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United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
March 2, 2010, Argued; May 18, 2010, Decided; May 18, 2010, Filed
File Name: 10a0143p.06
[*362] [***1] BOGGS, Circuit Judge. This case reaches us in an unusual posture: the government appeals the district court's grant of a new trial under Federal Rule of [***2] Criminal Procedure 33. In the underlying trial, defendant Richard Munoz was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and aiding and abetting distribution of methamphetamine. Approximately two months after the verdict, but before sentencing, Munoz obtained new counsel. Thereafter, Munoz belatedly moved for a new trial, arguing [**2] that trial counsel had provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court granted the motion, specifically grounding its new-trial grant on the violation of Munoz's Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel.
We hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Munoz's untimely filing of his Rule 33 motion was the result of excusable neglect. However, because we find that trial counsel's assistance more than met the minimum standard required by the Sixth Amendment, we reverse the district court's grant of a new trial. We leave for another day the question, addressed neither by the district court nor the parties on appeal, whether a district court may grant a new trial based on lackluster representation that does not fall below the constitutionally required standard.
A. Pre-Trial Events
In July 2006, Carol Ann O'Neal was arrested for selling methamphetamine to an undercover officer in Warren County, [*363] Tennessee. O'Neal cooperated with the authorities and led them to her supplier, Aaron George, a resident of Arizona. By this time, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation ("TBI") had taken control [**3] of the developing case. George, in turn, agreed to cooperate and identified his source, Jose Luis Tagaban, who lived in Imperial, California.
With TBI agents listening in, George called Tagaban and arranged for a methamphetamine shipment to McMinnville, Tennessee. Tagaban told George to wire $ 2,000 to Richard Munoz in El Centro, California. On July 17, 2006, TBI agents did so. The next day, Munoz picked up the money order. On July 20, 2006, a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent photographed Munoz leaving a FedEx office in [***3] Imperial, California. The following day, a FedEx package containing approximately 586 grams of methamphetamine arrived at the McMinnville address George had provided Tagaban.
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605 F.3d 359 *; 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 10061 **; 2010 FED App. 0143P (6th Cir.) ***
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. RICHARD MUNOZ, Defendant-Appellee.
Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by, Rehearing, en banc, denied by United States v. Munoz, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 18415 (6th Cir., Aug. 27, 2010)
US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Munoz v. United States, 2011 U.S. LEXIS 2803 (U.S., Apr. 4, 2011)
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Winchester. No. 06-00023-002--Harry S. Mattice, Jr., District Judge.
United States v. Munoz, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16282 (E.D. Tenn., Mar. 2, 2009)
district court, new trial, character witness, package, drugs, ineffective assistance, excusable neglect, ineffective, omissions, investigate, parties, interest of justice, credibility, sentence, methamphetamine, grounds, argues, courts, cases, box, ineffective assistance of counsel, motion for a new trial, cross-examination, cooperation, untimely, impeach, plea agreement, timely file, circumstances, interview
Criminal Law & Procedure, Postconviction Proceedings, Motions for New Trial, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, New Trial, General Overview, De Novo Review, Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, Counsel, Effective Assistance of Counsel, Civil Procedure, Relief From Judgments, Excusable Mistakes & Neglect, Excusable Neglect, Attorneys, Business & Corporate Law, Duties & Liabilities, Negligent Acts of Agents, Liability of Principals, Legal Ethics, Client Relations, Duties to Client, Effective Representation, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Assistance of Counsel, Tests for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, Trials, Trials, Witnesses, Evidence, Types of Evidence, Testimony