The female drove ahead to a store and waited for Hall, who arrived by himself fifteen to twenty minutes later. Sentencing Tr. 42-43. On the drive back to Charlotte, Hall instructed the female to toss his gun out of the van window. Sentencing Tr. 43. Taylor was later found dead. Id.

Hall phoned Smith on the way back to Charlotte. Sentencing Tr. 43. Either on the phone or shortly thereafter, Hall admitted to Smith that he had shot Taylor.3 Smith met up with Hall and the female at a hotel in Charlotte. Sentencing Tr. 43. Smith delivered a "getaway" car, a white Acura that Hall used to drive to Atlanta. Id.; PSR ¶ 64. Two days later, on May 28, 1993, Hall called Smith and told her to clear the house in Charlotte of incriminating material and other items belonging to Hall. PSR ¶ 65; Sentencing Tr. 111-112. Smith leased a storage locker in the name of Kemba Maynard and stored weapons, scales, drug trafficking paraphernalia, and implements used to create false identification documents. Id.

Once Smith completed her spring finals, she traveled to Atlanta and delivered the storage locker key to Hall. Sentencing Tr. 112. On June 9, 1993, Smith told Hall that federal authorities were interested in interviewing her. PSR ¶ 66; Sentencing Tr. 85-86. Hall instructed Smith to meet with the agents and find out what they knew about the drug ring. Id. Hall further instructed Smith to tell federal agents that

Page 886

she did not know his brother Wainsworth and that she was being supported financially by other men. Id.

Smith met with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service in Richmond, Virginia on June 28, 1993. PSR ¶ 68; Sentencing Tr. 92, 137-140. Federal agents proffered a letter of immunity in exchange for truthful information Smith could provide about the cocaine network. Id. Smith was specifically asked about the murder of Derrick Taylor and her involvement and knowledge of the conspiracy. Id. Smith failed to provide information about the activities of the organization. Id. Smith also lied to federal authorities and misled them into believing that she did not know Wainsworth Hall or his role in the ring. Id. Additionally, she lied and told authorities that she knew nothing about Derrick Taylor's murder, and she lied and told federal agents that she was a prostitute. Id. Shortly after the interview, Smith reported back to Hall about her interview. Id.

In August 1993, Smith registered at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Sentencing Tr. 94; PSR ¶ 124. Smith lived with her...

To continue reading

Request your trial
10 cases
  • Lopez v. Miller, 02–CV–3988 (NGG)(LB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 20, 2013
    ...as ‘strategic’ unless it is a conscious choice between two legitimate and rational alternatives.”); cf. United States v. Smith, 113 F.Supp.2d 879, 909–10 (E.D.Va.1999) (“When [an] alternative legal strategy is reasonable, ... this Court will not ... second guess counsel's legal tactics.” (e......
  • Lopez v. Miller, 02-CV-3988 (NGG) (LB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • January 16, 2013
    ...as 'strategic' unless it is a conscious choice between two legitimate and rational alternatives."); cf. United States v. Smith, 113 F. Supp. 2d 879, 909-10 (E.D. Va. 1999) ("When [an] alternative legal strategy is reasonable, . . . this Court will not . . . second guess counsel's legal tact......
  • Alam v. U.S., 1:09cv114.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • June 23, 2009
    ...petition based on gross misinformation by counsel regarding conviction's collateral deportation consequences); United States v. Smith, 113 F.Supp.2d 879, 908 (E.D.Va.1999) (observing that Strader provides appropriate standard for ineffective assistance claims based on gross misinformation r......
  • Butler v. U.S., 4:01CV96.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • November 19, 2001
    ...waiver of the right to file a § 2255 motion is as valid as a waiver of the right to a direct appeal. See, e.g., United States v. Smith, 113 F.Supp.2d 879, 898 (E.D.Va.1999) (holding that a plea agreement with a waiver of direct appeal rights does not include a waiver of collateral remedies ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT