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Jones v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 27, 2018

BRUCE JONES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR RELIEF PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 2255 AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Relief Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 filed by Petitioner Bruce Jones ("Jones"). For the reasons discussed in this Entry, the motion is denied and dismissed with prejudice. In addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability should not issue.

         I. SECTION 2255 MOTION STANDARDS

         A motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is the presumptive means by which a federal prisoner can challenge his conviction or sentence. See Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974). A court may grant relief from a federal conviction or sentence pursuant to § 2255 "upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). The scope of relief available under § 2255 is narrow, limited to "an error of law that is jurisdictional, constitutional, or constitutes a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice." Borre v. United States, 940 F.2d 215, 217 (7th Cir. 1991) (internal citations omitted).

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Pre-Trial

         On May 15, 2012, Jones was charged in a 48-count Indictment with one count of health care fraud, forty-six counts of felon in possession of a firearm and one count of felon in possession of ammunition. See USA v. Jones, l:12-cr-00072-TWP-DML (hereinafter, "Crim. Dkt"), Crim. Dkt. 1. Prior to Indictment, Jones was represented by Linda Wagoner, who did not make a formal appearance in the case. See, e.g., Crim. Dkt. 243 at 7 (referencing a plea offer made to counsel Linda Wagoner). Thereafter, Jones went through a number of different lawyers during his proceedings, including (1) Larry Champion, Crim. Dkt. 10, (2) Zaki M. Ali, Crim. Dkt. 15, (3) John D. Manley ("Manley"), Crim. Dkt. 35, (4) Charles David Pumphrey ("Pumphrey"), Crim. Dkt. 58, and (5) Richard Mark Inman ("Inman"), Crim. Dkt. 207.

         On June 4, 2013, the charges against Jones were consolidated and a federal grand jury returned a four-count Second Superseding Indictment. Crim. Dkt. 49. Count 1 charged Jones with health care fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1347. Counts 2-4 each charged Jones with being a felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Jones was prohibited from possessing firearms based on a prior felony conviction on March 12, 1985 for dealing a Schedule IV controlled substance (lorazepam and the sedative ethchlorvynol) to another person. Crim. Dkt. 175 at 9.

         On June 13, 2013, the Court granted the Government's Motion to Sever Count 1 from Counts 2-4 (Crim. Dkt. 77) and Jones' Motion to Sever Counts and Request for Separate Trials (Crim. Dkt. 80). In particular, the Court severed Count 1 ("health care fraud") from Counts 2-4 ("felon in possession of firearms") and ordered that the firearm charges be tried separately. Crim. Dkt. 94.

         B. Trial 1: Felon in Possession of Firearm

         The Government elected to first proceed with trial on the firearm charges. Jones was represented by attorneys Pumphrey and Manley. On July 5, 2013, the Court denied Jones' seventh motion for continuance of the trial and ordered that the jury trial would proceed as scheduled on July 8, 2013. Crim. Dkt. 130. On the morning of trial, Jones failed to appear because he had been hospitalized that morning following a self-overdose of prescription medications. Crim. Dkt. 135; Crim. Dkt. 229 (July 8, 2013 status hearing). Based on his failure to appear, the Government moved for detention under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(2) on the grounds that Jones was a risk of flight, posed a risk of obstructing justice, posed a risk of harm to any other member of the community (himself), and based upon his actions there were no conditions or combinations of conditions that could have reasonably assured his attendance at trial. Crim. Dkt. 137. The Court granted the motion.

         Jones was taken into custody and appeared in court the next day, July 9, 2013. The Court granted Jones' request to continue the trial and sua sponte ordered a new competency evaluation[1]based on Jones' irrational behavior. Crim. Dkt. 138. The Court explained that although "Mr. Jones may be manipulative; and this may have been his whole plan to get his eighth continuance," it felt obliged to take that step. Crim. Dkt. 230 at 8, 14 (July 8, 2013 status hearing). Judith Campbell, Ph.D. ("Dr. Campbell"), a forensic psychologist, examined and evaluated Jones. On October 15, 2013. a competency hearing was held. Dr. Campbell reported that Jones "exhibits a pervasive pattern of grandiosity and inflated self-importance, a belief that he is unique and special, and a[] sense of entitlement." Crim. Dkt. 243 at 4-5. Dr. Campbell offered a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood and Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified with Narcissistic Features (Crim. Dkt. 148 at 7-8). The Court found by a preponderance of the evidence that Jones had the present mental competency to proceed with trial. Crim. Dkt. 243 at 4- 5. The Court expressed "doubts [during the competency hearing] that the suicide attempt was accidental. I think it was an intentional attempt... to be manipulative, to obstruct justice." Id. at 34-35. In support of that conclusion, the Court noted that Jones was a licensed substance abuse counselor "in the business of recommending dosage for the exact types of medications that he almost overdosed on." Id. at 35.

         A four-day jury trial on the firearm charges was held from October 21 -24, 2013. After less than an hour of deliberations, the jury found Jones guilty of the three firearm charges. Crim. Dkt. 222 at 100. On March 25, 2014, the Court sentenced Jones to three concurrent 100-month terms of imprisonment. Crim. Dkt. 224 at 76. A two-level increase for obstruction of justice was added because Jones had failed to appear for trial on July 8, 2013, by overdosing on a cocktail of prescription drugs that he was familiar with, and for instructing his neighbor to remove numerous firearms from his cabin in Montana in an effort to hide them from federal authorities. Id. at 15- 18. Relevantly, in pronouncing the sentence, the Court reiterated the following:

Mr. Jones is well educated and a very intelligent man. He has numerous degrees, including a certification as an addiction specialist, which leads this Court to believe, despite what Mr. Jones says, that he did intentionally take an overdose of prescription medications the morning of trial to delay going to trial after the Court denied his numerous requests for a continuance.
He has a degree in criminal justice and criminology that were earned after he was released from prison on the first case. Mr. Jones is well aware that he was not allowed to possess these firearms or ammunition. And for many, many years, he was deceitful and conniving and tried to find ways around the law. He alleges that he had transferred all of these weapons to his wife, but she was not living at the home at the time of this search, nor had she ever been to the Montana property.
Mr. Jones used his patients and clients to add to his gun collection. 47 firearms were seized from his residence and properties, 14, 000 rounds of ammunition. And it is just totally impossible, the sheer volume of firearms and ammunition, to not know of their existence.
Mr. Jones does have a personality disorder with narcissistic features. Mr. Jones exhibits behavior, and I believe he is manipulative, he believes he's above the law. He's very defiant, very obstinate. And I think his personality is such that if he wants to possess firearms again once he's released from prison on this case, he will, regardless of what this Court orders or what the laws in this country tell him.
Mr. Jones did not - does not feel that his actions were criminal, and he maintains his innocence, which is his perfect right to do so, but the evidence of his guilt and the evidence that this jury heard was overwhelming.
Given Mr. Jones' blatant disregard for the laws and his attempts to obstruct justice, a sentence of 100 months is appropriate.

Id. at 80-83. Following advisement of his appellate rights, Jones stated that he wished to appeal. On the same day of sentencing, the Clerk filed a Notice of Appeal on Jones' behalf as to the judgment related to his firearm charges. Crim. Dkt. 189. Jones' appeal on the firearm charges was ultimately dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction shortly before sentencing on his health care fraud charges. Crim. Dkt. 319.

         Jones' attorneys in the firearm trial, Pumphrey and Manley, withdrew as counsel after sentencing on the firearm charges was completed. Crim. Dkt. 205.

         C. Trial 2: Health Care Fraud Trial

         Proceedings continued against Jones in his health care fraud trial. CJA Counsel Inman was appointed to represent Jones. Crim. Dkt. 207, 208. However, shortly before trial, Jones expressed dissatisfaction with his counsel. Crim. Dkt. 269; Crim. Dkt. 270. Jones wrote a letter to the Court requesting that a new attorney be appointed because his attorney wanted him to accept the plea offer and did not want him to go to trial. Crirn. Dkt. 269; Crirn. Dkt. 343. On October 15, 2014, an ex parte hearing on Jones' request for new counsel was held before Magistrate Judge Tim Baker. Jones asserted that his appointed counsel, Mark Inman, failed to communicate with him, refused to call witnesses, and refused to present evidence. See Crirn. Dkt. 343 at 8-10. Inman explained that it was in Jones' best interest to accept the plea agreement the Government had offered because it was "a very good offer." Id. at 7, 18-19. Inman additionally defended his actions because "the witnesses [Jones] wants to call are not going to help him," so it "would just be absolutely foolish for him to go to trial." Id. at 7. Inman also compared this to Jones' first trial, where both Jones and his wife testified, but the jury still found him guilty in less than an hour. Id. at 18-19. Inman stated that Jones had already experienced what it is like to "present the defense that he thinks is going to work and ha[d] it slammed down his throat," and he believed this would be the same scenario. Id. Inman also asserted that he had read through "every piece of paper that the government has now," had reviewed everything necessary to understand the case, and had read and followed up on every letter Jones had sent him. Id. at 16, 18. Finally, he asserted that if he called the expert witness Jones wanted him to call, that would be "one of the biggest cases of malpractice ever" and that the evidence Jones believed would help him would "just come and backfire on him extraordinarily badly." Id. at 16-17'.

         In considering Jones' request for a new counsel, Magistrate Judge Baker stated that "many of these things [that Jones wanted Inman to do] may not bear any fruit as it relates to the defense of your case," and that he was left with "the impression that [Jones] want[ed] to go down a lot of roads that skilled trial counsel would think would be unnecessary." Id. at 9-10, 21-22. Magistrate Judge Baker ultimately denied Jones' request, opining that Inman was "one of the most skilled lawyers" on the CJA panel and because Inman indicated he would still be able to represent Jones despite the disagreement. Id. at 21.

         On October 20, 2014, an accept/reject plea hearing and hearing on pending motions in limine was held. At the ex parte portion of the hearing, Jones again requested a new attorney. Crim. Dkt. 347 at 7-11. Inman responded that he was "prepared to go to trial, [but Jones] doesn't have a viable defense . . . [And] I can't create fiction out of the air." Id. at 13. Although Jones had some witnesses he wanted to call, Inman emphasized that "[t]hey would hurt him," and that Inman had discussed this with Jones approximately five times in the previous month. Id. Jones asserted that Inman never met with him to discuss his defense, but Inman countered that that was not true, explaining, "I mean, that's just it. I have to listen to this every time I go see him. He's incapable of telling the truth and talking about things. So it doesn't do any - it's counterproductive." Id. at 13-14. In response, Jones asserted, "it's clear and evident that he's not going to represent me to the best of his ability. He's called me a liar in open court. Please, Your Honor, appoint another attorney to represent me." Id. at 14.

         In response, the Court explained "I don't know of another attorney that can represent you, Mr. Jones, because you're going to have the same problem. You know, we had these same issues in your first trial. You had how many lawyers? About five?" and "you just have lots of problems with lawyers, and we just can't keep giving you lawyer after lawyer after lawyer. You've got to try to work with the lawyer that you have." Id. at 14-15. The Court denied Jones' request for a new attorney and confirmed that Inman could proceed to trial, although Inman expressed that he was "just tired of being berated by him." Id. at 16. Inman reiterated that he believed the Government's plea offer to be a "gift." Id.

         In the midst of his health care fraud trial, Jones again requested a new attorney. During the Government's case-in-chief, Jones objected to Inman's failure to introduce evidence when cross-examining the witnesses. See Crim. Dkt. 337 at 231-35. The exchange proceeded as follows:

MR. INMAN: Judge, I can't keep doing this every 90 minutes with him, all right?
THE COURT: Well - MR. INMAN: All right. I mean, the fact of the matter is, the documents that these people signed, they didn't know how he had billed, all right? And once they found out that he fraudulently billed sessions that they weren't at, for instance, as you just heard, and I told him when these families would testify, that it was going to be a slam dunk for the government. You heard Jeffrey Adams testify that there were 29 times he was at work - THE DEFENDANT: But that's because - MR. INMAN: - when he billed him.
THE DEFENDANT: All right. That's because - MR. INMAN: It's because he made - THE COURT: Shh. Let your lawyer talk.
MR. INMAN: It's because he made it up, and he can't take the stand and say that he didn't, all right? And that's my - I just have to approach it this way. All of the records they're using are his. Those are his bills. I have- THE DEFENDANT: I did not make it up, Your Honor.
MR. INMAN: And I believe that most of what he has is either doctored or misleading or false.
THE DEFENDANT: Your Honor, they are not doctored or misleading or false. In fact, yesterday one of the witnesses even verified that he signed it. And today, you can ask - I mean, you can ask the witness if they signed it. And they did it.
MR. INMAN: It's misleading.
THE COURT: Have you discussed this with your client?
MR. INMAN: Yes, Judge. I've told him that I'm not introducing this stuff.
THE DEFENDANT: This does what, Your Honor? I haven't seen anything.
THE COURT: The rules - his Rules of Professional Responsibility...
MR. INMAN: I can't keep defending myself, all right? I can't keep doing it.
THE COURT: I understand, Mr. Inman, but -- MR. INMAN: We're doing this every 75 minutes now, and I can't keep doing it.
THE COURT: You've got to -- MR. INMAN: If he wants to represent himself, then let him do it right now.
THE COURT: Well, I don't think he wants to represent himself. Do you want to represent yourself?
THE DEFENDANT: I don't have the knowledge to do that, but I want my attorney to represent me and call my witnesses and produce my evidence. I mean, how can I - how can I possibly - MR. INMAN: Which we've been through, which he doesn't have. I told him that this case was a slam dunk case once the families started testifying. That's what he's seeing, and he's getting nervous and he's reacting.
THE DEFENDANT: No, Your Honor, I'm not. I've been saying this all along. And you can see from his attitude, what he just said now, he doesn't want to defend it, he hasn't wanted to defend it, and he's ...

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