United States District Court, D. Minnesota
JOAN N. ERICKSEN, District Judge.
Defendant Marlon Terrell Collins pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine and was sentenced, as a career offender, to 264 months imprisonment. That sentence was affirmed on appeal. United States v. Collins, 546 F.Appx. 598 (8th Cir. 2013).
Collins subsequently filed a pro se motion to vacate or set aside his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, claiming that it had been imposed in violation of his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments. In an order that issued on April 13, 2015, the Court dismissed Collins' Eighth Amendment claims as well as a portion of his Sixth Amendment claims relating to the representation he received in his direct appeal. That left for an evidentiary hearing Collins' claims, asserted under the headings of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, that his guilty plea is invalid because it was induced by the Government's "fraud and misrepresentations" and by the ineffective assistance of his counsel in the district court.
The Court appointed counsel to represent Collins in these proceedings, and an evidentiary hearing was held on July 15, 2015. The Court heard testimony from Collins; from Craig Cascarano, the attorney who represented Collins in his district court proceedings; and from John Biederman, Calvin Meyer, and Sean Harris, three law enforcement officers who made efforts to work with Collins as a confidential informant before he was charged in this matter.
Based on all of the evidence received and the arguments that have been offered, the Court now makes the following findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b) (specifying that it is the duty of the district court to "determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto"). For the reasons explained below, Collins' petition is denied.
I. Findings of fact.
In 1992, Collins was indicted in this District in case No. 3:92-cr-138 (RHK) on two charges: possessing with intent to distribute crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)(iii); and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). Collins was represented in that case by Craig Cascarano, the same defense attorney who would later represent him in this matter. Collins pled guilty to both of the charges and was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment and four years of supervised release.
In 1998, while serving that term of supervised release, Collins was indicted in this District in case No. 98-cr-14 (1) (RHK) on three charges: conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846; possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 2. Collins was again represented by Cascarano. Collins pled guilty to the third count, the first two were dismissed, and he was sentenced to 136 months imprisonment followed by five years of supervised release.
Collins was released from prison and began his term of supervision in 2007. Just as he had during his first term of supervised release, Collins resumed his involvement in the illicit drug trade in the Twin Cities. Collins admitted to purchasing cocaine in quantities up to one kilogram from two Mexican men at an auto body shop in Saint Paul while on supervision. He also admitted to traveling to Arizona on several occasions during the summer of 2010 to obtain quantities of marijuana, totaling approximately 150-200 pounds, to sell in Minnesota. Collins was also suspected of having knowledge of - and perhaps of participating in - home invasions, bank robberies, and other violent crimes in the Twin Cities throughout this period.
This case was precipitated by a trip Collins made to acquire drugs from his Arizona source in early September of 2010. On September 2, Collins went to a FedEx location in Phoenix and sent a box containing approximately 1.5 kilograms of cocaine and 8 kilograms of marijuana to an address in the Twin Cities metro area. Collins' plan was to fly from Phoenix back to Minnesota, wait for the box to be delivered to that address, and then retrieve it from the doorstep, all without the addressee's knowledge.
That plan did not come to fruition. Law enforcement had surveilled Collins in Phoenix and had obtained a search warrant for the FedEx box. When Collins flew from Phoenix to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport on September 3, Minneapolis police officer John Biederman - who was also an ATF task force officer - and a colleague were waiting for him in the terminal in plain clothes. Biederman, who focused on gang, gun, and drug offenses, was aware of Collins' extensive involvement in and knowledge of that type of crime in the Twin Cities, and he was interested in obtaining information from Collins for use in other investigations.
When Collins deplaned, Biederman initiated a discussion with him in a public area of the terminal. Collins admitted to Biederman that he had sent the box with cocaine and marijuana from Phoenix. At the end of the discussion, Collins, who had benefited in the past from providing information to Minneapolis homicide detective Darcy Klung, offered his cooperation to Biederman. Biederman told Collins that he was interested in information about violent offenders, the two exchanged phone numbers, and Collins exited the airport.
Collins claimed that, during that discussion at the airport on September 3 and again at a meeting that took place several days later, Biederman promised him that he would "make this go away" - meaning that Collins would not face charges arising from the box of drugs he had sent from Phoenix - in exchange for his cooperation. However, Biederman unequivocally denied having made any such statement, and explained that he had in fact made clear to Collins from the start that he would be charged over the incident. Collins' account of his interactions with Biederman is not credible; Biederman's is. No benefits of any kind were ever promised to Collins in exchange for his cooperation.
What was offered to Collins was the opportunity to work with federal agents as a confidential informant before being charged and taken into custody. At the time, Collins was on supervised release in case No. 98-cr-14 (1) (RHK). Law enforcement officials consulted with the United States Attorney's Office about the information Collins was positioned to provide and his willingness to cooperate. Thereafter, ATF Special Agent Calvin Meyer and an Assistant United States Attorney approached the district court judge and probation officer ...