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United States v. Copeland

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 12, 2014

United States of America, Plaintiff-Respondent,
Byron Reggie Copeland (3), Defendant-Petitioner.

Jeffrey S. Paulsen and John Marti, United States Attorney's Office, 300 South Fourth Street, Suite 600, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415, on behalf of Plaintiff-Respondent.

Byron Reggie Copeland, U.S.P. Leavenworth, P.O. Box 1000, Leavenworth, Kansas 66048, Pro Se.



This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge on Defendant-Petitioner Byron Reggie Copeland's pro se motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for an order of this Court to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence (Doc. No. 901) and his pro se Motion for Production of Documents (Doc. No. 902). The Government opposes Petitioner-Defendant's motion. (Govt.'s Opp'n Mem. [Doc. No. 904].) Petitioner-Defendant also filed a reply memorandum to the Government's response to his motion. (Reply [Doc. No. 905].) Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings therein, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Defendant-Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, and grants in part and denies in part his Motion for Production of Documents.


In March 1999, Defendant-Petitioner was charged in a multi-count indictment with seventeen other defendants on drug conspiracy-related charges. (Indictment [Doc. No. 1].) Following a plea agreement, on May 30, 2003, Defendant-Petitioner was sentenced to time served on a single count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, and was placed on supervised release for a period of ten years. (Minutes [Doc. No. 769]; Sentencing J. [Doc. No. 770]; Am. J. [Doc. No. 771].) During this ten-year period, Copeland violated his conditions of supervised release several times, for which he was separately sentenced on January 23, 2004 [Doc. Nos. 799; 800], December 6, 2005 [Doc. Nos. 812; 813], and December 21, 2012 [Doc. Nos. 898; 899].

In the § 2255 motion presently before the Court, Copeland seeks to vacate the most recent sentence issued on December 21, 2012. The allegations that led to Copeland's December 21 sentencing are found in the Petition on Supervised Release dated October 9, 2012. In the Petition on Supervised Release, a United States Probation Officer alleged that Copeland had violated two previously-imposed mandatory conditions of supervised release: (1) that he not commit another federal, state, or local crime; and (2) that he not unlawfully possess a controlled substance. (Petition at 1 [Doc. No. 889].) In support of these claims, the Petition on Supervised Release alleged that in 2012, law enforcement officers determined that Copeland was involved in narcotics trafficking and that he admitted to selling marijuana. (Id. at 1-2.) The Petition also alleged that Defendant-Petitioner was charged with fifth degree misdemeanor assault in Ramsey County District Court. (Id. at 2.) In addition, the Petition on Supervised Release alleged that Copeland violated a previously-imposed standard condition of supervised release - that he not leave this judicial district without permission of the court or probation officer. (Id. at 2.) As further alleged, Copeland admitted to law enforcement officers that he had traveled to California without authorization on multiple occasions during the period of his supervised release. (Id.)

On December 21, 2012, a final hearing on the revocation of Copeland's supervised release was held before the undersigned judge. (Minutes of 12/21/12 Hearing [Doc. No. 898].) At that hearing, Copeland admitted to the violations alleged in the Petition on Supervised Release, with the exception of the assault allegation. (Tr. at 4-6 [Doc. No. 912].) Because the assault charge was still pending in state court at the time of Copeland's final revocation hearing, it was not included in the analysis of his supervised release violations. (Id. at 6.) As a result of Copeland's admission, the Government did not present evidence or witness testimony at the final revocation hearing in support of the allegations contained in the Petition on Supervised Release. (Id. at 4-5.) In exchange for Copeland's admission, the Government joined with Defendant-Petitioner in recommending to the Court a sentence of 24 months with no supervised release upon completion of the sentence. (Id.) In addition, the Government recommended that Copeland be given a reasonable period of time for voluntary surrender. (Id. at 4.) Copeland was represented by attorney James Behrenbrinker at the hearing.

At the hearing, the Court informed Copeland that he was free to admit or deny the allegations. (Id. at 5.) If he chose to admit them, the Court advised that the allegations would be accepted as true. If he chose to deny them, the Government would be required to establish that the allegations were true by a preponderance of the evidence. (Id.) Indicating that he understood that he was giving up certain rights by admitting the allegations, Defendant-Petitioner admitted them:

THE COURT: And do you choose today to admit those allegations or deny them?
DEFENDANT: I choose to admit them.

(Id. at 4-6.) Accordingly, the Court found that Copeland had violated the terms and conditions of his supervised release. (Id. at 6-7.)

In determining an appropriate sentence for these violations, the Court observed that one of the violations to which Copeland had admitted guilt was a Grade A violation. (Id. at 7.) Further, the court noted that Copeland's Criminal History Score was VI. (Id.) The Court indicated that under these circumstances, the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines (the "Guidelines") recommend a sentencing range of 51-60 months. (Id.) However, because Copeland had been imprisoned for 12 months, the maximum sentence that he would face was 48 months. (Id.) Copeland indicated his understanding of the kinds of sentences available and the sentencing ranges. (Id.)

In issuing the sentence, the Court considered the sentencing factors found in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), including the seriousness of the offense, the need for punishment and deterrence, the protection of the public, and the need for Defendant-Petitioner to obtain treatment and training. (Id. at 8.) In addition, the Court noted Copeland's long history of criminal activity. (Id.) The Court further advised Defendant-Petitioner of his Criminal History Category, the classification of the supervised release violations, and the kinds of sentences and range of sentences available. (Id. at 6-7.) The Court thereupon accepted the recommendation of a 24-month sentence to which the parties had agreed and allowed Copeland a period of time for voluntary surrender. (Id. at 7-8.)

Defendant-Petitioner did not appeal this sentence. On November 13, 2013, Defendant-Petitioner filed the instant pro se § 2255 motion alleging that his December 21, 2012 sentence violates the Due Process Clause and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel related to this sentencing. (Pet. & Mot. to Vacate at 5-6 [Doc. No. 901].) Specifically, Defendant contends that his counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the sentence or to appeal it on due process grounds. (Id.)

In connection with his § 2255 motion, Defendant-Petitioner also seeks the production of certain documents from the Clerk of Court. ...

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