United States v. Wiggins, CRIMINAL ACTION No. 10-329 SECTION I

Decision Date25 March 2015
Docket NumberCRIMINAL ACTION No. 10-329 SECTION I
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. MONTERIO WIGGINS
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS

Before the Court is a motion1 filed by defendant, Monterio Wiggins ("Wiggins"), to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The government filed an opposition.2 For the following reasons, the Court finds that an evidentiary hearing is not required, the motion is DENIED, and defendant's post-conviction application is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

BACKGROUND
I. Third Superseding Indictment

On January 27, 2012, Wiggins was charged in counts 1, 2, 5, 12, 13, 14, and 19 of a 22-count third superseding indictment alleging numerous violations of the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization ("RICO") Act, the Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering Act, the Federal Gun Control Act, the Controlled Substances Act, and other federal criminal laws.3 As discussed below, Wiggins eventually pleaded guilty to counts 1, 2, and 5.

Count 1 charged a RICO conspiracy to participate in a criminal enterprise known as the "Harvey Hustlers," and its enforcement faction, the "Murder Squad."4 Count 2 charged thatWiggins conspired with his co-defendants and others to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base ("crack").5 Count 5 charged that Wiggins conspired with his co-defendants and others, during and in relation to a crime of violence and drug trafficking crimes, to use and carry firearms, and possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence and drug trafficking crimes as alleged in the third superseding indictment.6

II. Competency Hearing

On January 17, 2013, Wiggins' counsel filed a motion to determine Wiggins' mental competency.7 According to Wiggins' attorney, Majeeda Snead ("Snead"), "[i]n discussions with Mr. Wiggins, there are times when he is not very communicative and even when he is communicative, undersigned counsel is unsure if he fully understands the substance of the conversation."8 Trial was scheduled to commence on January 28, 2013.9 Accordingly, the Court granted the motion, and Wiggins was examined by Dr. Rene Culver on January 23, 2013, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241, with a report provided to the Court and counsel on the following day and a competency hearing held on January 25, 2013.10

At the competency hearing, Dr. Culver's report was filed into the record under seal without objection.11 Dr. Culver testified at the competency hearing that he "examined the defendant for an hour and 15 minutes," "reviewed various legal documents [including] the criminal history, certified convictions, something called factual basis, and the third supersedingindictment," and "examined the records made available to me by his counsel, Mrs. Snead, [which] were very extensive records. About half of them were psychiatric records and about half of them were educational records."12 With respect to the documents, Dr. Culver testified that he received a file of records that was "between a foot and 16 inches" thick,13 and that although he "couldn't read every single word" of the educational records because of the short amount of time he had to conduct his review, he "read all the psychiatric records" and didn't "think [he] missed anything of substance."14 Dr. Culver stated that the educational records "all said pretty much the same thing and I would sometimes skip over it and read, say, what he was doing in the next grade and the next grade and so forth just to get a sample of what was going on."15

Dr. Culver testified that Wiggins had "borderline" intellectual functioning, but that he was not mentally retarded.16 Dr. Culver also testified that Wiggins "claimed not to know things that I cannot believe he would not know,"17 but "by the time this was over it was obvious he simply was not being straightforward with me because these are things that he would have no reason not to know[,] like his own middle name or his nickname."18 Dr. Culver also noted thatWiggins "gave very contradictory answers on other occasions."19 For example, Wiggins first claimed "that he had never had inpatient psychiatric treatment," but later he "gave a completely different answer" and admitted that he had been hospitalized at River Oaks.20 Dr. Culver emphasized that he found "[n]o evidence of a thought disorder, no evidence of psychosis. And that oppositional behavior, I've said, I've quoted him many times saying, 'I don't know, I don't remember.' And this is -- it's a behavioral problem that has been present throughout his lifetime."21

Dr. Culver advised the Court that Wiggins was in control of his behavior,22 and Dr. Culver testified on cross-examination that there was no mental illness that contributed to Wiggins' behavior; Wiggins was being willfully dishonest and uncommunicative.23 Dr. Culvergave an ultimate diagnosis of substance abuse,24 antisocial personality disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning.25 Based on his examination of Wiggins and his review of the records, Dr. Culver concluded that Wiggins was competent to proceed.26

The Court found that "Dr. Culver has a well reasoned opinion with respect to the competency of this defendant and [that] his testimony [was] persuasive and credible."27 No other evidence was presented at the competency hearing. Accordingly, based on Dr. Culver's testimony, "as well as . . . the voluminous records that were examined by Dr. Culver, I find that the defendant is not presently suffering from a mental disease or defect which would render him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense."28

III. Rearraignment

On January 28, 2013, three days after the competency hearing, Wiggins appeared before the Court to plead guilty to counts 1, 2, and 5 pursuant to a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement.29 The Court again found Wiggins to be competent.30 The Court emphasized to Wiggins that he did not have to plead guilty, as the Court had been advised that Wiggins had "wavered before on whether or not you want to plead guilty."31 Wiggins repeatedly admitted to the factual basis and stated that he was pleading guilty because he was in fact guilty.32 He admitted that he and a co-defendant shot Francois resulting in his death.33 Wiggins also stated that he understood the charges against him and the elements of the offenses.34

The Court explained to Wiggins that "you and the government have agreed that you should receive a sentence of 30 years imprisonment as to Counts 1 and 2, and 20 years imprisonment as to Count 5, each sentence to run concurrently."35 Wiggins also stated that: (1) he understood that the Court could reject the 11(c)(1)(C) agreement and impose the maximum possible sentence;36 (2) the mandatory minimum sentences, the maximum possible sentences, and the sentencing guidelines applicable to his case had been explained to him;37 (3) he understood that the sentencing guidelines are advisory and not binding on the court;38 (4) he understood that the Court may depart from the guideline range under certain circumstances;39and (5) he understood that the Court would not be able to calculate the guidelines until the presentence report ("PSR") had been completed and each side had an opportunity to examine and challenge the facts reported by U.S. Probation.40 Wiggins further stated that nobody had told him what sentence he might receive, other than if the Court accepted the 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement.41

Snead stated that she was satisfied that Wiggins was pleading guilty voluntarily and understandingly and with full knowledge of the consequences of his plea.42 Wiggins stated that he was entirely satisfied with the advice and services of Snead.43 The Court found that Wiggins' guilty plea was knowledgeable, voluntary, and had a basis in fact containing all the elements of the crimes charged in counts 1, 2, and 5 of the third superseding indictment, and it accepted the guilty plea as to those counts.44

IV. Sentencing

On July 25, 2013, Wiggins appeared before the Court for sentencing.45 Wiggins' sentencing guidelines were 235 to 293 months based on an offense level of 35 and a criminal history category of IV.46 However, the Court accepted the 11(c)(1)(C) agreement of 30 years,resulting in an upward variance from the sentencing guidelines,47 and representing 30 years' imprisonment as to counts 1 and 2, and 20 years' imprisonment as to count 5, with each sentence to run concurrently.48 The Court also ordered Wiggins to pay $8,000 in restitution to Francois's family49 and ordered Wiggins to be placed on supervised release for a term of 10 years following his release from imprisonment.50 Pursuant to the plea agreement, count 12, which charged Wiggins with murder in aid of racketeering, and counts 13, 14, and 19, which charged various firearms offenses, were dismissed by the Court.51

STANDARD OF LAW

Section 2255(a) provides a prisoner in custody with four grounds upon which relief may be granted: (1) "that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States;" (2) "that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence;" (3) "that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law;" or (4) that the sentence "is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); see Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 426-27 (1962). Section 2255 is designed to remedy constitutional errors and other injuries that could not be brought on direct appeal and would result in injustice if left unaddressed. See United States v. Williamson, 183 F.3d 458, 462 (5th Cir. 1999). "[A] proceeding under Section 2255 is an independent and collateral inquiry into the validity of the conviction . . . ." United States v. Hayman, 342 U.S. 205, 222-23 (1952). The inquiry does not extend to the misapplication of sentencing guidelines. See Williamson, 183 F.3d...

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