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Walker v. United States

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 18, 2019

STEPHEN ROY WALKER, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Petitioner Stephen Roy Walker's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody. Civ. Dkt. 1. The motion is fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the motion and dismiss the action without a hearing. The Court will not issue a certificate of appealability.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 19, 2014, Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale approved a warrant allowing law enforcement officials to search the hotel room and personal vehicle of Petitioner Stephen Roy Walker. Civ. Dkt. 8-7 at 1. The Application for Search Warrant was based upon the affidavit of Special Agent Daren Boyd. Id. at 2. In his affidavit, Special Agent Boyd described how Mr. Walker had used a photo-sharing website to trade in images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Id. at 10-14. In performing the investigation Special Agent Boyd obtained subscriber information and Internet Protocol (IP) address records for Mr. Walker from the Yahoo! Inc. Custodian of Records. Id. at 15-16. This information uncovered further emails from Mr. Walker to a Craigslist account user. Id. at 19-27. In these emails, Mr. Walker offered to introduce his young child to the Craigslist user and sent sexually suggestive images of the child. Id. Special Agent Boyd eventually linked Mr. Walker's IP addresses to the hotel room where he was staying in Twin Falls, Idaho. Id. at 34-35.

         Special Agent Boyd served the search warrant on February 20, 2014, and Mr. Walker then agreed to travel with him to the Twin Falls Police Department for an interview. Civ. Dkt. 8-2 at 2. At the police station, Mr. Walker requested an attorney. Id. at 3. Special Agent Boyd asked if he should contact a public defender to which Mr. Walker replied, “Yes, I think the sooner the better.” Id. at 3-4. Mr. Walker then said he had a business card for an attorney in his wallet, which was still at his hotel room, but that he did not have the funds to pay for an attorney. Id. at 4. Special Agent Boyd contacted the Federal Public Defender's Office, who connected him with attorney Andrew Parnes. Id. at 5-6. Mr. Walker asked how the attorney would be paid, and Special Agent Boyd explained that the government would pay Mr. Parnes if Mr. Walker was unable to do so. Id. at 6.

         Pursuant to the search warrant, federal agents discovered numerous images and videos of child pornography from Mr. Walker's external hard drive in his hotel room. Civ. Dkt. 8-2 at 7, ¶ 17. In total, agents recovered 540 digital images and 46 videos depicting child pornography. Crim. Dkt. 27 at 4. These files included images and videos depicting one of Mr. Walker's children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Id. at 8-9, ¶ 21. Several of the video and image files depicted Mr. Walker sexually assaulting the child. Id. After arriving at the station, Mr. Parnes spoke with Special Agent Boyd and was given a copy of the search warrant and supporting affidavit. Civ. Dkt. 8-1 at 1, ¶ 6.

         Upon review, Mr. Parnes concluded that there was no basis to challenge the search warrant. Id. at ¶ 8. At that time, Mr. Parnes also reviewed the pornographic material that had been seized. Id. at 2, ¶ 11.

         Mr. Parnes and Mr. Walker then discussed the possibility of cooperation with law enforcement. Civ. Dkt. 8-1 at 2, ¶ 10. Mr. Parnes counseled Mr. Walker that should he decide to cooperate, he would need to tell the whole truth. Id. Mr. Parnes further advised Mr. Walker that he might receive significant benefits under the sentencing guidelines for his cooperation. Id. To facilitate cooperation, a Government attorney emailed a proffer agreement letter to Mr. Parnes, which he reviewed with Mr. Walker. Id. at ¶ 9. The proffer agreement stated, in pertinent part:

No Direct Use: The United States agrees that information contained in your client's proffer may not be used in the government's case-in-chief against your client, in the event he decides to go to trial in the matter now pending…
Sentencing Information: Your client understands that since he is likely to be indicted, or charged by information if he eventually decides to waive the right to indictment, the United States, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3661, must provide to your client's sentencing judge the contents of the proffer. Pursuant to USSG § 1B1.8, however, the proffer may not be used to determine the appropriate guideline sentence[.]

Civ. Dkt. 8-5 at 2. Mr. Walker agreed to cooperate with the government agents under the terms of the proffer letter. Civ. Dkt. 8-1 at 2, ¶ 13. Information from the proffer interviews would eventually be included in Mr. Walker's Presentence Investigation Report (PSR). Crim. Dkt. 36 at 25-26, ¶ 25-33.

         After signing the proffer agreement, Mr. Walker provided a statement to government agents at the police station with Mr. Parnes present. Civ. Dkt. 8-1 at 2, ¶ 13. During the conversation, Special Agent Boyd mentioned a digital camera that had not been recovered in the initial search of the hotel room. Civ. Dkt. 8-2 at 10, ¶ 23. Mr. Walker told Special Agent Boyd where the digital camera was located and consented to police re-entering the hotel room, where they found the camera. Civ. Dkt. 8-2 at 10, ¶ 23. Pornographic images and videos were located on the digital camera; however, the files were duplicates of those that had already been found on Mr. Walker's external hard drive and had no impact on his sentence. Id. at ¶ 24.

         On September 10, 2015, a grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging Mr. Walker with three counts of Sexual Exploitation of Children under 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a), one count of Transportation of Child Pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(1), and one count of Possession of Child Pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(5)(B). Crim. Dkt. 1. Mr. Parnes represented Mr. Walker throughout the criminal proceeding. Civ. Dkt. 8-1 at 2-3, ¶ 16.

         During his representation, Mr. Parnes grew concerned about Mr. Walker's mental state. Id. at 3, ¶ 18. Mr. Parnes filed a Motion for Competency Hearing based on his concern. Crim. Dkt. 11. The Court ordered a psychological evaluation and report. Crim. Dkt. 14. After reviewing the report and the case history, the Court found that Mr. Walker was competent and allowed proceedings to continue. Crim. Dkt. 29.

         In July, 2016, the Government and Mr. Walker reached a Plea Agreement. Crim. Dkt. 27. Mr. Walker agreed to plead guilty to the counts for Transportation and Possession of Child Pornography, while the Sexual Exploitation of Children counts were dropped. Id. at 2. The parties agreed that the following United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) sections applied to the case:

a. 22 (base offense level under USSG § 2G2.2(a)(2));
b. (material involving prepubescent minor under USSG ยง ...

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