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Kevin Walking Eagle v. United States of America

June 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Karen E. Schreier Chief Judge


Petitioner, Kevin Walking Eagle, filed a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The United States moves to dismiss Walking Eagle's § 2255 motion. This court referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Veronica Duffy for a recommended disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). On January 12, 2012, Magistrate Judge Duffy submitted her report and recommended that the court dismiss all of Walking Eagle's claims except one: his claim that he was denied effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment when his attorney failed to file an appeal as directed. Magistrate Judge Duffy also recommended that this court hold an evidentiary hearing on that issue and that counsel be appointed to represent Walking Eagle at the evidentiary hearing. Both Walking Eagle and the United States filed timely objections to the report and recommendation.



Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), "when a party objects to the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge concerning a dispositive matter, '[a] judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.' " United States v. Lothridge, 324 F.3d 599, 600 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3) ("The district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to."). Objections must be timely and specific in order to require de novo review by the district court. Thompson v. Nix, 897 F.2d 356, 358 (8th Cir. 1990). Because both parties filed timely objections, the court will review the matters objected to de novo.


Walking Eagle was first arrested on October 16, 2008. Walking Eagle was initially charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and distribution of a controlled substance. See United States v. Walking Eagle, CR. 08-50100-01-KES, Docket 1 (CR Docket). Law enforcement then monitored and recorded telephone calls that Walking Eagle made from the jail after his initial appearance. These phone calls appeared to be attempts by Walking Eagle to continue his participation in the drug conspiracy from his location at the jail.*fn1 A superseding indictment was issued approximately three months later that charged Walking Eagle with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, distribution of cocaine, and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. CR Docket 83.

At Walking Eagle's initial appearance, the court appointed Robert Van Norman to represent Walking Eagle. CR Docket 15. Mr. Van Norman immediately moved the court for the appointment of a paralegal and a private investigator to assist him in representing Walking Eagle. Those motions were granted. CR Docket 35.

Slightly over a month later, Walking Eagle then privately retained attorney Terry Pechota, who made his appearance on Walking Eagle's behalf on November 24, 2008, terminating Mr. Van Norman's representation. CR Docket 68. Some nine months later, Mr. Pechota's status as a privately retained lawyer was converted to that of a court-appointed lawyer at Mr. Pechota's request. CR Docket 293 (Sept. 15, 2009).

On April 2, 2009, Mr. Pechota filed a motion to suppress evidence on behalf of Walking Eagle. CR Docket 149. In the motion, Mr. Pechota sought to suppress the fruits of two search warrants, the contents seized from a motor vehicle, the results of a drug dog alert to that motor vehicle, and the previously mentioned telephone calls made by Walking Eagle from the jail.

Id. As to the search warrants, Mr. Pechota argued that: (1) the search warrants lacked probable cause; (2) the information from confidential informants was not reliable and could not support probable cause; (3) the information presented in the affidavit in support of the request for the search warrant was stale; and (4) the affiant who obtained the search warrants had included false statements or omitted material information, either intentionally or with reckless disregard, from his affidavit. Id.

Magistrate Judge Duffy held an evidentiary hearing on Mr. Pechota's motion to suppress on September 9, 2009, and Walking Eagle was present for the hearing. The day after the hearing, a report and recommendation was filed recommending denial of the motion to suppress in all respects. CR Docket 189. Magistrate Judge Duffy concluded that Mr. Pechota had made a sufficient preliminary showing to allow him to probe the credibility of the search warrant affiant pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). Id. Mr. Pechota cross-examined the affiant about the veracity of the statements made in the affidavit in support of the search warrant and questioned the affiant as to whether there were any material misrepresentations or omissions of fact from that affidavit. Id. The court ultimately rejected Mr. Pechota's Franks argument. Id. Mr. Pechota then timely objected to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation. CR Docket 199. Mr. Pechota objected to the magistrate judge's conclusions about the admissibility of Walking Eagle's jail phone calls, the fruits of the search warrant executed on his home, and the search of the motor vehicle. Id. In objecting to the magistrate judge's recommendation as to the search warrants, Mr. Pechota renewed his Franks arguments, asserting that the affidavits contained false statements or material omissions. Id. Mr. Pechota specifically argued that the statements in the affidavits tying Walking Eagle to gang activity were false and without any factual support. Id.

While the objections to the recommended disposition of the suppression motion were pending, Mr. Pechota filed a number of other motions on Walking Eagle's behalf. Among those were a motion to dismiss the indictment, a motion to sever Walking Eagle's trial from that of his co-defendants, a motion to compel the government to reveal the identities of its sources of information and confidential informants, a motion for a change of venue, and a motion to dismiss the indictment for want of jurisdiction. CR Docket 224, 225, 227, and 228. Among the arguments posited in support of the motion to dismiss the indictment was an argument that the crime of continuing criminal enterprise in count III of the indictment violated Walking Eagle's due process rights because it was too vague and did not allow persons to determine what conduct was made unlawful by the statute. CR Docket 227. Before this court ruled on any of these pending motions or on Mr. Pechota's objections to the magistrate judge's recommendation on the suppression motion, Walking Eagle entered a plea of guilty to the continuing criminal enterprise count.

A written plea agreement and statement of factual basis were signed by Walking Eagle and filed on November 17, 2009. Pursuant to the written plea agreement, Walking Eagle agreed to plead guilty to count III of the superseding indictment, which charged Walking Eagle with the crime of knowingly and intentionally engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 848(a) and (c). See CR Docket 83, 238. Count III of the indictment charged that Walking Eagle had violated 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and that he engaged in a continuing series of violations of these drug laws from no later than 1999 continuing up through the December 16, 2008, date of the indictment.

CR Docket 83.

The statement of factual basis, which was signed by Walking Eagle, Mr. Pechota, and the prosecutor, stipulated that in 1998, Walking Eagle was introduced to drug suppliers in Denver, Colorado, by a man named Joe Valdez. CR. Docket 240. After the introduction, Walking Eagle began purchasing cocaine from these Denver suppliers and distributing the cocaine on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the District of South Dakota. Id. He began doing so at quantities of approximately one-quarter of a pound of cocaine, but by 2008, Walking Eagle was purchasing three-quarters of a pound at a time. Id. The statement stipulated that Walking Eagle rarely transported the cocaine himself, but he would have others take care of that task. Id. The statement stipulated that Walking Eagle and others recruited couriers to work for him. Id. Once the details of a purchase were worked out, Walking Eagle or his brother would provide a vehicle and the contact information to the couriers. Id. Walking Eagle was exclusively responsible for providing the money for these drug purchases and his brother was exclusively responsible for negotiating the terms of the purchase. Id. When the cocaine arrived, Walking Eagle paid his brother, usually with ...

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