United States v. Scott

Decision Date27 April 2015
Docket NumberCRIMINAL NO. 1:09-CR-72
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DONALD A. SCOTT, Petitioner

(Chief Judge Conner)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court is the pro se motion (Doc. 548) to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255,1 filed February 7, 2014, by Donald A. Scott ("Scott"). In August of 2010, a jury sitting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, convicted Scott of numerous federal offenses, including four instances of Hobbs Act robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 1951, two instances of carjacking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2119, four instances of possession of a firearm in furtherance of crimes of violence, and conspiracy against the United States. The court sentenced Scott to 1,276 months imprisonment, the minimum sentence recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines after accounting for various statutory mandatory minimum sentences. Scott seeks vacatur of several of those convictions. For the reasons that follow, the court will deny Scott's motion.2

I. Factual Background3

The events underlying Scott's numerous convictions date back to late winter and early spring of 2008, when a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement team began investigating a string of armed robberies and carjackings that occurred in south-central Pennsylvania. The evidence introduced at trial generally established that Scott and his codefendants4 robbed a number of victims at gunpoint on February 1, 2008, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on March 22, 2008, in Carlisle and Newville, Pennsylvania, and on April 8 and 9, 2008, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

Government witness Montaye Kitt ("Kitt") testified that, in the early morning hours of February 1, 2008, he was robbed in a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania apartment rented by his then-girlfriend. (See Tr. Day 2 at 103:9-115:7).5 Kitt testified that two men—both armed, masked, and dressed all in black—forced him to the floor and covered him as they "ransacked" the apartment, stealing televisions, appliances, a PlayStation, and his girlfriend's Mac computer. (Id. at 108:13-110:4). Kitt testified that he "didn't believe" Scott was one of the men who robbed him and that he did not want to testify against him. (See id. at 122:23-123:11). Government witness Annaliese Scherrer testified that she was in a relationship with Scott's codefendant,DeShawn Livingston ("Livingston"), in the spring of 2008 and that she overheard the pair planning Kitt's robbery. (Id. at 164:20-171:21). Cellular telephone records revealed that Scott's phone was used in the vicinity of Kitt's apartment during the time of the robbery. (See Tr. Day 2 at 177:18-178:3, 199:14-202:6).

On the third full day of trial, the government offered the testimony of Eric Clark, Jr. ("Clark"). (See Tr. Day 2 at 253:9-285:17). Clark described being robbed at gunpoint on March 22, 2008, outside of the home he shared with his wife and four children in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. (See id.) He testified that two men approached with guns, demanding drugs and money and threatening to "kill [his] youngest kid" if he did not comply. (Id. 254:8-257:6). When Clark saw an opportunity to escape, he ran toward an approaching vehicle and called the police. (See id. at 261:19-264:1). At trial, Clark offered physical descriptions of both robbers, explaining that both were young, black males, one short and one tall, and that the shorter individual was unmasked. (See id. at 257:7-258:10). Clark and investigating agent Scott Endy testified that, during an interview following the robbery, Clark identified Scott and codefendant Chance Bonner ("Bonner") as looking "similar" to the robbers. (See id. at 267:8-268:20 (Clark testimony); Tr. Day 3 at 11:5-12-24 (Endy testimony)).

The government's presentation on the fourth day of trial turned to a second robbery on March 22, 2008, this time occurring in Newville, Pennsylvania. Quinton Stackfield ("Stackfield") and Renee Barnes ("Barnes") testified that, late on March 22, 2008, two men approached the couple as they entered their apartment, forced them inside at gunpoint, and demanded drugs and money. (See Tr. Day 4 at 91:22-105:6, 126:19-136:19). The robbers stole a small amount of marijuana, $20 in cash,electronics, jewelry, cell phones, and the couple's identifications. (See id. at 92:14-94:7, 103:15-17). The two men then forced Stackfield to arrange a deal with an acquaintance who was likely to have drugs, and Stackfield called Warren Bennett ("Bennett"), a friend living nearby. (See id. at 94:8-105:6). The pair forced Barnes, still at gunpoint, to drive the group to Bennett's home in her vehicle. (Id.) Each victim testified that, at Bennett's home, the robbers again demanded drugs and money, "pistol whipped" Bennett when he did not comply, and ultimately left with cash, drugs, and cell phones. (Id. at 94:8-105:6, 158:23-169:17; 126:19-136:19). Stackfield told agent Endy that Scott was "similar in characteristics" to the individual who robbed him, but stopped short of a positive identification. (Id. at 155:23-156:24). Cell phone records showed that Scott's phone was used in the vicinities of the Carlisle and Newville robberies at times consistent with the victim's testimony. (See id. at 209:10-215:10). Bonner's then-girlfriend, Jennifer Bass ("Bass"), and codefendant Miqual Hodge provided testimony corroborating the timelines and locations established by Clark, Barnes, Stackfield, and Bennett. (See Tr. Day 3 at 36:6-46:21; Tr. Day 4 at 8:5-20:11).

The government's evidence on the fifth day of testimony centered on events on April 8 and 9, 2008, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Bass testified that on the night of April 8, she drove Scott, Bonner, and their two minor children to the home of codefendant Lori Ann Miller ("Miller"), where she overheard Bonner and Scott discussing a robbery with Miller and "an unknown black guy." (Tr. Day 5 at 20:19-25:23). According to the testimony of Michael Pearson ("Pearson"), Miller invited him to her home to settle a routine drug debt, and when he arrived, Scott andBonner staged a robbery, pistol whipping and taking several hundred dollars in drug proceeds from his pockets.6 (See Tr. Day 5 at 97:107:8). Pearson testified that Scott and Bonner then forced him into his car, demanding that he take them to his house; under protest and at gunpoint, Pearson acceded and drove the group to the home he shared with his fiancée, Ruth Miller ("Ruth"),7 and their four children. (Id. at 109:3-113:10). Pearson and Ruth both testified that Scott and his cohorts, still wielding firearms, burst into the room where Ruth was sleeping with the couple's three year old daughter and ordered her into the garage. (See id. at 113:13-131:13 (Pearson); at 166:1-178:18 (Miller)). They forced Ruth to turn over $1,480 in rent money, jewelry, and her glasses, and took approximately "four to five hundred dollars' worth" of crack cocaine from Pearson. (Id. at 113:13-131:13, 166:1-178:18). Pearson explained that one of the robbers stabbed him in the neck with a sharp object, (id. at 116:11-117:16), and Ruth testified that Scott sexually assaulted her and forced her to engage in sexual acts with codefendant Miller while others watched. (Id. at 175:1-22). When Scott and his compatriots left with cash, drugs, and various electronics, Pearson freed himself to unbind his fiancée; he was later airlifted to the hospital for treatment of his injuries. (See Tr. Day 5 at 119:5-120:21, 176:12-16, 178:24-179:2). Bass later met Scott, Bonner, Miller, and the then-unidentified fourth robber in a parking lot where the four transferred their bounty into Bass's car andreturned to Harrisburg. (See Tr. Day 5 at 25:24-30:20). Expert testimony again established that Scott's cell phone was used in the vicinity of the Chambersburg robberies at times consistent with the victims' testimony. (See Tr. Day 4 at 215:11-222:18).

On May 14, 2008, Jeffrey Kurtz ("Kurtz"), a Carlisle Borough police detective investigating the robberies, was informed by a confidential informant that one of the robbers was storing stolen items at an apartment leased to Samantha Jackson, a friend of Scott's. (See Doc. 216 at 2-3; see also Tr. Day 1 at 4:16-9:25 (Jackson trial testimony); Tr. Day 5 at 71:6-79:17 (Kurtz trial testimony)). Kurtz swore out an affidavit of probable cause and applied for and received a warrant to search the apartment. (See Doc. 216 at 2-3; see also Tr. Day 5 at 71:6-79:17). Several law enforcement officers, including Kurtz, testified that during the execution of the search warrant, officers discovered and seized electronic items and identification cards stolen from and identified by various victims. (See Tr. Day 1 at 144:5-145:10; Tr. Day 5 at 71:21-79:12)).

II. Procedural History

On February 25, 2009, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Donald A. Scott ("Scott") and others with multiple offenses. The indictment charges Scott with fourteen (14) counts, as follows: conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count I); five counts of interference with interstate commerce by threats of violence ("Hobbs Act robbery") in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Counts II, IV, VI, VIII, and XII); five counts of possession, use, or carrying a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) (Counts III, V, VII, X, XIV); two counts of carjacking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2119 (Counts IX and XIII); and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (Count XV). (Doc. 1). On March 31, 2009, Scott presented for his initial appearance, arraignment, and detention hearing with retained counsel, Joseph Caraciolio, Esquire ("Attorney Caraciolio"). Scott thereafter retained different private counsel, James West, Esquire ("Attorney West").

Prior to trial, Attorney West filed several motions on Scott's behalf, including a motion to suppress certain physical evidence...

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