United States v. Walker

Decision Date10 August 2017
Docket NumberNo. 2:03-cr-0042-MCE-EFB P,2:03-cr-0042-MCE-EFB P
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California


No. 2:03-cr-0042-MCE-EFB P


August 10, 2017


Movant Jason Keith Walker is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se with a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.1 On April 7, 2006, Walker was convicted by a jury of conspiring to conduct the affairs of an enterprise (the Pitch Dark Family or PDF) through a pattern of racketeering activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). Walker now seeks post-conviction relief on the grounds that his trial and appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that Walker's § 2255 motion be denied.




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I. Overview

Walker presented the following overview of his criminal proceedings in his opening brief on appeal, which this court includes here in part:

The government sought and obtained [movant's and others] convictions for their alleged involvement with the Pitch Dark Family, a Vallejo group which the government alleged was a criminal enterprise. There was, however, no dispute that there was also a group that wrote and performed rap music by the name of the Pitch Dark Family (hereinafter, "PDF"), and that the persons the government contended were gang members were also members of PDF, the rap group. The predicate acts charged were, in the main, old state cases - some as much as a decade old at the time of trial - that the state authorities had declined to prosecute.

Although [movant and others] hotly contested the validity of the predicate acts, the overarching issue in the case was whether or not the PDF was a group of rappers consisting of friends who had grown up together in Vallejo, some of whom earned a living by selling drugs, or whether PDF was, as the government alleged, a coordinated criminal enterprise that controlled an area of west Vallejo.

ECF No. 1184-10 at 12-13.

II. Procedural Background

On January 29, 2003, an indictment was filed charging Walker and various other persons with participating in a street gang known as the Pitch Dark Family, an enterprise conducting its affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity. ECF No. 1.

Count Two alleged that Walker and seven others conspired to conduct the affairs of an enterprise (the PDF) through a pattern of racketeering activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). Id. at 8-9. The case went to trial against Walker and co-defendant Shango Jaja Greer in November 2005. Trial concluded in March, 2006.2

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On April 7, 2006, the jury returned verdicts finding Walker guilty on Count Two. ECF No. 681-1. The jury found that the pattern of racketeering activity agreed to by Walker (and co-defendant Greer) included acts involving murder, attempted murder, possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, and conspiracy to distribute illegal narcotics. Id. at 3-5. The jury also found that, in connection with Count Two, Walker (and Greer) committed the attempted murder of Jason Hickerson on July 15, 1994, or aided and abetted in the commission of that crime; committed the murder of Keith Roberts on August 3, 1994, or aided and abetted in the commission of that crime; and committed the crime of conspiracy to distribute illegal narcotics. Id. at 5-6, 7. The jury further found that, in connection with Count Two, Walker committed the murder of Richard Garrett on August 28, 1994. Id. at 6.

III. Factual Background3

A. Facts relating to the Enterprise

Several witnesses testified at Walker's trial about the origins of Pitch Dark Family. Jason Hickerson testified that he lived on the west side of Vallejo from 1990 to 1993, and bought and sold drugs there. Reporter's Transcript (RT), Dec. 7, 2005, 80-81. Hickerson said it was important to know who sold drugs on the west side so you would "know what you were up against." Id. at 81. He agreed that "you could get into trouble if you didn't know who was dealing drugs on the west side" and explained that this was "[b]ecause you would be dealing in someone else's territory." Id. at 81-82. In those days, the drug trade on the west side was controlled by the Five Deuce Waterfront Gangsta Crips (hereinafter Five Deuce), also known as West Side and City Park Crips. Id. at 82. That group included Charles White, Leroy Vance, Charles McClough, Louis Walker, Shawn Brown, and Marc Tarver. Id. at 83-85. Sometime

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around 1991-92, Five Deuce started calling itself Pitch Dark Family (PDF). Id. at 86. PDF consisted of the same members plus Shango Greer ("G.O."), Jason Walker ("Fade"), Eric Jones, Anthony Monroe ("Tone"), Elliott Cole ("LL"), Oscar Gonzales, Arnando Villafan, Ricardo White, Demetrius Thompson, and Tito Manuel. Id. at 86:19-89:19. Hickerson testified that in 1992 and beyond, he personally bought crack cocaine from PDF members Jason Walker and Marc Tarver. Id. at 90:6-92:8.

Hickerson also testified that PDF sold drugs in an area from Sutter Street to Santa Clara Street and from Tennessee Street to Florida. Id. at 94. Generally, only PDF members could sell drugs in PDF territory. Id. at 95. Hickerson explained that he was allowed to occasionally sell drugs in PDF territory, even though he was not a PDF member, because he lived on the west side and purchased his drugs from a PDF member. Id. at 96-98.

Dante Webster also testified about the membership of Pitch Dark Family and its character as a street gang. Webster lived in West Vallejo for most of the period from 1991 to 2005. RT Dec. 15, 2005, at 25. Webster testified that, during the 1990s, he was one of the leaders of a group called The Folks (also known as the Sutter Street Crew or Gutter Street), that sold drugs in an area adjacent to PDF territory. Id. at 42, 44-45. Webster testified that there were other gangs on the west side that sold drugs and that these gangs divided up the area and generally got along with one another. Id. at 45, 46. Because he socialized with members of the other gangs, he was familiar with other gangs and their membership. Id. One of these gangs was Pitch Dark Family, which was also known as the Five Deuce Waterfront Crips and City Park. Id. at 46-47. Webster identified some of the members of PDF, including: Shango Greer ("G.O."), Jason Walker ("Fade"), Charles White ("Shady"), "EJ Rabbit", Mark Tarver ("Bowlegs"), Tone Monroe, Louis Walker ("Lou Dog"), Elliott Cole ("LL"), and Oscar Gonzales. Id. at 53-55. Webster testified that PDF members associated with the Crips "from time to time" and frequently wore Crip colors, which were blue, black and brown. Id. at 58-59. PDF members also spoke disrespectfully of the Bloods. Id. at 75-76.

Webster also testified that from time to time members of PDF - usually "Shady" (Charles White) - would ask for a meeting to discuss what was going on in the neighborhood - that is,

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whether there was anyone new in the neighborhood trying to sell drugs "[b]ecause if no one knew you, you wasn't supposed to be around there." Id. at 59. Webster explained that only PDF members or their friends could sell in PDF territory. Id. at 60-61. Webster also described an incident at Nations Burgers where PDF member "EJ Rabbit" was shot after he confronted an Oakland drug dealer. After the shooting, PDF called a meeting to discuss retaliation because the Oakland dealer was selling drugs on PDF turf. Id. at 77-81. Webster cooperated with the government in this case in order to obtain sentencing leniency in connection with his own federal drug case. RT Dec. 15, 2005, at 111-12, 166-76.

Prosecution witness Sedrick Perkins was a member of the Sutter Street Crew who had been selling cocaine and heroin on the streets of West Vallejo since he was eleven years old. RT Jan. 26, 2006, at 6364-65. When asked if he had ever heard of the name Pitch Dark Family, he answered, "Yeah. They was a gang too." Id. at 6365. Perkins' identification of the members of PDF and its territory was consistent with the testimony provided by other witnesses. He said that the leaders of PDF were Shango (Greer), Fade (Walker), and Shady (Charles White) and that the younger kids like Nando and Oscar were not high up in the hierarchy. Id. at 6366. Perkins also corroborated the testimony of the other witnesses that PDF had originally been called the Five Deuce Waterfront Crips but then changed its name to Pitch Dark Family. RT Jan. 26, 2006 (p.m.), at 6475.

Witness Anthony Freeman met Shango Greer in 1985 when they were both in the fifth grade and they became very close friends. Id. at 6551-52. During the next four years, Greer and Freeman sold drugs together and Freeman met Greer's other friends, who also sold drugs. Id. at 6552-54. These friends included Fade, Shady, Eric Jones and [Marc] Tarver. Id. at 6554. Freeman testified that during the period 1984 to 1989, Greer and his other friends were associated with a group called the City Park Thugs, also known as Pitch Dark Family. Id.

Freeman also testified about the Nations Burgers incident in which PDF member Eric Jones (aka EJ Rabbit) was shot. Freeman testified that Shango Greer told him the shooting was precipitated when Jones confronted out-of-towners who were selling drugs in the neighborhood. RT Jan. 30, 2006, at 6612-13.

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Witness Derrick Shields moved to west Vallejo in 1990 and continued to live there up through the date of Greer's trial in 2006. RT Feb. 2, 2006, at 7071-72. When he first moved to west Vallejo, he met several individuals who were members of a group called City Park, including Shango, Jason, Tone, Marc, Louis, Butch (Marlin), Meech (Demetrius Thompson), Bowleggs (Marc Tarver), EJ Rabbit (Eric), Nando, and Oscar Gonzales. Id. at 7072-76. When he first heard about Pitch Dark Family in the early 1990's, Butch told him that it was the name of a rap group. Id. at 7077. Later, the same people who were in City...

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