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Adams v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

June 17, 2016




         Petitioner, Jaymar Stanton Adams, moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Docket 1. The government opposes the motion and moves to dismiss. Docket 27. For the following reasons, the court grants the government’s motion and dismisses Adams’s § 2255 motion.


         On September 10, 2013, Adams was charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Criminal Docket (CR Docket) 116. The fourth superseding indictment charged that between December 1, 2008, and July 18, 2012, in South Dakota, Adams and codefendants “did knowingly and intentionally combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together, with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to knowingly and intentionally distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846.” Docket 216 at 1. Adams hired Randolph Daar to represent him in California, where his property was searched. Docket 2 at 1. Daar hired Nicole Carper, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota based attorney, to serve as local counsel. Id. at 2.

         Adams alleges that he received a proposed plea agreement from Daar before his plea hearing. Docket 36-1 at ¶ 3. He alleges he was instructed to sign it and mail it back to Daar, which he did, even though he did not understand the terms of the plea agreement. Id.

         On November 12, 2013, before his change of plea hearing, Adams met Daar and Carper outside of the courtroom. Adams alleges that Daar and Carper had a disagreement just prior to the change of plea hearing regarding Adams’s defense strategy. Id. at ¶ 4. This is disputed by both Daar and Carper. Docket 21 at 3; Docket 22 at 5. Adams alleges that Daar told him to answer “yes” to all of the court’s questions. Docket 36-1 at ¶ 4. Daar alleges that he told Adams to answer the court’s questions truthfully. Docket 21 at 3-4.

         During the change of plea hearing, the court asked Adams numerous questions. CR Docket 341. Adams agreed that he discussed the charges against him and his case in general with his lawyers, id. at 6: 4-6, he was satisfied with his lawyers’ representation and advice, id. at 6: 7-10, he read and discussed the plea agreement with his lawyers, id. at 6: 12-15, he understood all of the agreement’s terms, id. at 6: 20-22, and he denied that anyone was forcing or coercing him into pleading guilty. Id. at 7: 14-22. Adams said he understood the rights he would lose if he pleaded guilty, id. at 8: 7-9, and the possible punishments he faced. Id. at 8: 10-9: 5.

         The court described Adams’s rights, including his right to go to trial and what that would entail. Id. at 10: 21-11: 21. He said he understood that he was giving up those rights by pleading guilty. Id. The court described to Adams the elements of the crime the government would have to prove if he went to trial, including that the conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance happened in the District of South Dakota and elsewhere. Id. at 11: 22-12: 15. Adams admitted he understood what he was charged with and that the government would have to prove those elements if the case went to trial. Id.

         Adams stated that he read the factual basis statement and he admitted everything in it was true. Id. at 12: 16-21. The court then asked Adams:

         [The factual basis statement] says that you personally grew, harvested, and obtained marijuana, illegally distributed marijuana, caused marijuana to be illegally delivered and distributed, paid others for marijuana, and received payments for marijuana, and that you combined shipments of marijuana with other co-conspirators.

         The amount that you were involved with in the activity that I just described, was that more than a hundred kilograms of marijuana?

         Id. at 12: 25-13: 8. Adams answered “yes.” Id. at 13: 9. The court then stated, “With that additional information, I find there is an independent factual basis for the plea.” Id. at 13: 10-11.

         During the change of plea hearing, the court found that Adams was competent and capable of entering an informed plea, that he was aware of the charges against him, that he was aware of the consequences of the plea, and that the plea of guilty was voluntary. Id. at 13: 18-25.

         The issue of the conduct Adams was pleading guilty to came up during his sentencing hearing. After Carper questioned the government’s witness, a Special Agent with the Department of Homeland Security, the court stated:

         Miss Carper, I guess I'm somewhat confused based on your questions of Agent Scherer. You are implying all the marijuana was for legitimate purposes.

         Your client in Paragraph 36, the part dealing with acceptance of responsibility, states that, “Soon the market became flooded with marijuana and not enough dispensaries to sell it. He decided to transport marijuana to South Dakota to sell in order to recoup costs and to help pay the loan on the land. He knew it was illegal to transport the marijuana across state lines.” So I'm trying to figure out if your client is actually accepting responsibility or not. Because if he's now arguing all of the marijuana grown, as shown in the greenhouses in Exhibit 3, were for legitimate purposes, that's contrary to his statement for acceptance of responsibility.

         Docket 341 at 26: 5-20.

         Carper responded by saying, “I in no way meant to imply or diminish my client's acceptance of responsibility with respect to his knowledge that marijuana that he had grown in California had gone with his full knowledge to South Dakota, and that's why he's here in Federal Court pleading guilty to this charge to you.” Id. at 27: 10-15.

         Later, during the sentencing hearing, the court stated that Paragraph 17 of the Presentence Report contained the following information:

         Sam Pfeifle and Mr. Newell helped Adams at his marijuana grow on Thomas Road, that Sam Pfeifle cloned plants and arranged for trimmers for harvesting, and that that marijuana was then put into heat-sealing packages that were wiped down to remove fingerprints, and that that was then sold as part of this marijuana conspiracy, and that the Defendant showed up at least once per week to check on the operation on Thomas Road.

Id. at 29: 8-16. Adams did not object to this information either before or during the ...

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