United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on the Recommended Dispositions
filed by United States Magistrate Judge Hanly A. Ingram. The
Defendant, Eugene Slone, first filed a pro se motion
to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [R.
747.] Judge Ingram reviewed the motion, and prepared a
Recommended Disposition. [R. 840.] Mr. Slone filed objections
to this Recommendation. [R. 844.] The United States filed a
response to those objections. [R. 845.]
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(2), a petitioner has
fourteen days after service to register any objections to the
Recommended Disposition or else waive his rights to appeal.
In order to receive de novo review by this Court,
any objection to the recommended disposition must be
specific. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th
Cir. 1986). A specific objection “explain[s] and
cite[s] specific portions of the report which [counsel]
deem[s] problematic.” Robert v. Tesson, 507
F.3d 981, 994 (6th Cir. 2007). A general objection that fails
to identify specific factual or legal issues from the
recommendation, however, is not permitted, since it
duplicates the Magistrate's efforts and wastes judicial
economy. Howard v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). When no
objections are made, however, this Court is not required to
“review . . . a magistrate's factual or legal
conclusions, under a de novo or any other standard . . .
.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).
Parties who fail to object to a Magistrate's report and
recommendation are also barred from appealing a district
court's order adopting that report and recommendation.
United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947 (6th Cir.
Slone filed timely objections to the initial Recommended
Disposition. [R. 844.] The Court acknowledges its duty to
review Mr. Slone's filings under a more lenient standard
than the one applied to attorneys because he is proceeding
pro se. See Franklin v. Rose, 765 F.2d 82,
84-85 (6th Cir. 1985). Under this more lenient construction,
the objections are sufficiently definite to trigger the
Court's obligation to conduct a de novo review.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c). The Court has
satisfied that duty, reviewing the entire record, including
the pleadings, the parties' arguments, relevant case law
and statutory authority, as well as applicable procedural
rules. For the following reasons, Mr. Slone's objections
will be OVERRULED.
Ingram sets forth the factual and procedural background of
the case in his initial Recommended Disposition. The Court
mentions only key facts to frame its discussion and analysis,
incorporating Judge Ingram's discussion of the record
into this Order.
Slone was charged with one count of conspiring to distribute
oxycodone. [R. 1.] Afterwards, he hired Brandon Storm to
represent him. [R. 13.] A Superseding Indictment was then
issued in August that added eleven codefendants. [R. 18.] Two
months later, Slone added Martin Pinales and Candace Crouse
to his defense team. [R. 117, 118.] Then, in December 2012, a
Second Superseding Indictment was issued, which charged Slone
with “killing with the intent to retaliate for
providing information to law enforcement.” [R. 129; R.
840 at 2.] As a result of these charges, the government
informed Slone's attorneys that it intended to seek the
death penalty and moved the Court to declare the case
complex. [R. 148.] So, Slone's counsel asked the Court to
appoint an attorney with capital litigation experience,
i.e. learned counsel. [R. 165.] The Court granted
the government's request to deem the case
“complex” under the Speedy Trial Act. [R. 174.]
And, the Court appointed David Baugh as learned counsel for
Slone. [R. 199.] Slone moved unsuccessfully to dismiss the
Second Superseding Indictment. [R. 324, 357.] After a
presentation to the Capital Crimes Unit, the government filed
notice that it would not seek the death penalty. [R. 431.] As
a result, Mr. Baugh withdrew as counsel. [R. 437.]
in February 2014, Mr. Slone made a motion, accompanied by a
Speedy Trial waiver, for the Court to declare the case
complex. [R. 499.] Mr. Slone's request was granted. [R.
456.] As the case prolonged, Mr. Slone exhausted his retainer
and the Court appointed Mr. Storm and Ms. Crouse as counsel
under the Criminal Justice Act. [R. 475.] Mr. Slone moved for
another continuance in September 2014, attended by a Speedy
Trial waiver, to November. [R. 513, 518.] The trial then
received its final date of January 20, 2015. [R. 523.]
before trial, the defense learned for the first time who the
United States' witnesses were and what they said about
Mr. Slone's involvement in the murders. [R. 778-3 at 8.]
As a result of discussions about these materials, Mr. Slone
asked for a plea deal. Id. Mr. Slone was offered a
25-year binding plea sentence in exchange for pleading guilty
to all three counts-a “per se lenient”
sentence. [R. 635; R. 747-7 at 28-29.]
on January 16, 2015, Mr. Slone pleaded guilty in front of
Judge Thapar. [R. 633.] For the murders in Counts Two and
Three, Mr. Slone admitted that:
(b) On June 25, 2012, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
agents executed a search warrant at the residence of Ruth
Beckner in Manchester, Kentucky, where the Defendant also
lived. As a result of this search, the Defendant believed
that someone had provided information to federal agents
regarding his oxycodone distribution activities. The
Defendant and others ultimately concluded that those
informants were Davey Sparkman and Keisha Sexton.
(c) After the DEA's search on June 25, 2012, the
Defendant conspired and agreed with others to kill Davey
Sparkman and Keisha Sexton in retaliation for their believed
cooperation with law enforcement. Specifically, the Defendant
provided cash to another member of the conspiracy as payment
to kill Sparkman and Sexton. On July 19, 2012, the Defendant
contacted Sparkman and Sexton and directed them to an
abandoned mine site in Knott County, Kentucky, for a meeting.
The Defendant did so with the specific knowledge that members
of the conspiracy would be waiting to kill them upon their
arrival. When Sparkman and Sexton arrived, they were shot to
death and the vehicle they were riding in was set on fire.
[R. 840 at 3] [citing D.E. 635 at 3.] Mr. Slone's plea
deal also included a broad waiver provision that precluded
any right to collaterally attack his plea, conviction, or
sentence except for claims of ineffective assistance of
counsel. Id. at 3-4. On May 19, 2015, Mr. Slone was
sentenced to 300 months imprisonment with no presentence
report. [R. 715, 718.]
12, 2016, Mr. Slone filed his Motion to Vacate pursuant to
§ 2255, alleging four claims relating to ineffective
assistance of counsel. [R. 747.] Because key facts were in
dispute an evidentiary hearing was held. [R. 799.] Mr. Slone
was appointed counsel for that hearing. [R. 804.] During the
hearing Mr. Slone, Mr. Storm and Ms. Crouse testified, and
were questioned by both sides. [R. 822.] Despite not hearing
each other's testimonies, Mr. Storm and Ms. Crouse's
testimonies were consistent. Mr. Slone's testimony, on
the other hand, contradicted his motion and affidavits. [R.
747 at 14; 747-1 at 8; R. 786 at 21.] Included in these
contradictions was his live retraction of the written
allegation that Mr. Storm coached him to lie at his
rearraignment hearing. [R. 824 at 43, 67-68.] Mr. Slone also
contradicted the sworn testimony of his rearraignment when he
claimed to be innocent at the evidentiary hearing. [R. 837 at
4-5; R. 825 at 38-39.] And, Mr. Slone's proclamations of
innocence contradict his interview with Agent Richard
Dalrymple. [R. 825 at 81-89.] Agent Dalrymple's report
conveyed Mr. Slone's confession that he paid $10, 000 to
kill Davey Sparkman. Id. at 87.
November 9, 2017, Judge Ingram issued a Report and
Recommendation, recommending all of Mr. Slone's claims be
denied. [R. 840.] Mr. Slone objected to that Recommendation.
[R. 844.] The ...