United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
December 6, 2012 a jury convicted Reginald Stephens of three
counts of drug-related charges and two charges arising under
the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
("RICO")- On November 14, 2013, Stephens was
sentenced to 300 months' imprisonment and five years'
supervised release, with a $2, 000 fine and a $500 special
assessment. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Mr.
Stephens' conviction and sentence. U.S. v.
Stephens, 612 Fed.Appx. 107 (3d Cir. 2015). Defendant
filed a timely pro se motion to vacate, set aside,
or correct his conviction and sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. (Doc. No. 896.) On April 18, 2016, the
government filed a response in opposition (Doc. No. 921) and
on May 31, 2016 petitioner filed a reply (Doc. No. 932). For
the reasons discussed below, petitioner's motion is
denied in its entirety without an evidentiary hearing.
pertinent factual background is summarized by the Third
Circuit's opinion addressing the appeal of Stephens'
co-conspirator, Ramel Moten:
Moten was a leader of a violent gang known as the
"Harlem Boys" or "Young Hit Men" that
sold narcotics for nine years in the Bartram Village Housing
Development ("Bartram Village") located in
Southwest Philadelphia. From about October 2001 through
approximately October 6, 2010, the Harlem Boys controlled the
illegal drug trade in Bartram Village, and, for most of that
time, Terrance Hamm ran the street-level operations of the
enterprise, which trafficked in crack cocaine, marijuana, and
prescription drugs. Hamm would obtain bulk quantities of
drugs from various sources of supply, prepare the drugs for
sale, and distribute them himself and through a network of
street-level drug dealers. He and his coconspirators used
their residences and other houses or apartments located in or
near Bartram Village to store, cook, package, and sell crack
cocaine, and to store drug proceeds, firearms, and
Around April 2007, after several search warrants were
executed in Bartram Village, Hamm stepped back from his
involvement in the organization's criminal activity.
After that, Moten became the leader of the Harlem Boys. Hamm,
however, later resumed his drug trafficking activities and
continued to obtain, supply, and sell crack in and around
Even before assuming a leadership role, Moten was a supplier
and distributor of illegal narcotics and a gunman for the
enterprise. He committed acts of violence with other members
of the enterprise to protect their turf and frequently
provided firearms to his co-conspirators for use in
robberies, assaults, and other crimes. Merrell Hobbs,
Reginald Stephens, Bryan Hill, Warren Stokes, Hikeem
Torrence, Omar Roane, Damon Turner, Allen Parker, Tayale
Shelton, Shyheem Davis, and Anthony Freeman, were also
distributors of illegal narcotics and gunmen for the
enterprise. Khalil Allen, Andre Tiller, Kareem Pittman, and
Carol Miles were distributors of illegal narcotics. Terrance
Hamm's brother Charles was a supplier of cocaine to the
enterprise and a distributor of illegal narcotics; he also
was responsible for the New Jersey drug sales of the
enterprise. Kareem Pittman, Melika Parker, and Roneisha Scott
maintained premises used by the enterprise to manufacture,
package, store, and sell drugs, and to store guns.
Members of the enterprise committed, attempted, and
threatened to commit acts of violence, including murder,
assault, and robbery, to protect and expand the
enterprise's operations. While some acts of violence
occurred prior to April 2007, the violence intensified in the
years following Terrance Hamm's reduced role and
Moten's elevated role in the gang.
U.S v. Moten. 617 Fed.Appx. 186, 188-89 (3d Cir.
2015). Stephens was charged in the 89-count superseding
indictment with the following charges: conspiracy to
participate in a racketeering enterprise (count 1) in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); conspiracy to
distribute 280 grams of cocaine base (crack) and marijuana
(count 2) in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1)(A), 841(b)(1)(D), and 846; carjacking (count 4) in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2119; carrying and using a
firearm during a violent crime (count 5) in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 924(c); possession with the intent to
distribute marijuana (count 13) in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(D); and possession with the
intent to distribute cocaine base (crack) (counts 19 and 20)
in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and
Standard of Review
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 are the presumptive means
by which federal prisoners can challenge their convictions or
sentences that are allegedly in violation of the
Constitution." Okereke v. United States, 307
F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002). Section 2255 permits a prisoner
sentenced by a federal court to move the court that imposed
the sentence to "vacate, set aside, or correct the
sentence" where: (1) the sentence was imposed in
violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States;
(2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose such
sentence; (3) the sentence was in excess of the maximum
authorized by law; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject
to collateral attack. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).
2255(b) provides the procedure for reviewing the motion:
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. If the court finds
that the judgment was rendered without jurisdiction, or that
the sentence imposed was not authorized by law or otherwise
open to collateral attack, or that there has been such a
denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the
prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral
attack, the court shall vacate and set the judgment aside and
shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new
trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate.
28U.S.C. § 2255(b).
district court is given discretion in determining whether to
hold an evidentiary hearing on a prisoner's motion under
§ 2255. See Gov't of the Virgin Islands v.
Forte, 865 F.2d 59, 62 (3d Cir. 1989); see also
28 U.S.C. § 2255, R. 8(a). In exercising that
discretion, the court must decide whether the prisoner's
claims, if proven, would entitle him to relief and then
consider whether an evidentiary hearing is needed to
determine the truth of the allegations. See Gov't of
the Virgin Islands v. Weatherwax, 20 F.3d 572, 574 (3d.
Cir. 1994). Accordingly, a district court may summarily
dismiss a motion brought under § 2255 without a hearing
where the "motion, files, and records, 'show
conclusively that the ...