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United States v. Teaupa

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

December 12, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
UIKI TEAUPA, Defendant-Petitioner. Cr. No. 12-01128 JMS

          ORDER (1) DENYING DEFENDANT-PETITIONER'S MOTION UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255 TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE BY A PERSON IN FEDERAL CUSTODY AND (2) DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          J. Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On July 11, 2016, pro se Defendant-Petitioner Uiki Teaupa (“Teaupa”) filed a timely motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody (“§ 2255 Motion”). Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 145. Teaupa argues that he was provided constitutionally ineffective assistance when his attorney, Harlan Kimura (“Kimura”), failed: (1) to move pretrial to dismiss the Superseding Indictment; (2) to object to the amount of methamphetamine attributed to Teaupa at sentencing; (3) to seek a two-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility at sentencing; and (4) to appeal the government's failure to file a motion for a downward departure based on substantial assistance at sentencing. For the following reasons, the court DENIES Teaupa's § 2255 Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On October 20, 2009, Teaupa was arrested in Kona, Hawaii, on an outstanding bench warrant stemming from an unrelated case. Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) ¶ 10, ECF No. 116. At the police station, Teaupa asked to speak with Officer Edwin Buyten (“Buyten”), with whom he was acquainted. Id. Teaupa informed Buyten that he had flown from the mainland the day before with S.F. and that they had transported drug proceeds from Hawaii to California.[1] Id. Teaupa also told Buyten that S.F. was scheduled to fly back to California with approximately $100, 000. Id.

         On February 23, 2011, Teaupa contacted Buyten and arranged a meeting with him, along with FBI Special Agent Michael Rotti (“Rotti”). Tr. (Mar. 12, 2013) at 21, 24-26, ECF No. 128; PSR ¶ 15. Teaupa told Buyten and Rotti that Samuela Veatupu (“Veatupu”) was the leader of a Big Island methamphetamine distribution organization. ECF No. 128 at 27; PSR ¶ 15. Teaupa also told Buyten and Rotti that he (Teaupa) was a “drug mule, ” and that he had “body carried” one pound of methamphetamine the week before, and described further drug transactions to which he had been a party. ECF No. 128 at 27-28; PSR ¶ 16. Teaupa continued to contact Buyten and provide him with information about his own and Veatupu's drug distribution activities. See Tr. (Mar. 13, 2013) at 15-16, 141, ECF No. 129.

         On November 2, 2012, Buyten and Rotti arrested Teaupa pursuant to a post-indictment warrant. Id. at 32; PSR ¶ 22. After waiving his Miranda rights, Teaupa discussed various methamphetamine transactions and his role as a drug courier or “mule” for Veatupu. ECF No. 129 at 33-34; PSR ¶ 22.

         Prior to trial, Teaupa filed, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12.3, a Notice of Public Authority Defense. ECF No. 15. And at trial, he admitted to engaging in various drug trafficking activities, but insisted he did so on behalf of law enforcement. PSR ¶¶ 31-35. Teaupa testified at trial to transporting a total of twenty-two pounds of methamphetamine for Veatupu as follows:

Date

Quantity

Fall 2008

1 pound

February 2009

1 pound

August 2009

2 pounds

12/08/2010

2 pounds

02/15/2011

1 pound

03/04/2011

2 pounds

04/02/2011

2 pounds

04/19/2011

2 pounds

December 2011

7 pounds

February 2012

2 pounds

PSR ¶ 33; see also ECF No. 130, 77-97.

         B. Course of Proceedings

         Teaupa was charged in the Superseding Indictment on February 6, 2013, with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine (Count 1) and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine (Count 2). ECF No. 40. The conspiracy charged in Count 1 covered a three-year period, spanning from February 2009 through February 2012. Id.

         At trial, the jury rejected Teaupa's public authority defense and found him guilty of both counts. See ECF Nos. 104 (Jury Instruction No. 19 covering the public authority defense) and 107 (Verdict Form). The court sentenced Teaupa on July 8, 2013, to a total of 300 months of incarceration, [2] to be followed by five years of supervised release. Am. J. at 3-4, ECF No. 118. The Ninth Circuit affirmed Teaupa's conviction and sentence on June 18, 2015. See United States v. Teaupa, 617 F. App'x 699 (9th Cir. 2015) (memorandum disposition). On August 6, 2015, the court reduced Teaupa's sentence to 292 months, pursuant to Guideline Amendment 782. ECF No. 143.

         C. Veatupu's Conviction

         Veatupu was also prosecuted in the District of Hawaii. On June 21, 2012, an Indictment charged Veatupu with four counts of distribution of five grams or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) and 841(b)(1)(B). See Cr. No. 12-00647 SOM, at ECF No. 1. The basis for Veatupu's conviction was a series of controlled purchases of methamphetamine between Veatupu and a confidential source. ECF No. 132 at 14. Teaupa did not cooperate in Veatupu's prosecution. ECF Nos. 129 at 56; 132 at 14. On October 18, 2012, Veatupu pled guilty to all four counts. ECF No. 17.

         Judge Susan Oki Mollway granted the government's motion for a downward departure, based on Veatupu's substantial assistance, and sentenced Veatupu to a total of twenty-four months of incarceration, to be followed by five years of supervised release.[3] Cr. No. 12-000647 SOM, ECF No. 37.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) provides:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released 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, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

         A court may dismiss a § 2255 motion if “it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief.” R. 4(b), Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings. A court need not hold an evidentiary hearing if the allegations are “palpably incredible [or] patently frivolous, ” Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 76 (1977), or if the issues can be conclusively decided on the basis of the evidence in the record. See United States v. Mejia-Mesa, 153 F.3d 925, 929 (9th Cir. 1998) (noting that a “district court has discretion to deny an evidentiary hearing on a § 2255 claim where the files and records conclusively show that the movant is not entitled to relief”). Conclusory statements in a § 2255 motion are insufficient to require a hearing. United States v. Johnson, 988 ...


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