United States v. Snider, Case No. 3:07-cr-124-SI

Citation180 F.Supp.3d 780
Decision Date13 April 2016
Docket NumberCase No. 3:07-cr-124-SI
Parties United States of America, v. Ryan John Snider, Petitioner-Defendant.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Oregon)

Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Scott M. Kerin, Assistant United

States Attorney, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, DISTRICT OF OREGON, 1000 SW Third Avenue, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97204. Of Attorneys for United States of America.

Ellen C. Pitcher, Attorney at Law, 0324 SW Abernethy Street, Portland, OR 97239. Of Attorneys for Defendant.


Michael H. Simon

, United States District Judge

On May 27, 2015, Defendant Ryan John Snider (Snider) moved to vacate, set aside, or correct his conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255

(“§ 2255 ”). He argues that in light of both newly discovered evidence and the standard announced in Burrage v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 134 S.Ct. 881, 187 L.Ed.2d 715 (2014), his conviction and sentence for distributing drugs resulting in death are unconstitutional. On March 1, 2016, the Court held an evidentiary hearing to determine the validity of Snider's arguments. For the reasons set forth below, including Snider's failure to show that the drugs he distributed were not an independently sufficient cause of death, the Court denies the motion.

Section 2255

permits a federal prisoner in custody under sentence to move the court that imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence on the ground that:

the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack ....

§ 2255(a)


A petitioner seeking relief under § 2255

also must file his or her motion within the one-year statute of limitations. The limitations period begins to run on the latest of four dates:

(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final; (2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action; (3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or (4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

§ 2255(f)


Under § 2255

, “a district court must grant a hearing to determine the validity of a petition brought under that section [u]nless the motions and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.’ United States v. B


aylock , 20 F.3d 1458, 1465 (9th Cir.1994) (emphasis in original) (quoting § 2255 ). In determining whether a § 2255 motion requires a hearing, [t]he standard essentially is whether the movant has made specific factual allegations that, if true, state a claim on which relief could be granted.” United States v. Withers , 638 F.3d 1055, 1062 (9th Cir.2011) (quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original). A district court may dismiss a § 2255 motion based on a facial review of the record “only if the allegations in the motion, when viewed against the record, do not give rise to a claim for relief or are ‘palpably incredible or patently frivolous.’ Id. at 1062–63

(quoting United States v. Schaflander , 743 F.2d 714, 717 (9th Cir.1984) ). Conclusory statements in a § 2255 motion are insufficient to require a hearing. United States v. Hearst , 638 F.2d 1190, 1194 (9th Cir.1980).

If a court denies a habeas petition, the court may issue a certificate of appealability “if jurists of reason could disagree with the district court's resolution of [the petitioner's] constitutional claims or that jurists could conclude the issues presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.” Miller El v. Cockrell , 537 U.S. 322, 327, 123 S.Ct. 1029, 154 L.Ed.2d 931 (2003)

; see 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). Although the petitioner is not required to prove the merits of his case for the court to issue a certificate of appealability, the petitioner must demonstrate “something more than the absence of frivolity or the existence of mere good faith on his or her part.” Miller-El , 537 U.S. at 338, 123 S.Ct. 1029 (quotation marks omitted).

A. Snider's Guilty Pleas and Sentencing

Mr. Kraig Crow, a 19-year-old recent high school graduate, died on August 21, 2006. On the afternoon of his death, Mr. Crow purchased seven grams of powder cocaine from a friend. The friend became concerned that Mr. Crow might attempt to overdose on the cocaine and alerted Mr. Crow's girlfriend. Mr. Crow's girlfriend and parents contacted the police with concerns that Mr. Crow was suicidal, and the police found Mr. Crow's body in a park later that night. At the scene of Mr. Crow's death, police found a plastic bag containing white powder residue and an empty prescription pill bottle with the label torn off. A toxicology report showed that at the time of his death, Mr. Crow had in his blood cocaine and an opioid medication called propoxyphene

.1 The autopsy results listed a cocaine overdose as the cause of death. A police investigation into the source of the cocaine ultimately led to Snider's arrest.

On October 11, 2007, Snider entered a plea of guilty to the charge of distributing cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)

and 841(b)(1)(C). He admitted that on approximately August 21, 2006, he sold a quantity of cocaine that, through a chain of subsequent sales, was sold to Mr. Crow, who died as a result of using the cocaine. The crime carried a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.2 In the plea agreement, Snider and the government agreed to Snider's relevant conduct for sentencing purposes as follows:

The parties agree that defendant's relevant conduct pursuant to U.S.S.G. §§ 1B1.3

and 2D1.1(a) is between 50 and 100 grams of cocaine. The parties further agree that the offense of conviction establishes that death resulted from the

use of the controlled substance and thus defendant's initial base offense level is 38 , prior to adjustments.3

The U.S. Probation Office initially recommended 168 to 210 months of imprisonment based on the overdose death. The U.S. Probation Office further recommended an additional sentencing enhancement of two levels based on the recovery of two firearms at Snider's residence on April 4, 2007, for a total recommendation of 210 to 262 months' imprisonment. Snider's substantial assistance to the government, however, led the parties to agree to a jointly-recommended downward departure of 72 months of imprisonment.

Before sentencing, Snider was released from custody on pretrial supervision. While on pretrial supervision, but after the entry of his guilty plea, Snider was arrested for selling cocaine to a police informant on approximately January 10, 2008. Because of Snider's new criminal conduct, the U.S. Probation Office recommended against a reduction under the advisory guidelines for acceptance of responsibility and suggested a sentence of 240 months of imprisonment. Based on all relevant conduct, Snider's advisory sentencing guideline range was 292 to 365 months' imprisonment.

On April 11, 2008, Snider entered a guilty plea in the second case against him based on his distribution of cocaine while on pretrial supervision.4 In his second guilty plea, Snider affirmed his first guilty plea. The parties made the following joint sentencing recommendation to the Court:

Pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1

, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3553(a) and 3553(e), the legal issues involved in the case, and so long as defendant demonstrates an acceptance of responsibility as explained above by resolving all of his current criminal matters and provides substantial assistance in the prosecution of others as outlined above, the parties will recommend that the court sentence the defendant, on both of his cases, to a total sentence of 144 months imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release.5

In his guilty plea, Snider waived many of his rights both to appeal and file for post-conviction relief, as follows:

Waiver of Appeal/Post-Conviction Relief: Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waives the right to appeal from any aspect of the conviction and sentence on any grounds unless the court imposes a sentence which exceeds the parties [sic] recommended sentence. Should defendant seek an appeal, despite this waiver of that right, the USAO may take any position on any issue on appeal. Defendant also waives the right to file any collateral attack, including a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255

, challenging any aspect of the conviction or sentence on any grounds, except on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, and except as provided in Fed. R. Crim. P. 336 and

18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)


On April 21, 2008, U.S. District Judge Ancer L. Haggerty sentenced Snider to 144 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, in both cases. Judge Haggerty determined that the sentences in the two cases would run concurrently. Judge Haggerty adopted most of the Presentence Report from the U.S. Probation Office, but he did not impose an enhancement for the firearms found at Snider's residence.

In 2008, U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(a)(2)

set the base offense level at 38 for any conviction under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) and 841(b)(l)(C) that establishes that death or serious bodily injury resulted from use of an unlawfully distributed substance. With a Criminal History Category of I, the offense level given to Snider in the Presentence Investigation Report, an offense level of 38 carried an advisory guideline range of 235 to 293 months of imprisonment. U.S.S.G. Ch. 5, Pt. A. Without conviction of the crime of distributing drugs...

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