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Williams-Dotson v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

November 16, 2016




         Before the Court is a Motion Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody (the “§ 2255 Motion”) filed by Petitioner Clauderick Williams-Dotson (“Williams-Dotson”), Bureau of Prisons register number 23007-076, an inmate at USP Coleman Medium in Coleman, Florida (§ 2255 Motion, ECF No. 1.) For the reasons stated below, Williams-Dotson's § 2255 Motion is DENIED.


         I. Criminal Case Number 09-20190-BBD

         On May 28, 2009, a federal grand jury sitting in the Western District of Tennessee returned an indictment against Williams-Dotson, charging him with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), one count of committing a robbery affecting interstate commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951, and one count of knowingly using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). (See Indictment, United States v. Clauderick Williams-Dotson, 2:09-cr-20190-1-STA (W.D. Tenn.), ECF No. 1.) As part of a plea agreement with the United States, Williams-Dotson pleaded guilty to the robbery charge at a change of plea hearing on July 27, 2011, and the United States agreed to dismiss both firearms counts at sentencing. On December 6, 2011, the Court sentenced Williams-Dotson to a term of imprisonment of 51 months to be followed by two years' supervised release and imposed a special assessment of $100. The Clerk entered judgment (ECF No. 48) on December 7, 2011. Williams-Dotson did not take a direct appeal.

         B. Civil Case 16-2016

         On January 7, 2016, Williams-Dotson filed his pro se § 2255 Motion, raising a single claim for relief. According to the Motion, Williams-Dotson asked trial counsel to file an appeal but never heard from counsel again. On August 25, 2016, the Court directed the United States to respond to Williams-Dotson's petition, and the government filed its response on September 21, 2016. In its response, the United States argues that Williams-Dotson's § 2255 Motion is time-barred. Williams-Dotson's conviction became final shortly after the Court entered judgment in December 2011. Williams-Dotson did not bring his collateral attack until January 2016. The United States argues that Williams-Dotson has failed to explain this four-year delay or show why the Court should equitably toll the statute of limitations. The Court should therefore dismiss the petition as time-barred. Williams-Dotson did not exercise his right to file a traverse or reply to the government's brief.


         Williams-Dotson seeks habeas relief in this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). The statute reads as follows:

[a] prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress 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, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

         “A prisoner seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 must allege either (1) an error of constitutional magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside the statutory limits; or (3) an error of fact or law that was so fundamental as to render the entire proceeding invalid.”[1] A § 2255 motion is not a substitute for a direct appeal.[2] “[N]onconstitutional claims that could have been raised on appeal, but were not, may not be asserted in collateral proceedings.”[3] “Defendants must assert their claims in the ordinary course of trial and direct appeal.”[4] The rule, however, is not absolute:

If claims have been forfeited by virtue of ineffective assistance of counsel, then relief under § 2255 would be available subject to the standard of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). In those rare instances where the defaulted claim is of an error not ordinarily cognizable or constitutional error, but the error is committed in a context that is so positively outrageous as to indicate a “complete miscarriage of justice, ” it seems to us that what is really being asserted is a violation of due process.[5]

         Procedural default bars even constitutional claims that a defendant could have raised on direct appeal, but did not, unless the defendant demonstrates cause and prejudice sufficient to excuse his failure to raise the issues previously.[6] Alternatively, a defendant may obtain review of a procedurally defaulted claim by demonstrating his “actual innocence.”[7]

         Dismissal of a § 2255 motion is mandatory if the motion, exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings show that the petitioner is not entitled to relief.[8] If the habeas court does not dismiss the motion, the court must order the United States to file its “answer, motion, or other response within a fixed time, or take other action the judge may order.”[9] The petitioner is then entitled to reply to the government's response.[10] The habeas court may also direct the parties to provide additional information relating to the motion.[11] The petitioner has the burden of proving that he is entitled to relief by a preponderance of the evidence.[12]


         “A motion filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is subject to a one-year statute of limitations, with the limitations period beginning to run from the latest of four possible dates.”[13]

(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;
(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action;
(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively ...

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