Holden v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM OPINION Signed by Chief Judge Karon O Bowdre on 11/9/17. (SAC )
2017 Nov-09 AM 10:33
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
KINGY OSSARIUS HOLDEN,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
This case is before the court on Kingy Ossarius Holden’s motion to vacate, set aside or
correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. 1 (Civ. Doc. 1). 2 A jury found Mr. Holden
guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana,
four counts of distributing marijuana, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. In
his motion to vacate, he alleges three grounds: (1) his conviction was based on evidence obtained
through an unconstitutional search and seizure; (2) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file
a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence; and (3) his appellate counsel was
A prisoner “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 . . . may move the court . . . to vacate, set aside or
correct the sentence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
The court will designate documents from Mr. Holden’s civil and criminal cases as follows: “Civ.
Doc. ___” for documents from 5:16-cv-8010-KOB and “Cr. Doc. ___” for documents in 5:11-cr-399-KOBJHE.
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ineffective for failing to present issues on appeal.
The court has interpreted Mr. Holden’s claims liberally because he is not represented by
counsel in this action. See Mederos v. United States, 218 F.3d 1252, 1254 (11th Cir. 2000) (“Pro
se filings, including those submitted by [the petitioner] in the present case, are entitled to liberal
construction.”). After reviewing Mr. Holden’s motion to vacate, the Government’s response,
Mr. Holden’ replies, and the court record including the trial transcript, and for the following
reasons, the court finds that his motion to vacate is due to be DENIED on all grounds.
The Government filed a twenty-six count Superseding Indictment on December 29,
2011against Mr. Holden and fourteen other defendants, charging crimes related to a drug
distribution ring, money laundering, and firearm offenses. Specifically, the Superseding
Indictment charged Mr. Holden with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms
or more of cocaine hydrochloride and 280 grams or more of “crack” cocaine (Count One);
conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana (Count
Two); distribution of marijuana (Counts Three through Six); felon in possession of a firearm
(Count Eleven); and money laundering (Counts Twenty-Three through Twenty-Six). (Crim.
Prior to his trial, Mr. Holden’s trial attorney, Bruce Harvey, along with several codefendants, moved to suppress recordings of calls, and any evidence derived from those calls,
that the Government intercepted via wiretaps on Mr. Holden’s telephone. After a hearing on the
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motions to suppress, the district court denied those motions on July 5, 2012. (Crim. Doc. 184).
The drug conspiracy trial began on July 23, 2012, and lasted more than one week. Prior
to the Government resting its case, it orally moved to dismiss Count Twenty-Four against Mr.
Holden, which the court granted. After the Government rested on August 1, 2012, Mr. Holden’s
counsel moved for judgment of acquittal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 29(a), which the district court
denied. The jury found Mr. Holden not guilty on the conspiracy to possess with intent to
distribute cocaine and three counts of money laundering, but guilty on the conspiracy to
distribute marijuana count, four counts of distributing marijuana, and the felon in possession
count. (Crim. Doc. 212).
The district court sentenced Mr. Holden on April 15, 2013 to 365 months’ imprisonment
on the marijuana conspiracy count, and to 120 months’ imprisonment on the marijuana
distribution counts and felon-in-possession count, separately, with each count to be served
concurrently with each other. (Crim. Doc. 342).
Bruce Harvey filed a notice of appeal on Mr. Holden’s behalf, but indicated in that notice
that the court appointed Charles S. Linton to represent Mr. Holden on appeal to the Eleventh
Circuit. (Crim. Doc. 337). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment on
February 11, 2015 in an unpublished opinion. United States v. Holden, et al., 603 F. App’x 744
(11th Cir. 2015); see also (Crim. Doc. 412). The Supreme Court denied certiorari on January
14, 2016. (Crim. Doc. 424).
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Mr. Holden filed the current habeas motion asking this court to vacate, set aside, or
correct his sentence on March 7, 2016. (Civ. Doc. 1). The court ordered the Government to
show cause in writing why it should not grant the motion (civ. doc. 3), and the Government filed
its response on June 6, 2016 (civ. doc. 7). Mr. Holden filed his reply to the Government’s
response on June 15, 2016. After the court gave him additional time to file any additional
evidentiary materials, he filed exhibits on November 28, 2016. (Civ. Docs. 8 & 14).
Mr. Holden is currently incarcerated at Atlanta USP.
Mr. Holden’s three grounds for his motion to vacate involve either a claim that is
procedurally defaulted or an ineffective assistance counsel claim that has no merit. After a
discussion of the applicable law regarding procedural default and ineffective assistance of
counsel, the court will address each ground separately.
The procedural default doctrine reflects the general rule that claims not raised on direct
appeal may not be raised on collateral review. See Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 504
(2003). Federal courts will not review a procedurally-defaulted claim unless the defendant can
show either (1) cause for the default and actual prejudice from the error; or (2) that the court’s
failure to consider the claim will cause a miscarriage of justice because the defendant is actually
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innocent. See Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998); United States v. Frady, 456
U.S. 152, 167 (1982).
To establish cause excusing procedural default, the petitioner must put forward “some
external cause” for his failure to comply with the procedural requirements. Reece v. United
States, 119 F.3d 1462, 1465 (11th Cir. 1997). A petitioner can also establish cause if he shows
that his counsel was ineffective. Id. However, merely claiming ineffective assistance of counsel
as cause for the procedural default is not enough—that ineffective assistance of counsel claim
must have merit. United States v. Nyhuis, 211 F.3d 1340, 1343 (11th Cir. 2000).
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
The Sixth Amendment gives criminal defendants the right to effective assistance of
counsel. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 684 (1984). To prevail on a claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel, Mr. Holden must demonstrate that (1) his counsel’s
performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) he suffered prejudice
because of that deficient performance. See id. at 684–91. Deficient performance exists when
counsel acts “outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance.” Strickland, 466
U.S. at 690. The test is not what the best—or even a good—lawyer would have done, but
“whether some reasonable lawyer at the trial could have acted, in the circumstances, as defense
counsel acted at trial.” Waters v. Thomas, 46 F.3d 1506, 1512 (11th Cir. 1995) (en banc)
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A petitioner’s counsel generally—not always—is presumed to have acted reasonably.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690; Williams v. Head, 185 F.3d 1223, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999) (“[W]here
the record is incomplete or unclear about [counsel]'s actions, we will presume that he did what
he should have done, and that he exercised reasonable professional judgment.”). To overcome
that presumption, a petitioner “must identify the acts or omissions of counsel that are alleged not
to have been the result of reasonable professional judgment.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690.
Conclusory or unsupported allegations cannot support an ineffective assistance of counsel
claim. See Tejada v. Dugger, 941 F.2d 1551, 1559 (11th Cir. 1991) (finding “unsupported
allegations, conclusory in nature and lacking factual substantiation” to be an insufficient basis
for relief); see also Chandler v. United States, 218 F.3d 1305, 1314 n.15 (11th Cir. 2000) (“An
ambiguous or silent record is not sufficient to disprove the strong and continuing [Strickland]
Moreover, if a petitioner can show his counsel’s performance was deficient, he must also
show that deficient performance prejudiced his case. Eagle v. Linahan, 279 F.3d 926, 943 (11th
Cir. 2001); see also Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697 (finding that the court is not obligated to
“address both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes an insufficient showing on
one”). Prejudice exists if “a reasonable probability [exists] that, but for counsel's unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. A
“reasonable probability” is one “sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome” of the case.
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Id. Merely showing that counsel’s error had “some conceivable effect on the outcome of the
proceeding” cannot establish prejudice. Id. at 693.
Ground 1: Evidence for Probable Cause for the Search Warrant Obtained by
Unconstitutional Search and Seizure
Mr. Holden argues that the evidence used to obtain the search warrant for the wiretaps
was obtained by an unconstitutional search and seizure. He claims that the “Government’s
factual basis for probable cause for the wiretaps was relied upon by (CI) Ivan Fletcher whom at
trial admitted to being a liar and double dealer”; that Agent Boyd testified during cross
examination that he “never used normal investigative techniques before, during or even after the
wiretaps”; and that Agent Boyd admitted that he did not determine “pertinent and non pertinent
calls until a week before trail.” In his reply to the Government’s response, Mr. Holden further
explains his reasons behind Ground 1, and specifically asserts that the wiretap applications lack
the “necessity” and “minimization” requirements. However, Mr. Holden is procedurally barred
from raising this issue regarding the wiretaps and has failed to show cause and actual prejudice
to overcome this bar.3
Based on the language of this ground in his habeas motion, Mr. Holden is procedurally
barred from raising this ground because he did not raise it in his direct appeal. Mr. Holden does
not mention ineffective assistance of counsel or any other purported “cause” for his procedural
Because Mr. Holden has not raised actual innocence, the court will not address whether the alleged
error in Ground 1 constitutes a miscarriage of justice to overcome procedural default.
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default for this ground in his habeas motion; but in his reply to the Government’s response, he
asserts that the facts he alleges in “Ground 3 will support Ground One.” The court is unsure of
the exact meaning of this statement, but Ground 3 alleges ineffective assistance of appellate
counsel for failing to raise issues on appeal. The court surmises that Mr. Holden may be
asserting ineffective assistance of appellate counsel as cause for his default in failing to raise
this issue on direct appeal. As the court will discuss in more detail below under Ground 3, Mr.
Holden’s conclusory statements in Ground 3 are insufficient to show ineffective assistance of
counsel as cause for his procedural default.
Moreover, assuming arguendo that somehow Mr. Holden could show that his appellate
counsel’s performance was deficient on this ground, he fails to show how an appeal on this
issue would have changed the results of his case. To determine whether the failure of appellate
counsel to raise a claim resulted in prejudice, the court must look to the merits of that claim on
appeal. See Eagle, 279 F.3d at 943.
On direct appeal, Mr. Holden’s counsel challenged this court’s ruling regarding the
validity of the wiretap applications; specifically, he argued that this court should have
suppressed the evidence from the wiretaps because the applications did not include DOJ
authorization memos and because one of the applications misidentified the authorizing official.
Holden, 603 F. App’x at 748-50. The Eleventh Circuit discussed the validity of the wiretap
applications at length, including co-defendant Myron Tibbs’ argument that the applications
failed to show necessity, and affirmed this court’s denial of the motions to suppress evidence
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derived from those wiretaps. Mr. Holden makes another attempt in this habeas action to defeat
the evidence from those wiretaps, yet he fails to explain how or why the result of his appeal
would have been different had his appellate counsel raised this precise issue in the posture in
which Mr. Holden now presents it.
Mr. Holden’s claims regarding Ivan Fletcher and Agent Boyd do nothing to show that the
appeals court would have ruled differently regarding the evidence obtained from the wiretaps.
The fact that Mr. Fletcher admitted during cross-examination that he was a liar and a double
dealer does not negate that probable cause existed at the time of the wiretap applications and
does not show how or why the Eleventh Circuit would have ruled differently regarding the
admissibility of the evidence from the wiretaps. Mr. Holden’s allegations regarding Agent Boyd
also fail to show prejudice. The Eleventh Circuit addressed the issue of necessity on appeal and
specifically found that the affidavit in support of the wiretap applications “sufficiently explained
why ‘investigative techniques that reasonably suggest themselves’ were insufficient in this case”
and “outlined in detail the traditional investigative techniques that either had been employed or
had not been attempted based on dangerousness or a lack of probability of success.” Holden,
603 F. App’x at 750. So Mr. Holden’s claims regarding Ivan Fletcher and Agent Boyd fail to
show that the Eleventh Circuit would have come to a different conclusion had his appellate
counsel included these claims in the direct appeal.
Moreover, the fact that the jury acquitted Mr. Holden of the cocaine conspiracy charge
does not mean that the initial wiretaps were invalid or that all of the evidence derived from
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those wiretaps was obtained unconstitutionally; the jury simply found that the Government did
not meet its high burden of proving that count beyond a reasonable doubt—a burden much
higher than the probable cause necessary for the initial wiretap applications. Likewise, Mr.
Holden’s burden to show cause and actual prejudice to overcome procedural default on this
ground is a high one, and Mr. Holden has failed to cross that hurdle..
Ground 2: Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel for Failure to File a Motion for New Trial
Based on New Evidence
Mr. Holden claims that his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to file a motion
for a new trial based on the “newly discovered evidence” that Cedric Carroll, a co-defendant,
lied under oath when Mr. Holden’s “trial counsel asked [Mr. Carroll] had he cooperated before
and he replied ‘no.’” (Doc. 1 at 6). On cross examination at trial, Mr. Holden’s trial counsel
said to Mr. Carroll: “You have been a snitch before,” and Mr. Carroll replied “No, sir, I
haven’t.” “You haven’t?” asked trial counsel, and Mr. Carroll responded: “This is my first case
ever, sir.” Mr. Holden’s trial counsel then asked Mr. Carroll about incidents in 2008 and 2009
in which he acted as a confidential informant for a state agent, and Mr. Carroll admitted that he
was a confidential informant in 2008 and 2009, but did not equate a “snitch” with a
“confidential informant.” (Crim. Doc. 371 at 106-09).
Mr. Holden alleges that the Government withheld Brady material because it did not
disclose that Mr. Carroll had previously cooperated with the Government and that the
Government knowingly used or failed to correct perjured testimony of Mr. Carroll. (Doc. 8 at 5,
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7). Mr. Holden’s trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to file a motion for a new trial that
had no grounds for success. Even assuming arguendo that his trial counsel was ineffective for
failing to file a motion for a new trial, Mr. Holden cannot show a reasonable probability that this
court would have granted a motion for a new trial on this issue had his trial counsel filed one.
Mr. Holden claims that “[a]fter trial, but before sentencing, [he] discovered that the
Government withheld Brady material on Cedric Carroll that proved he lied under oath.” Mr.
Holden asserts that the “Government knew this testimony was false, but failed to correct it as
the document clearly proves.” (Doc. 1 at 6). However, Mr. Holden failed to attach the
referenced “document” to his habeas motion. And in his response to the Government’s filing,
Mr. Holden explained that he repeatedly asked “his attorney” for the document, but “counsel has
not sent it.” (Doc. 8 at 5). However, in his later evidentiary submission, Mr. Holden attaches a
document entitled “Narrative” that sets out Mr. Carroll’s involvement as a confidential
information in 2008 and 2009 involving Tryrome Terrell Bynum as support for this ground in
his habeas motion. (Doc. 14 at 14-16). Unfortunately for Mr. Holden, this document does not
support that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion for a new trial and does
not show a reasonable probability that this court would have granted that motion.
To succeed on a motion for new trial alleging a Brady violation, Mr. Holden would have
to show that
(1) the government possessed favorable evidence to the defendant;
(2) the defendant does not possess the evidence and could not
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obtain the evidence with any reasonable diligence; (3) the
prosecution suppressed the favorable evidence; and (4) had the
evidence been disclosed to the defendant, there is a reasonable
probability that the outcome would have been different.
See United States v. Vallejo, 297 F.3d 1154, 1164 (11th Cir. 2002) (emphasis added); see also
United States v. Caro, 589 F. App’x 449, 455 (11th Cir. 2014).4 Had Mr. Holden’s trial
counsel filed a motion for new trial based on this alleged Brady violation, that motion would
have failed on several grounds.
Mr. Holden’s trial counsel obviously knew at trial about Mr. Carroll’s past as a
confidential information from December 2008 through June 2009 because counsel crossexamined Mr. Carroll extensively about it, including references to the specific months and dates
contained in the “Narrative” document Mr. Holden claims the Government failed to disclose.
(Crim. Doc. 371 at 106-115). Therefore, this evidence could not be “newly discovered” after
trial; Mr. Holden’s counsel must have possessed such information prior to trial to cross examine
Mr. Carroll about it during trial. Moreover, because Mr. Holden’s trial counsel cross-examined
Mr. Carroll about his past as a confidential information, the jury was free to consider his past
cooperation as impeachment of Mr. Carroll’s testimony at trial.
When a motion for a new trial alleges Brady violations, the district court does not use the
standard for a motion for new trial under Fed. R. Crim. P. 33. See United States v. Takhalov, 2013
WL 2146996 (S.D. Fla. May 15, 2013). This court finds that, even if the Rule 33 standard applied,
Mr. Holden’s claim on this ground still fails because the evidence was not discovered after trial; the
evidence was merely cumulative or impeaching; and the evidence is not of “such a nature that a new
trial would probably produce a new result.” See United States v. Hall, 854 F.2d 1269, 1271 (11th
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So, Mr. Holden cannot show that his counsel was ineffective for failure to file a frivolous
motion or a reasonable probability that the outcome of the case would have been different if
counsel filed the motion.
Also, Mr. Holden has no basis for his Giglio claim that the Government knowingly used
Mr. Carroll’s false testimony and failed to correct his false statements. See Giglio v. United
States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972). To succeed on a motion for a new trial alleging this ground, Mr.
Holden would have to show that the Government “used or failed to correct” Mr. Carroll’s false
testimony; that the Government knew or should have know Mr. Carroll’s testimony was false;
and that a “reasonable likelihood” exists the “false testimony could have affected the judgment.”
See Rodriguez v. Sec’y, Fla. Dep’t of Corr., 756 F.3d 1277, 1302 (11th Cir. 2014).
The fatal error in Mr. Holden’s argument is that Mr. Carroll’s testimony on this issue was
not false. Mr. Carroll did not deny being a confidential information in 2008 and 2009; he just
did not agree that being a confidential information meant he was a “snitch.”
Mr. Carroll admitted that he started working as a confidential informant in December
2008 and continued to participate in controlled buys through June 2009, the exact dates and time
line contained in the “Narrative.” (Crim. Doc. 371 at 109). Mr. Holden’s trial counsel asked
Mr. Carroll during cross-examination: “You went in to talk to them and you started working
with them in December 2008 as a confidential informant, didn’t you?” Mr. Carroll responded
“Yes, sir.” Id. When asked “And you did that back in 2008 all the way through June of 2009,
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didn’t you?,” Mr. Carroll responded “Yes, sir.” (Crim. Doc. 371 at 111). Although Mr. Carroll
initially denied being a “snitch,” he ultimately admitted to being a confidential informant in the
Mr. Carroll did not give false testimony about being a confidential informant in 2008 and
2009, and Mr. Holden has produced nothing to show that the Government actually “used or
failed to correct” any false testimony of Mr. Carroll. Therefore, Mr. Holden fails to show how
his counsel could be ineffective for failing to raise this ground when Mr. Carroll did not give
false testimony. He also fails to show a reasonable probability that this court would have
granted a motion for a new trial on this ground had his trial counsel filed such a motion.
Therefore, this ground fails to meet the Strickland standard.
Ground 3: Ineffective Assistance of Appeal Counsel for Failure to Present Issues on Appeal
For this ground, Mr. Holden admits that his appellate counsel filed an appeal challenging
the denial of the motion to suppress, but he claims that “[t]here were numerous constitutional
violations that [occurred] during trial and sentencing. Petitioner requests the right to be allowed
to advance these issues on direct appeal.” (Doc. 1 at 7). However, Mr. Holden gives the court
absolutely no facts about these alleged constitutional violations, not even general statements
about when or how these alleged violations occurred. Instead, Mr. Holden claims that he
“cannot state the violations because, he [does] not have his trial transcript of [the] proceedings.”
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(Doc. 8 at 6). However, his conclusory statement that numerous constitutional violations
occurred is insufficient to show ineffective assistance of appellate counsel or prejudice.
Mr. Holden’s general, unsupported allegation that his appellate counsel was ineffective
for failing to appeal “numerous constitutional violations”does not pass muster. See Tejada, 941
F.2d at 1559. The court understands that Mr. Holden may not remember each and every word
from the trial; but, even without the trial transcript, he could give the court some indication
about the factual support for the alleged constitutional violations to which he refers. However,
he gives the court no facts at all to explain the alleged violations his appellate counsel failed to
raise. The court cannot find his appellate counsel ineffective on grounds unrevealed by Mr.
Holden and unknown to the court.
Moreover, Mr. Holden had access to his trial transcript because he attached several pages
from it to his evidentiary submission filing. See (Doc. 14 at 4-20). If Mr. Holden could find
these specific pages from the trial transcript to support his claims, he could have pointed the
court to facts from the transcript to support his conclusion that alleged constitutional violations
occurred. Even if Mr. Holden did not have all of the trial transcripts, he did not ask the court in
this proceeding for access to those transcripts or for additional time to obtain them. In any event,
he failed to give the court any facts to support his unsubstantiated conclusions. Such
conclusions with no factual support cannot show ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.
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Interestingly, Mr. Holden actually cites to pages from the transcript of the motion to
suppress to support this ground even though he claims he had no transcripts. (Doc. 14 at 18-20).
Mr. Holden claims that, because his trial counsel asked the court to certify the denial of the
motion to suppress as an interlocutory appeal but the court denied that request, he “is entitled to
a [belated] appeal, so that he may address trial and sentencing issues.” (Doc. 8 at 6).
But, the court’s denial of the interlocutory appeal on the motion to suppress issue has no
bearing on this ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claim on this ground. His appellate
counsel did file a direct appeal challenging the denial of the motion to suppress—the very issue
for which he requested an interlocutory appeal. His counsel’s request for an interlocutory
appeal that the court denied does not subsequently give Mr. Holden the right to file more issues
on direct appeal later.
His appellate counsel raised the strongest argument on direct appeal, and he is not
ineffective for failing to raise frivolous issues on appeal. See Deonarinesingh v. United States,
542 F. App’x 857, 863 (citing Payne v. United States, 566 F.3d 1276, 1277 (11th Cir. 2009)
(per curiam)) (“Appellate counsel is not required to raise all nonfrivolous issues on appeal . . .
especially where counsel raised other strong issues.”).
Mr. Holden has produced nothing for
this ground other than unsubstantiated conclusory allegations, and this grounds fails to show
that his appellate counsel was ineffective, much less that any prejudice occurred as required by
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For the reasons stated in this opinion, the court finds that Mr. Holden’ motion to vacate is
due to be DENIED on all grounds.
The court will enter a separate Order.
DONE and ORDERED this 9th day of November, 2017.
KARON OWEN BOWDRE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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