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Denton v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

December 6, 2016

MONICA DENTON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Monica Denton, (“petitioner”), has filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Doc. 781]. For the reasons discussed in this memorandum and order, her motion is DENIED.

         1. Background

         Petitioner was one of 21 defendants charged in a 45-count indictment involving marijuana, cocaine, oxycodone, and various firearm offenses. Petitioner was charged only in Count Three with conspiring with seven other people to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute a quantity of oxycodone.[1] Attorney Wayne Stambaugh of the Criminal Justice Act panel was appointed to represent her.

         On December 7, 2011, petitioner signed a plea agreement with the United States in which she agreed to plead guilty to Count Three. In the first numbered paragraph of that plea agreement, it was explicitly recited that because of petitioner's prior felony drug conviction she confronted a possible maximum term of imprisonment of 30-years.[2] Petitioner acknowledged in the agreement that she conspired with at least one other person to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute 1, 440 30 milligram oxycodone pills, and 840 15 milligram oxycodone pills, [3] which equates to 55.8 kilograms of oxycodone.

         Petitioner agreed that she would not file a direct appeal of her conviction or sentence unless the sentence was above the greater of her sentencing guideline range or the mandatory minimum sentence. She further agreed that she would not file a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 except for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct which was unknown to her at the time judgment was entered.[4] For its part, the United States agreed that it would not oppose a two-level reduction in her offense level for acceptance of responsibility, and an additional 1-level reduction if her offense level was 16 or greater.[5]

         On January 3, 2012, petitioner formally entered her plea of guilty. During the change of plea hearing, she testified under oath that she had read the plea agreement; that the facts stated in that plea agreement were true; that she committed the acts as described in paragraph 3(a) of the plea agreement; and that she was in fact guilty of the offense to which she was pleading guilty.[6]

         The United States Probation Office prepared a presentence report (“PSR”) in which it reported that petitioner's Base Offense Level was 26 and, after subtracting three levels as per the Plea Agreement, her adjusted Offense Level was 23.[7] Her Criminal History Category was V. Her Guideline Range was 84 to 105 months.[8]

         Petitioner's sentencing hearing was held on February 27, 2012. The Court sentenced petitioner to 99 months imprisonment to run partially concurrently with the sentence imposed upon her by the Knoxville division of this Court for a Hobbs Act robbery conviction in case No. 3:10-CR-112.[9] Specifically, the sentence of this court was ordered to begin running concurrently with the Knoxville sentence as of the date of her sentencing in this court, February 27, 2012.

         On April 7, 2015, petitioner's sentence was reduced to 78 months under Amendments 782 and 788 of the Sentencing Guidelines[10]. According to the Bureau of Prisons, petitioner is scheduled to be released from federal custody (the State of Tennessee has filed a detainer against her) on January 19, 2017 for both federal sentences.

         II. Petitioner's Motion, [Doc. 781]

         Petitioner claims that her attorney was ineffective by failing to move that the undersigned district judge disqualify himself, and for failing to move for a change of venue.

         III. Standard of Review

         This Court must vacate and set aside petitioner's sentence if it finds that “the judgment was rendered without jurisdiction, or that the sentence imposed was not authorized by law or otherwise open to collateral attack, or that there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack, . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Under Rule 4 of the Governing Rules, the Court is to consider initially whether the face of the motion itself, together with the annexed exhibits and prior proceedings in the case, ...


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