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United States v. Hedgepeth

June 14, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge


I. Introduction

We are considering the motion, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, of Defendant Darin L. Hedgepeth, an inmate at Federal Correctional Institution - Allenwood. (doc. 105). Hedgepeth claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. Because the record conclusively contradicts Hedgepeth's claim, we will deny his motion.

II. Background

In October 2003, Hedgepeth was indicted on counterfeiting, drugs, and firearms charges. After three superseding indictments, a jury convicted Hedgepeth of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), possession of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 844, and possession of crack cocaine while on pre-trial release in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 844 and 18 U.S.C. § 3147. Hedgepeth was acquitted on one of the firearms charges and the jury did not reach a verdict on the counterfeiting charge. (doc. 85). Hedgepeth was sentenced to 115 months' imprisonment. Id. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. United States v. Hedgepeth, 434 F.3d 609 (3d Cir. 2006).

On October 5, 2006, Hedgepeth filed a § 2255 motion, an application to proceed without prepayment of fees, and a motion to receive, free of charge, trial transcripts and copies of defense motions. (docs. 105, 106). The motion claimed that we should have appointed substitute counsel prior to trial and that Hedgepeth received ineffective assistance of counsel. (doc. 105, p. 5). Upon initial review, on December 28, 2006, we dismissed the substitution of counsel claim. (doc. 110). We also denied the motion to receive the transcripts and other documents free of charge; however, we permitted Hedgepeth to purchase trial transcripts at a significantly reduced cost and allowed him forty days to file an amended § 2255 petition, limited to the ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Id. An amended claim was not filed.

As originally stated, the ineffective assistance claim alleged: "Counsel failed to obtain legally relevant facts from Client; failed to pursue obvious leads provided by his Client; failed to garner corroberating [sic] evidence for defense; failed to interview or attempt to interview key witnesses or examine affidavits and proceeded to trail [sic] even though he was patently unprepared." (doc. 105, p. 12). The ineffectiveness claim also contended that appointed counsel failed to engage in adversarial testing of the government's witnesses. Id. After reviewing the motion, we allowed him another thirty days to provide additional detail regarding his claims. (doc. 111). Our Order directed Hedgepeth to provide factual support for: (1) the "legally relevant facts" which appointed counsel failed to obtain, (2) the "obvious leads" Defendant provided to counsel, (3) the potentially corroborating evidence which Defendant's appointed counsel could have obtained, (4) the "key witnesses" who appointed counsel could have interviewed, (5) the information "key witnesses" could have provided and how it would have benefitted Hedgepeth's case, and (6) the specific acts or omissions demonstrating that appointed counsel was "patently unprepared" for trial. Id.

In response, Hedgepeth filed a supplemental brief which added little detail to his § 2255 motion. (docs. 112). Based on the supplemental brief, the claims largely stem from appointed counsel's alleged failure to pursue information provided by Hedgepeth regarding eyewitnesses at the scene of his arrest. According to Hedgepeth, neighbors and others on the street witnessed his arrest and observed the police planting a white trash bag, found to contain incriminating evidence, in Hedgepeth's vehicle. (doc. 112, p. 2). Hedgepeth claims that "[t]he testimony of these witnesses coupled with contradictory statements of officer [sic] under oath would have supported defenses [sic] version of events leading to acquittal." Id.

III. Discussion

Section 2255 sets forth the standard for evaluating whether we should conduct an evidentiary hearing for Hedgepeth's claim, providing:

Unless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court shall cause notice thereof to be served upon the United States attorney, grant a prompt hearing thereon, determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto.

The Third Circuit describes our inquiry as follows:

When a motion is made under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 the question of whether to order a hearing is committed to the sound discretion of the district court. In exercising that discretion the court must accept the truth of the movant's factual allegations unless they are clearly frivolous on the basis of the existing record. Further, the court must order an evidentiary hearing to determine the facts unless the motion and files and records of the case show conclusively that the movant is not entitled to relief.

United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Virgin Islands v. Forte, 865 F.2d 59, 62 (3d Cir. 1989)). We find no need for an evidentiary hearing because the record conclusively establishes that Hedgepeth is ...

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