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Vaughn v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

January 6, 2017

MAURICE D. VAUGHN
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge

         Maurice D. Vaughn (“Vaughn”) has filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct the conviction and sentence that he received in United States v. Vaughn, Case No. 11-cr-90-wmc. Vaughn was convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin in that case and sentenced to 240 months' imprisonment. Vaughn contends that he is entitled to relief because he was denied effective assistance of counsel at his trial and sentencing proceeding. The government has filed a response and Vaughn has submitted a reply. After considering all of the parties' submissions, and based on this court's clear recollection of the relevant proceedings, Vaughn's motion is denied for reasons set forth below.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         I. Offense Conduct

         Vaughn's involvement with drug trafficking offenses began at a young age. At 17 years old, he was involved in a drug transaction that resulted in the shooting death of a customer in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Vaughn was convicted and sentenced to prison as an accessory after the fact in connection with that offense. After serving his sentence and parole for that crime, Vaughn was convicted of cocaine possession in Knox County, Illinois. Soon after, Vaughn was charged in the Western District of Wisconsin with possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, stemming from drug trafficking activities in Beloit. See United States v. Vaughn, 98-cr-81-bbc. In that case, Vaughn was convicted and sentenced to 135 months' imprisonment, later reduced on the government's motion to 108 months, followed by a five-year term of supervised release that terminated in 2008.

         Back on the street in 2007, police began investigating Vaughn for his role in the distribution of heroin in the Beloit area. In June 2007, a confidential informant attempted to purchase two grams of heroin from Vaughn. As part of the controlled buy, the informant wore a wire, got into Vaughn's car and gave Vaughn $250 for a prearranged purchase. Before Vaughn tendered the drugs, however, he checked the informant for a wire. Discovering the wire, Vaughn ripped it off the informant and then kicked the informant out of his car. Vaughn then drove away, tossing the money from the informant out of his car window.

         During this same time period, Vaughn distributed heroin to an individual named Jesse Green. Green told investigators that from January to September 2007, he bought approximately three to five grams of heroin from Vaughn daily.

         Another individual named Patrick Riley told police that he began using heroin purchased from Vaughn beginning in late 2007 or early 2008. Riley told investigators that from 2008 through mid-2010, he received gram quantities of uncut heroin from Vaughn. According to Riley, he first purchased heroin directly from Vaughn. In 2010, however, Vaughn began using Carlos Ford as a distributor. From then on, Vaughn would deliver heroin to Riley through Ford.

         Ford worked as a distributor for Vaughn from December 2009 through March 2010. Vaughn supplied Ford with heroin on a daily basis to sell in exchange for personal-use quantities or cash. In the spring of 2010, Vaughn and Ford had a falling out due to customer complaints about the product's purity. Later, Ford and Vaughn resumed their supplier/distributor relationship under a slightly different arrangement. Rather than customers ordering directly from Ford, as they had in the past, the customers were required to contact Vaughn and then Vaughn would direct them on where and when to meet Ford. Following a customer request, Vaughn would also contact Ford by cell phone, telling him when and where to meet the customer.

         Ford testified that each morning during the summer of 2010, he picked up approximately fifty to seventy small bags containing pre-weighed heroin (also referred to as bindles or “dime bags”) from Vaughn, along with a cell phone that enabled Vaughn to contact him and provide directions for prearranged purchases of heroin. Each day after Ford's shift, Vaughn instructed Ford to drop off the money and any remaining heroin from that day to either Vaughn or Maurice C. Lockhart.

         During that summer, Lockhart served in the same role as Ford and distributed heroin in front of his home in Beloit. Generally, if customers wanted heroin during the day, Vaughn directed them to meet with Ford for the delivery; and if customers wanted heroin in the afternoon or evening, Vaughn directed them to meet with Lockhart. Before his dealings with Vaughn, Ford did not know Lockhart. Further, while Ford obtained heroin from Vaughn and sold it as early as December 2009, Lockhart did not become involved with Vaughn until the spring of 2010, which was when Vaughn began exercising more control over the distribution of heroin.

         After observing Ford driving erratically in Beloit on August 11, 2010, an officer conducted a traffic stop. During that stop, officers searched Ford's person and located a key chain containing two bags of heroin. After Ford was arrested, officers also observed him moving around in the back seat of the squad car as if he was attempting to conceal something behind him. A strip search at the jail revealed seventy bindles containing a total of 11.621 grams of heroin between Ford's buttocks. After weighing the contents of the bags, Detective Andre Sayles estimated that each bindle contained 0.13 gram of heroin. Ford later testified that the seventy bags of heroin in his possession at the time of the arrest was his daily supply from Vaughn.

         II. Indictment in Case No. 11-cr-90

         On August 17, 2011, a grand jury in the Western District of Wisconsin returned a one-count indictment charging that in or about May 2010 and continuing until on or about August 2010, Maurice D. Vaughn and Maurice C. Lockhart knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with each other, with Carlos Ford, who was named as an uncharged co-conspirator, and with other persons known and unknown to the grand jury to distribute 100 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 21 U.S.C. § 846. Before trial, Lockhart moved to dismiss the indictment as impermissibly vague and requested a bill of particulars. This court denied both motions and the case proceeded to trial.

         III. Trial Testimony

         During the trial, several witnesses testified about their interactions with Vaughn and Lockhart, which corroborated Ford's description of their heroin distribution arrangement. The defendants' customers also testified to the amount of heroin they purchased from Lockhart and Ford.

         In addition, Ford's girlfriend, Casie Kast, testified that during the summer of 2010, she would drive Ford to a house in Beloit, where Ford would pick up the day's supply of heroin from Vaughn. Kast not only saw the daily supply of heroin, but used some of that heroin each day. Kast also confirmed that Ford received cell phone calls from Vaughn, instructing Ford on when and where to meet customers for a prearranged purchase. At the end of Ford's shift on approximately fifteen to twenty occasions, Kast explained that she drove Ford to Lockhart's house so that he could drop off the money from the heroin sales and pass the cell phone along to either Vaughn or Lockhart.

         Witnesses Ashley Titus and Darrell Jackson also testified that they used heroin supplied by Ford and Lockhart in the summer of 2010. Specifically, they described contacting an intermediary, Andre Simms, for the purchase of heroin. In their presence, Simms would then make a phone call, and Titus and Jackson would then drive Simms to one of two typical locations as directed. At the designated location, Titus and Jackson would watch as Simms met with one of two distributors, who both identified as Ford and Lockhart.

         Simms further confirmed Titus's and Jackson's testimony about the heroin deals for which he acted as an intermediary, including his heroin purchases from Ford and Lockhart. Simms similarly corroborated Ford's account of the manner in which heroin purchases from Ford changed during the summer of 2010, thereafter requiring Simms to call Vaughn to set up a purchase. Finally, Simms testified that when he called Vaughn to purchase heroin, Vaughn would then instruct Simms to meet with either Ford or Lockhart at a specified location to complete the transaction.

         Lawrence McShan testified that he also served as an intermediary for heroin users in order to support his own heroin habit. In the summer of 2010, McShan would pick up heroin from Ford or Lockhart after calling a designated number to arrange a purchase. The person McShan called would direct him to meet with Ford during the morning hours and to meet with Lockhart during the evening hours. On one occasion, when McShan met with Ford, McShan did not have enough money to cover his purchase. McShan recalled that Ford told him, “You can't be short man. You gonna have to talk to Reese about this.” McShan testified that he knew “Reese” to be Maurice Vaughn.

         Another witness, Crystal Freeman, used McShan as an intermediary for heroin deals, was also able to identify both Lockhart and Ford as heroin distributors. Freeman testified that she watched McShan meet with Lockhart in front of his home on numerous occasions, and although she did not know his name, she recognized Lockhart from prior contact she had with him at her former place of employment in Beloit. On other occasions, McShan would call someone on his cell phone before going to meet Ford. Freeman estimated that McShan met with Ford to purchase heroin for her approximately thirty to forty times during the summer of 2010, and she observed McShan meet with Lockhart to get heroin “every day” that summer. Finally, Freeman confirmed the different shifts during which Ford and Lockhart sold drugs: Ford during the morning, and Lockhart sold in the afternoon and evening.

         During trial, the government also showed each of the customers who testified the bags of heroin seized from Ford at the time of his arrest in August 2010. Kast, Jackson, Simms, and Freeman all identified those bags as representative of the packaging they had seen used when purchasing heroin through either Ford or Lockhart. Customers who bought multiple times in a single day (and who therefore ended up buying from both Ford and Lockhart) testified that the packaging in which they received the heroin was the same, whether purchased from Ford in the morning or Lockhart in the evening.

         Customers also testified to the number of bags and the frequency with which they purchased heroin from Ford and Lockhart during the summer of 2010. The government used the samples seized from Ford as a reference for the average weight of each bag. Detective Sayles, who had seized seventy bags of heroin from Ford after his ...


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