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United States v. Youker

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

November 12, 2019

JASON C. YOUKER (01), Defendant.



         After a two-week trial, a jury found Defendant Jason Youker guilty of thirty-four counts arising out of a drug-distribution conspiracy, and this Court sentenced him to twenty years' imprisonment. ECF Nos. 501, 583. After numerous motions attacking the judgment and an unsuccessful appeal, Defendant brought a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See ECF No. 687. The Court determined that most of the grounds on which Defendant sought relief were meritless but directed the Government to respond to two of Defendant's allegations. The Government responded, and Defendant replied. ECF No. 698; ECF No. 720-1 at 35-55. It is now clear that Defendant is not entitled to any relief on his petition, and the Court therefore dismisses it without an evidentiary hearing. See 28 U.S.C. § 2225(b).


         A prisoner incarcerated pursuant to the judgment of a federal court may seek habeas corpus relief by petitioning the sentencing court to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence if it “was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Where the “motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, ” the Court may dismiss the petition without an evidentiary hearing. Id. at § 2255(b); Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 74 n.4 (1977). In considering whether to summarily dismiss a § 2255 motion, the question is whether “the movant has made specific factual allegations that, if true, state a claim on which relief could be granted.” United States v. Schaflander, 743 F.2d 714, 717 (9th Cir. 1984). The Court must liberally construe a pro se § 2255 motion. Orona v. United States, 826 F.3d 1196, 1199 (9th Cir. 2016).


         After screening Defendant's petition, the Court determined that the record conclusively established that seven out of the nine grounds on which he sought relief were meritless. See ECF No. 693 at 26. The Court directed the Government to respond to grounds five and six of the petition. Id. The Government did so, and Defendant submitted a reply. ECF No. 698; ECF No. 720-1 at 35-55. Having reviewed these filings and the record in this matter, it is now clear that Defendant is not entitled to relief on either basis, and an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary.

         A. Ground Five: Franks Issue

         Ground five of the petition alleges law enforcement omitted material facts from affidavits used to obtain search warrants from which evidence used against Defendant at trial was obtained. See ECF No. 687 at 13-14; ECF No. 720-1 at 46. Specifically, Defendant alleges that officers omitted from their affidavits the fact that after controlled purchases of narcotics from Defendant, they allowed confidential informants to distribute a portion of the drugs so as to avoid alerting Defendant of the investigation. ECF No. 687 at 13.

         Defendant's argument falls squarely within the doctrine of Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). Franks held that under the Fourth Amendment, a criminal defendant may challenge the validity of a search warrant, and move to suppress evidence, if the affidavits presented to the issuing magistrate included intentionally or recklessly false statements or omissions that were material to the finding of probable cause. See United States v. Lefkowitz, 618 F.2d 1313, 1317 (9th Cir. 1980) (citing Franks, 438 U.S. at 154); United States v. Stanert, 762 F.2d 775, 780-81 (9th Cir. 1985).

         However, it is well settled that, absent exceptional circumstances, “error on a fourth amendment issue does not support a writ of habeas corpus” such as Defendant seeks here. Newman, 790 F.3d at 879 (quoting Hampton v. Wyant, 296 F.3d 560, 563 (7th Cir. 2002)). The Court is accordingly prohibited from considering Defendant's Franks argument unless he was denied a “full and fair opportunity” to assert that claim at trial. ECF No. 720-1 at 54; United States v. Hearst, 638 F.2d 1190, 1196 (9th Cir. 1980) (citing Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 494 (1976)); Newman v. Wengler, 790 F.3d 876, 878 (9th Cir. 2015). The critical inquiry is whether he had the opportunity to litigate his claim, not whether he in fact took advantage of that opportunity, “or even whether the claim was correctly decided.” Ortiz-Sandoval v. Gomez, 81 F.3d 891, 899 (9th Cir. 1996).

         Defendant's conclusory assertions that he was denied such an opportunity are unpersuasive. See ECF No. 687 at 14. Defendant was provided thousands of pages of discovery, including fifteen search warrants and accompanying affidavits describing at least one instance where a confidential informant was allowed to distribute narcotics purchased from Defendant. See ECF No. 698 at 4, 10. And to substantiate his Franks claim, Defendant appears to recount his memory of several of those transactions, asserting he sold the informants more drugs than law enforcement reported in their affidavits. See ECF No. 720-1 at 2-6. Defendant brought repeated suppression motions prior to trial-including one styled as a Franks motion. See ECF Nos. 147, 156, 158, 295, 378, 398. Though he obviously had access at that time to the evidence on which he relies now, he did not raise this argument then or on appeal. See ECF No. 655 at 2. Defendant fails to show that he was denied a full and fair opportunity to assert this claim prior to his § 2255 motion and thus, he is barred from raising it now. Hearst, 638 F.2d at 1196; Stone, 428 U.S. at 494.

         As the record conclusively establishes that Defendant is not entitled to relief on ground five of his petition, the Court dismisses it without an evidentiary hearing. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         B. Ground Six: Brady Issue

         The sixth ground of Defendant's petition alleges the Government withheld or delayed the disclosure of several items of evidence. See ECF No. 687 at 14-17. Just as above, Defendant asserts that law enforcement knowingly permitted confidential informants to distribute narcotics but failed to disclose they had done so. Id. at 14-15. Defendant also claims that the Government delayed disclosing that a confidential ...

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