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United States v. Curran

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 16, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DANIEL THOMAS CURRAN, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          William W. Caldwell, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Before the court is Defendant Daniel Thomas Curran's motion (Doc. 127) to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. After careful review, the court will deny Defendant's motion.[1]

         II. Background

         By indictment dated November 20, 2013, Defendant was charged with production of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a) (Count I), and possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B) (Count II). (Doc. 16). Defendant pleaded not guilty. (Doc. 23).

         On March 14, 2014, Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress evidence, seeking to exclude inculpatory evidence found in three bags that belonged to him, as well as evidence found in his storage unit that he claimed was “fruit of the poisonous tree.” (Doc. 40; Doc. 61 at 3-4). After an evidentiary hearing, this court denied Defendant's motion to suppress in a memorandum opinion. (Doc. 68).

         On September 10, 2014, the Government filed a superseding indictment. (Doc. 74). The superseding indictment charged Defendant with production of child pornography (Count I) and possession of child pornography (now Count III), and added a charge of receipt of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(2) (Count II). (Doc. 74). The approximate offense dates provided in the superseding indictment for Count II (receipt) were “June 4, 2007 through April 1, 2011, ” and the approximate offense dates for Count III (possession) were “August 1, 2013 through September 24, 2013.” (Id. at 3-5). Defendant initially pleaded not guilty to the superseding indictment. (Doc. 83).

         In November 2014, Defendant signed a written plea agreement with the Government, (Doc. 89), and, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(a)(2), entered a conditional plea of guilty to all three charges in the superseding indictment, (Doc. 94). This guilty plea was conditioned on Defendant's ability to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.

         On June 4, 2015, this court sentenced Defendant to 840 months' imprisonment, which consisted of 360 months on Count I and 240 months on each of Counts II and III, to be served consecutive with each other and with Count I. (Doc. 117 at 2). Defendant appealed the denial of his suppression motion as well as the substantive reasonableness of his sentence. United States v. Curran, 638 F. App'x 149 (3d Cir. 2016). The Third Circuit affirmed on both issues, id. at 150, and the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari on October 3, 2016, Curran v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 180 (2016) (mem.).

         On April 21, 2017, Defendant timely filed the instant motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 127). He raises four grounds for relief: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) double jeopardy regarding Count II (receipt of child pornography) and Count III (possession of child pornography); (3) a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights related to the search and seizure of his bags; and (4) unlawful seizure of his person in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Government filed a response to Defendant's claims, (Doc. 131), and Defendant filed a reply shortly thereafter, (Doc. 134). The motion is now ripe for disposition.

         III. Discussion

         In his § 2255 motion, Defendant raises four claims for relief. The court will address each claim, but in a different order than presented in Defendant's motion.

         A. Fourth Amendment Claim Regarding Search of Bags

         In claim three of his § 2255 motion, Defendant once again argues that his bags were unlawfully searched and seized, and that their contents should have been suppressed as a consequence. The problem for Defendant is that this claim has already been fully litigated by this court and by the Third Circuit. See generally (Doc. 68); United States v. Curran, 638 F. App'x 149 (3d Cir. 2016). Accordingly, it will not be relitigated at the § 2255 motion stage. See United States v. Travillion, 759 F.3d 281, 288 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing United States v. DeRewal, 10 F.3d 100, 105 n.4 (3d Cir. 1993)) (“[I]ssues resolved in a prior direct appeal will not be reviewed again by way of a § 2255 motion.”). Consequently, relief on this claim will be summarily denied.

         B. Unlawful Seizure of Defendant at the Storage Facility

         Defendant labels his fourth claim as “Over Using Authority.” (Doc. 127 at 8). He asserts that police officers “man handled” the storage operator to open the gate to the storage units, and handcuffed Defendant behind the gate without an arrest warrant. (Id.) From his motion and reply brief, it appears that Defendant is raising a Fourth Amendment claim, alleging that the officers wrongfully arrested him without a warrant.

         This claim falters for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, Defendant failed to raise this claim in his initial criminal proceedings in this court or on direct appeal, and has provided no reason why he could not have raised the claim during those proceedings. Consequently, he is precluded from raising it for the first time in his § 2255 motion. Travillion, 759 F.3d at 288 n.11 (citing DeRewal, 10 F.3d at 105 n.4) (“[I]ssues which should have been raised on direct appeal may not be raised with a § 2255 motion.”); Ray v. United States, 721 F.3d 758, 761 (6th Cir. 2013) (“[A] § 2255 motion is not a substitute for a direct appeal. Accordingly, claims that could have been raised on direct appeal, but were not, will not be entertained via a motion under § 2255 unless ...


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