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United States v. Brooks

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 24, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
RYAN DIMITRI BROOKS, SR., Defendant.

          LeeAnn K. Bell, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for plaintiff.

          Ryan D. Brooks, Sr., pro se.

          ORDER

          Patrick J. Schiltz United States District Judge

         Defendant Ryan Brooks pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 95 months' imprisonment. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed Brooks's sentence on direct appeal. United States v. Brooks, 681 Fed.Appx. 566 (8th Cir. 2017).

         This matter is before the Court on Brooks's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Brooks has also filed a motion to supplement his § 2255 motion and two motions demanding production of evidence that he believes is relevant to his § 2255 motion. For the reasons that follow, Brooks's motion to supplement is granted, the (supplemented) § 2255 motion is denied, and the two motions seeking production of evidence are denied. Because the record conclusively demonstrates that Brooks is not entitled to relief, no hearing is necessary. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); Noe v. United States, 601 F.3d 784, 792 (8th Cir. 2010).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Brooks, his grandmother, his mother, and his girlfriend were involved in a family drug-distribution operation. According to the government, the center of the operation was a pizza restaurant owned by Brooks, through which the family allegedly laundered the proceeds of their drug dealing.

         In November 2014, law enforcement received a tip about drug deliveries that were being made to Brooks's restaurant and to his grandmother's house. ECF No. 33 at ¶ 7. Between August 2012 and October 2013, four different marijuana deliveries were intercepted on their way to one of those two locations. Id. A search warrant was executed on a fifth package set to be delivered to Brooks's grandmother's house on November 20, 2014. Id. A search of that package revealed over five pounds of marijuana. Id.

         In the aftermath of this discovery, additional search warrants were obtained for four Brooks family properties. Id. at ¶ 9. Police discovered two guns and distribution quantities of drugs, along with much other evidence of drug dealing. Id. at ¶¶ 10-12. Brooks, his grandmother, his mother, and his girlfriend were arrested, and all of them ultimately pleaded guilty to (or were found guilty of) various state and federal crimes. See ECF No. 26; ECF No. 78-1; ECF No. 78-2; ECF No. 78-3.

         Brooks was the first to plead guilty. After being charged with an array of crimes in state and federal court, Brooks pleaded guilty in federal court on August 26, 2015 to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. ECF No. 26. Pursuant to Brooks's plea agreement, the federal government agreed that it would move to dismiss a second count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. ECF No. 26 at 1. The plea agreement did not say a word about the pending state charges against Brooks and his family members. See ECF No. 26. The plea agreement also affirmatively represented that “[t]his is the entire agreement and understanding between the United States and the defendant. There are no other agreements, promises, representations, or understandings.” ECF No. 26 at 7. And at his change-of-plea hearing, Brooks testified under oath that the government had not made any promises to him that were not described in the plea agreement. ECF No. 56 at 19.

         Shortly after Brooks entered his guilty plea in federal court, his grandmother, mother, and girlfriend all pleaded guilty to (or were found guilty of) various crimes in state court. Brooks's grandmother pleaded guilty in August 2015 to fifth-degree possession, Brooks's girlfriend pleaded guilty in September 2015 to first-degree possession, and Brooks's mother was convicted in October 2015[1] of engaging in the business of concealing criminal proceeds. ECF No. 78-1; ECF No. 78-2; ECF No. 78-3. By the end of 2015, Brooks's grandmother, mother, and girlfriend had all been sentenced. Id.

         Brooks was sentenced on his federal conviction on April 8, 2016. ECF No. 47. In calculating Brooks's range under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, the Court applied two enhancements that are relevant to Brooks's § 2255 motion. First, the Court found that Brooks's base offense level was increased to 24 because he had two prior felony convictions of a “crime of violence”-specifically, convictions of second-degree assault and third-degree assault under Minnesota law. See U.S.S.G. §§ 4B1.1, 4B1.2(a)(1); ECF No. 41 at 9; ECF No. 33 at ¶ 25. Second, the Court applied a four-level enhancement because Brooks had possessed the weapon in connection with another felony-specifically, possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. See U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B); ECF No. 33 at ¶ 28. The parties had stipulated to this latter enhancement. ECF No. 26 at ¶ 5(b). Brooks was also given a three-point reduction for acceptance of responsibility, resulting in a total offense level of 25. ECF No. 26 at ¶ 5(c); ECF No. 57 at 5.

         The Court calculated Brooks's criminal-history category as VI and his Guidelines range as 110 to 120 months. (The range was capped at 120 months by the statutory maximum.) ECF No. 57 at 5. The Court granted a downward variance and sentenced Brooks to 95 months' imprisonment. ECF No. 57 at 13. Shortly after Brooks's sentencing in federal court, the state charges against Brooks were dismissed. ECF No. 76 at 4.

         Brooks appealed his 95-month sentence, arguing that it “was unreasonable and greater than necessary to accomplish the goals of federal sentencing.” Brief of Appellant at i, United States v. Brooks, 681 Fed.Appx. 566 (8th Cir. 2017) (No. 16-1982). Brooks did not challenge any of the Court's Guidelines calculations or other rulings. The Eighth Circuit rejected Brooks's argument and affirmed his sentence. United States v. Brooks, 681 Fed.Appx. 566 (8th Cir. 2017).

         Brooks then filed a § 2255 petition. In his original petition, Brooks argued only that he was denied effective assistance of counsel when his lawyer failed to argue that his prior second-degree assault conviction was not a “crime of violence” and thus should not have been used to increase his base offense level. ECF No. 69. Brooks later filed a motion to supplement his § 2255 petition-a motion to which the government has not objected-in order to argue that his lawyer was ineffective in connection with the four-level enhancement that he received under § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) for possessing a weapon in connection with another felony. ECF No. 70. Brooks argues that he stipulated to the § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) enhancement only because the federal government made a secret promise that the State of Minnesota would not to pursue criminal charges against his grandmother, mother, and girlfriend-and that his attorney was ineffective in entering or failing to enforce that deal. Alternatively, Brooks argues that his attorney erred in advising him that application of the § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) enhancement was a foregone conclusion, when, in fact, it was unlikely that the government could have established that the enhancement applied. Brooks alleges that, had he been properly advised, and had he known that the government would not abide by its secret promise, Brooks would not have “forf[ei]ted a Factual hearing” by stipulating to the § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) enhancement; instead, he would have “insisted in having the Government[']s evidence.” ECF No. 70 at 2, 5.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. ...


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