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Coppedge v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

April 3, 2019

AARON COPPEDGE, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on petitioner's motions to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, as amended (DE 215, 219, 221), and the government's motions to dismiss and in the alternative for summary judgment (DE 224, 268). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), United States James E. Gates entered memorandum and recommendation (“M&R”), (DE 292), wherein it is recommended that the court deny petitioner's motions and grant the government's motions. Petitioner timely filed objections to the M&R, and in this posture, the issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, the court adopts the M&R, denies petitioner's motions, and grants the government's motions.

         BACKGROUND

         The court incorporates herein by reference the thorough background of this case set forth in the M&R. The court summarizes below key procedural facts as pertinent to the court's discussion herein. On February 5, 2010, a jury convicted petitioner of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine base (“crack”), in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, four counts of distribution of crack, and one count of possession with intent to distribute crack, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a). This court sentenced petitioner to life imprisonment on May 13, 2010.[1]Petitioner appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the convictions, vacated the sentence, and remanded for resentencing in light of United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir.2011) (en banc). See United States v. Coppedge, 454 Fed.Appx. 202, 208 (4th Cir. 2011). Upon resentencing, this court sentenced petitioner to 360 months imprisonment on all counts running concurrently. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the amended judgment. United States v. Coppedge, 535 Fed.Appx. 288, 289 (4th Cir. 2013).[2]

         Petitioner filed the instant motions in January and February, 2015, relying upon memoranda in support and attachments thereto, including affidavits by petitioner and co-defendant Roy C. Rhodes (“Rhodes”), as well as objections to presentence report submitted by petitioner's trial counsel Steven E. Hight (“Hight”). As summarized in the M&R, the claims raised by the instant motions are as follows:

1) Counsel was ineffective in failing to request informant jury instruction.
2) Counsel was ineffective in failing to argue that petitioner should be sentenced based upon drug type and quantity carrying the least statutory penalty.
3) Counsel was ineffective in failing to raise the Fair Sentencing Act on appeal.
4) Counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate an alibi witness.
5) Counsel was ineffective with respect to entry into a plea agreement.
6) Counsel was ineffective in failing to object at sentencing to a leadership enhancement.
7) Search and seizure of petitioner's cell phone violated Fourth Amendment.
8) Jury received erroneous instruction on aiding and abetting.
9) Violation of due process because of criminal acts of a detective.
10) Petitioner is actually innocent of sentencing enhancements.
11) Petitioner is actually innocent of career offender ...

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