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Ragland v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

January 30, 2017

RUFUS LAMAR RAGLAND, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THOMAS A. VARLAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Petitioner's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Doc. 33].[1] The United States responded in opposition on November 4, 2016 [Doc. 37]. Petitioner did not reply and the time for doing so has now passed. E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.1, 7.2. For the reasons below, Petitioner's § 2255 motion [Doc. 33] will be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On August 22, 2014, law enforcement was alerted by OnStar, a security and tracking communications system, that a vehicle equipped with OnStar technology had been stolen from Enterprise Rental and was travelling southbound on Interstate 75 [Doc. 18 ¶ 4(a)]. Officers began searching for the stolen vehicle, and OnStar remotely activated the vehicle's emergency flashers [Id.]. Officers spotted the vehicle on the interstate and attempted to stop it, but the vehicle evaded officers as it exited the interstate [Id.]. OnStar then decreased the power of the vehicle and was able to slow its speed to 20 to 30 miles per hour [Id.]. The vehicle pulled into a gas station and stopped behind a black Chevy Tahoe, whose owner fled on foot as officers approached [Id. ¶ 4(b)].

         Petitioner exited the stolen vehicle and ran toward the Tahoe [Id.]. He then hopped into the driver's seat, started the engine, and began driving away [Id.]. Officers ordered Petitioner to stop, but he ignored them and accelerated forward, ramming into a police car and then reversing into a concrete pole [Id.]. The officers drew their guns and again ordered Petitioner to stop the vehicle [Id.]. Instead, Petitioner again accelerated forward-this time directly into the path of the officers and their patrol cars, striking one officer who was existing his patrol car [Id.]. Petitioner knocked the officer out of his way as he fled [Id.]. Now driving the Tahoe, Petitioner traveled at reckless speeds and nearly ran a motorcycle and several vehicles off the road [Id. ¶ 4(c)]. Eventually, Petitioner was taken into custody and the stolen vehicle left at the gas station was inventoried [Id.]. Officers found a loaded .38 Taurus revolver with the serial numbers removed, digital scales, and a large amount of marijuana separated into 150 individual baggies [Id.].

         Petitioner was charged with possessing marijuana with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(D); possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1); and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) [Doc. 1 pp. 1-2]. He pled guilty to the § 922(g)(1) offense and stipulated under a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) agreement to being an armed career criminal subject to the Armed Career Criminal Act's (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence [Doc. 18 ¶ 1(a); Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) ¶¶ 38-39 (noting that Petitioner had four prior Tennessee convictions for aggravated burglary)]. The United States Probation Office assigned Petitioner an advisory Guideline range of 188 to 235 months [PSR ¶¶ 43, 70]. On February 16, 2016, this Court accepted Petitioner's plea and imposed a below-Guideline sentence of 180 months [Docs. 29, 33-1 pp. 5, 13-19]. No direct appeal was taken.

         II. TIMELINESS OF PETITIONER'S CLAIMS

         Section 2255(f) places a one-year statute of limitations on all petitions for collateral relief under § 2255 running from either: (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 applicable to cases on collateral review; or (4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). For purposes of the subsection (f)(1)-where the statutory period expires one year from the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final-a “conviction becomes final at the conclusion of direct review.” Brown v. United States, 20 F. App'x 373, 374 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Johnson v. United States, 246 F.3d 655, 657 (6th Cir. 2001)). “[W]hen a federal criminal defendant does not appeal to the court of appeals, [direct review concludes] upon expiration of the period in which the defendant could have appealed to [such court], even when no notice of appeal was filed.” Johnson v. United States, 457 F. App'x 462, 465 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sanchez-Castellano v. United States, 358 F.3d 424, 427 (6th Cir. 2004)). Petitioner's judgment of conviction became final on March 1, 2016, fourteen days after the Court entered judgment on February 16, 2016. See Sanchez Castellano v. United States, 358 F.3d 424, 428 (6th Cir. 2004) (explaining unappealed judgments of conviction becomes final when the period for filing a direct appeal has elapsed); Fed. R. App. P. 4(b)(1)(A) (20012) (noting criminal defendant was required to file a notice of appeal within fourteen days of entry of the judgment appealed). Petitioner submitted the instant petition within a year of that date [Doc. 33].

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The relief authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 2255 “does not encompass all claimed errors in conviction and sentencing.” United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979). Rather, a petitioner must demonstrate “(1) an error of constitutional magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside the statutory limits; or (3) an error of fact or law . . . so fundamental as to render the entire proceeding invalid.” Short v. United States, 471 F.3d 686, 691 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Mallett v. United States, 334 F.3d 491, 496-97 (6th Cir. 2003)). He “must clear a significantly higher hurdle than would exist on direct appeal” and establish a “fundamental defect in the proceedings which necessarily results in a complete miscarriage of justice or an egregious error violative of due process.” Fair v. United States, 157 F.3d 427, 430 (6th Cir. 1998).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Petitioner articulates a single ground for relief, suggesting trial counsel rendered constitutionally deficient assistance when he advised Petitioner to plead guilty as an armed career criminal [Doc. 33 p. 4]. Specifically, Petitioner suggests that counsel should have anticipated the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016)-which expounded on the categorical approach first announced in Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 599 (1990), and refined in Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), and objected to the use of Petitioner's prior aggravated burglary convictions as predicate conviction in light of the same [Id. (suggesting that Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015)-which ruled the residual clause of the ACCA unconstitutionally vague-prevents categorization under the residual provision and the Mathis decision precludes categorization under the enumerated-offense clause)].

         A. Failure to Anticipate the Mathis Decision and Advise Against Plea

         A petitioner alleging ineffective assistance must satisfy the two-part test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1987). First, the petitioner must establish, by identifying specific acts or omissions, that counsel's performance was deficient and that counsel did not provide “reasonably effective assistance, ” id., as measured by “prevailing professional norms, ” Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374, 380 (2005). Counsel's assistance is presumed to have been effective, and the petitioner bears the burden of showing otherwise. Mason v. Mitchell, 320 F.3d 604, 616-17 (6th Cir. 2003); see also Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (a reviewing court “must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide ...


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