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United States v. Lawson

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

February 27, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Plaintiff,
v.
JULIUS LAWSON, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         The Defendant, Julius Lawson, is serving a sentence for his role in attempting to rob a person having custody of mail matter, money, or property of the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 2114(a), using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), and interfering with the performance of duties of an employee of the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 111(a)(1).This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody [ECF No. 135].

         BACKGROUND

         On December 19, 2012, at around 3:30 PM, two men entered the Diplomat Plaza Post Office located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and attempted to rob items from inside the Post Office. An investigation led to the arrest of the Defendant as one of the perpetrators.

         On January 23, 2013, the Government filed an Indictment [ECF No. 18] charging the Defendant with attempting to rob a person having custody of any mail matter, money, or property of the United States and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2114(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count 1); use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count 2); and interference with the performance of the duties of an employee of the United States and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count 3).

         The Court conducted a five-day jury trial, which began on May 14, 2013, and concluded on May 21 when the jury returned verdicts of guilty as to all three counts.

         The jury heard testimony from witnesses who were inside the post office during the attempted robbery. Testimony from a customer revealed that one of the men (the “gunman”) held a gun on her while the other (the “counter-jumper”) jumped over the counter to get behind the clerk stations. The Government presented evidence to support its theory that the Defendant was the counter jumper. A postal employee and window clerk, Cathy Weigold, observed the two subjects when they first entered the customer P.O. box lobby area through the front door. She locked eyes with the counter-jumper. As he entered the customer lobby area where Weigold was working, she saw him pull a mask up from under his chin area, covering his mouth up to the bridge of his nose. Weigold ran into the manager's office, where she and two other employees barricaded themselves until police arrived. She continued to watch the events on a monitor located inside the office and called 911.

         Dawn Hunter was a customer inside the post office when the men entered. The gunman stated “I have a gun” and pointed a gun at her midsection while standing within arm's reach. The counter-jumper walked over to Hunter and rummaged through her purse and wallet, but he took nothing. The gunman then directed Hunter to turn around and kneel in front of him. Hunter then saw the Defendant jump over the middle counter. She witnessed him jump back over and leave with his accomplice.

         While watching the surveillance monitor from the manager's office, Weigold observed the counter-jumper jump the middle counter, then stand in front of the partition located behind the window clerk stations. He went both directions from the partition, including the side where the Manager's office is located. Behind the counter were items of value and cash.

         Surveillance photos show the counter jumper placing his left hand on the counter as he vaulted over it. Surveillance photos also show the gunman and Hunter watching the counter-jumper as he jumps over the counter and then back again before they flee. Hunter remained crouched down on the floor and called 911, twice. During her second call, she relayed that a cell phone located on the counter was going off, and that it had not been there before.

         Police arrived and secured the scene. While police were investigating the scene, the cell phone began to ring. Postal Inspector Kathryn Maxwell viewed the phone's display, which showed a ten-digit number ending in 1880 and read “Violet.” The calls being received were from a phone registered to Violet Hanson, the mother of Lawson's son. That same day, Postal Inspector Andrew Gottfried went to Hanson's residence. While there, he saw the Defendant and another man. Hanson consented to a search of her cell phone. There were seven outgoing calls made to Lawson's phone on the day of the attempted robbery.

         On December 20, FWPD Detective Gary Morales conducted a forensic examination of the cell phone dropped on the counter and determined that the dialing number on the phone was 260-246-8662 with the IMSI number as 310260547716993. The name Violet with number 260-443-1880 was one of the contacts stored in the phone. The phone also contained photographs of an individual taking pictures of himself with the cell phone. The metadata information indicated that the pictures were taken on December 13, 14, 16 and 17, 2012. Inspector Gottfried later identified the individual in those photographs as the Defendant.

         Susan Johnson, Custodian of Records for T-Mobile, also testified at the trial. She explained that the subscriber record information for the prepaid cell phone (recovered from the postal counter) was in the name of Julius Lawson with mobile number 260-246-8662 and IMSI number 310260547716993. The call detail records for the Defendant's phone for the month of December reflected numerous calls and text messages made to and received from Violet Hanson's cell phone number. The T-Mobile call detail records also reflected a call to the Diplomat Plaza Post Office.

         FWPD Detective Joel Slygh testified that he conducted a forensic examination of Hanson's cell phone. The forensic examination report confirmed that the phone number associated with Hanson's phone was in fact 260-443-1880. Hanson's phone ...


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