United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER
Reidinger, United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on the Petitioner's Motion
under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct
Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody [CV Doc.
and the Petitioner's Motion for Post-Conviction Discovery
Pursuant to Rule 6 of the Rules Governing 2255 Habeas
Proceedings [CV Doc. 6]. The Petitioner is represented by
attorneys E.J. Hurst, II and Marcia G. Shein.
November 2010, federal and state law enforcement officials
began investigating a large-scale methamphetamine
distribution conspiracy led by Michael James Taylor and
involving several others, including William Wesley Hargett,
Sonya Maddy, Larry Watkins, Kirsten McGillivray, Adam
Cochran, Johnny Frady, and Ricky Fisher. Through their
investigation, law enforcement officials learned that Taylor
owned the Budget Inn Motel in Sylva, North Carolina, and used
the motel as a distribution point for large quantities of
methamphetamine. Taylor and other members of his distribution
network also conducted drug transactions at a house located
at 19 Pine Street, Greenville, South Carolina (“the
Pine Street residence”), as well as other locations
within the Western District of North Carolina. [Criminal Case
No. 2:12-cr-00011-MR-DCK, Doc. 19 at ¶¶ 10, 11, 17,
3, 2011, the Petitioner William Andrew Estes was released
from the North Carolina Department of Corrections after
serving a 14-year sentence for first degree kidnapping. Prior
to the Petitioner's imprisonment, the Petitioner was in a
relationship with Taylor's mother and acted as a
step-father to him. Also at some point, Taylor and the
Petitioner were incarcerated together and maintained their
bond during that time. After his release from prison, the
Petitioner contacted Taylor to discuss his financial
situation and to talk about ways that the Petitioner could
make money. Eventually, Taylor informed the Petitioner about
his methamphetamine distribution and the Petitioner began to
work for Taylor. [Id. at ¶¶ 12].
Petitioner was considered Taylor's “enforcer”
during the conspiracy. [Id. at ¶ 35]. Taylor
referred to the Petitioner as his “right hand man,
” although the Petitioner very rarely dealt directly
with the sale or distribution of methamphetamine.
[Id.]. One co-conspirator described the
Petitioner's job as “beat[ing] people up and
threaten[ing] people on behalf of Taylor.”
[Id. at ¶ 27]. The Petitioner is 6'2”
tall and weighs 200 pounds. [Id. at 3].
Petitioner was often observed in Taylor's presence when
methamphetamine was sold or distributed. [Id. at
¶¶ 24, 25]. The Petitioner was observed on one
occasion by a co-conspirator at the Pine Street residence
when Michael Taylor received a delivery of approximately
2½ pounds of methamphetamine from a Mexican male. The
Petitioner was observed assisting Taylor with weighing and
repackaging the methamphetamine. [Id. at ¶ 19].
2011, the Petitioner accompanied Taylor to meet with a
co-conspirator who owed Taylor money for a drug debt. During
that meeting, Taylor demanded that the co-conspirator turn
over the keys to her car as payment for the drug debt.
[Id. at ¶ 30].
another occasion in June 2011, law enforcement officials
conducting telephonic surveillance of the conspiracy members
heard Taylor direct a co-conspirator to use a vehicle to
transport methamphetamine. Law enforcement later heard the
Petitioner, in Taylor's absence, coordinating the pickup
of that vehicle after the methamphetamine was delivered.
[Id. at ¶ 20].
2011, the Petitioner accompanied Taylor to a
co-conspirator's house where Taylor introduced the
Petitioner as a friend who had just gotten out of prison. The
Petitioner accompanied Taylor on multiple other occasions to
the co-conspirator's residence when Taylor was dropping
off or picking up bulk amounts of methamphetamine. Taylor
frequently used two magnetic boxes attached to the underside
of his pickup truck to transport or hide methamphetamine. The
Petitioner was present and witnessed Taylor using these
boxes. [Id. at ¶ 25].
his arrest in August 2011, the Petitioner was housed in the
same jail as Taylor and other co-conspirators. Taylor was
overheard in the jail directing the Petitioner upon his
release to travel to South Carolina to get money from
“Shane” and “Pops, ” individuals who
were known to distribute methamphetamine for the Taylor
conspiracy. Taylor and the Petitioner were also overheard
trying to identify who was “snitching” within the
conspiracy. [Id. at ¶ 31].
incarcerated, the Petitioner continued to speak freely about
the conspiracy to other inmates. The Petitioner detailed one
event that occurred around July 4, 2011, when some unknown
Mexicans made a delivery of methamphetamine to a motel in
South Carolina where the Petitioner was present. The
Petitioner was patrolling the area outside the motel while
waiting for Taylor. At this point, the Petitioner and Taylor
were suspicious that one of the co-conspirators was
cooperating with law enforcement. That co-conspirator was
also travelling to the motel and the Petitioner believed that
the co-conspirator intended to follow the Mexicans back to
Atlanta, Georgia, to provide law enforcement with the
location. [Id. at ¶ 32].
Petitioner stated in these jail house conversations that he
never sold any methamphetamine but had been present when
methamphetamine deliveries were made. The Petitioner also
described incidents where he confronted one of the members of
the conspiracy by “putting hands on him” because
the co-conspirator owed Taylor money. [Id. at ¶
the Petitioner stopped talking freely about the conspiracy
because he heard that an acquaintance had provided a
statement to law enforcement. The Petitioner was heard saying
that he was having someone find out when the acquaintance
would be released and where he would reside. The Petitioner
further stated that he had guns “stashed” and
that if he “got out, ” they would not have to
worry about witnesses. [Id. at ¶ 34].
21, 2012, while housed at the Cherokee County Detention
Center in Murphy, North Carolina, the Petitioner was involved
in an altercation with two of his co-defendants, Lonnie
Payne, Jr. and Adam Cochran. According to Payne and Cochran,
the door between two inmate housing areas was left open and
the Petitioner was able to enter the pod where Cochran and
Payne were standing. When the Petitioner entered the pod he
assaulted both Payne and Cochran. During the altercation,
witnesses overheard the Petitioner yelling about Payne and
Cochran “turning evidence.” Both Payne and
Cochran sustained physical injuries from the assault. The
Petitioner later admitted committing the assaults and told
law enforcement officers he could have easily killed Payne
and Cochran but did not. [Id. at ¶¶
September 20, 2011, the Petitioner was charged in a Bill of
Indictment, along with ten co-defendants, with conspiracy to
possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of actual
methamphetamine and at least 500 grams of a mixture or
substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine,
in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846.
[Criminal Case No. 2:11-cr-00022-MR-DLH-2, Doc. 74]. The
Federal Defenders of Western North Carolina were appointed to
represent the Petitioner.
18, 2012, the Petitioner entered into a Plea Agreement in
which he agreed to plead guilty to a Bill of Information that
charged a conspiracy involving a lower drug quantity, in
exchange for which the Government agreed to dismiss the
Indictment against the Petitioner. [Criminal Case No.
2:12-cr-00011-MR-DCK, Docs. 1 and 2]. The effect of this was
to reduce the mandatory minimum sentence from ten years to
Plea Agreement, the parties made a series of joint sentencing
recommendations to the Court, including the following:
a. The amount of actual methamphetamine that was known to or
reasonably foreseeable by the defendant was 947.6 grams,
which is a base offense level of 36, pursuant to U.S.S.G.
b. The defendant's offense level is decreased by three
levels to 33, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(a)(5),
because he is entitled to an adjustment, pursuant to U.S.S.G.
§ 3B1.2, for a mitigating role[;]
c. The defendant's offense level is further decreased to
32, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(a)(5), because the
resulting offense level was greater than 32 and the defendant
was a minimal participant; d. The defendant's offense
level is increased by two levels to 34, pursuant to U.S.S.G.
§ 2D1.1(b)(2), because the defendant used violence or
made a credible threat to use violence;
e. The defendant's offense level is decreased by four
levels to 30, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2(a), because
the defendant was a minimal participant; f. The
defendant's offense level is decreased two additional
levels to 28, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(15),
because the defendant was a minimal participant and he was
motivated by an intimate or familial relationship to commit
the offense and was otherwise unlikely to commit such an
offense; the defendant received no monetary compensation from
the illegal purchase, sale, transport or storage of
controlled substance; and the defendant had minimal knowledge
of the scope and structure of the enterprise;
* * *
i. The parties agree that the appropriate sentence is one at
the low end of the “applicable guideline range”
and that neither party will seek a departure or variance from
the low ...