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Sammons v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

February 27, 2017

AARON M. SAMMONS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA[1], Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of Aaron M. Sammons (“Sammons” or “petitioner”) to vacate, set aside or correct sentence, [Doc. 54[2], supplemented by Docs. 59, 61]. The United States has responded in opposition, [Doc. 58], and the matter is now ripe for disposition. The Court has determined that the records and files in the case conclusively establish that petitioner is not entitled to relief under 28 U.S..C § 2255 and that no evidentiary hearing is necessary. For the reasons which follow, petitioner's motion to vacate, set aside or correct sentence will be DENIED and the case, (No. 2:14-CV-26) will be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Petitioner was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm (Count One), and possession with a firearm with an obliterated serial number (Count Two) in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury on November 9, 2010, [Doc. 3]. The Federal Defender was initially appointed to represent Sammons, [Doc. 9], but was subsequently replaced by retained counsel, [Docs. 13, 14]. Petitioner signed a written plea agreement on February 22, 2011, [Doc. 26], agreeing to plead guilty to Count One. On March 1, 2011, the Court accepted his guilty plea, ordered a presentence investigation report (“PSR”), and set sentencing for July 18, 2011, [Doc. 27].

         The plea agreement stated that “[t]he punishment for this offense is as follows: up to 10 years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $250, 000, three years of supervised release, and $100.00 mandatory assessment.” During the plea colloquy, however, petitioner was informed that he “might be subject to a maximum term of life as well as a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence” if he was determined to be an armed career criminal (“ACC”). [Doc. 50 at 14]. Indeed, because the plea agreement did not make reference to the Armed Career Act (“ACCA”), the Court went to great lengths to assure that Sammons was aware of the possible maximum and minimum sentences if he was determined to be ACC. After Sammons was informed of the penalty provisions stated in his plea agreement, the following exchange took place:

MR. BOWMAN: . . . IN ADDITION, YOUR HONOR, ALTHOUGH NOT INDICATED IN THE PLEA AGREEMENT, I WAS JUST LOOKING THROUGH THE DEFENDANT'S PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY, I THINK THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT THE ACC PROVISIONS WOULD APPLY IN THIS CASE, YOUR HONOR, WHICH, OF COURSE, WOULD MAKE UNDER TITLE 18, UNITED STATES CODE, SECTION 924(E)(1) A MINIMUM AND MANDATORY 15 YEAR TERM OF IMPRISONMENT IF THE DEFENDANT WERE DETERMINED TO HAVE THREE PRIOR VIOLENT FELONY OR SERIOUS DRUG OFFENSES COMMITTED ON DIFFERENT OCCASIONS FROM ONE ANOTHER.
THE COURT: ALL RIGHT, MR. BOWMAN, THANK YOU.
Q. MR. SAMMONS, THE PLEA AGREEMENT YOU'VE ENTERED INTO PROVIDES THAT THE PUNISHMENT FOR THIS OFFENSE IS UP TO A 10 YEAR TERM OF IMPRISONMENT, A MAXIMUM $250, 000 FINE, 3 YEARS OF SUPERVISED RELEASE AND A $100 MANDATORY ASSESSMENT. TITLE 18, UNITED STATES CODE, SECTION 924(E)(1), HOWEVER, PROVIDES THAT IN THE CASE OF A PERSON WHO VIOLATES TITLE 18, UNITED STATES CODE, SECTION 922(G)(1) AND WHO HAS COMMITTED ON OCCASIONS DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER THREE SERIOUS VIOLENT FELONIES OR SERIOUS DRUG OFFENSES, THEN THAT PERSON IS SUBJECT TO A MANDATORY MINIMUM TERM OF 15 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT UP TO A MAXIMUM OF LIFE IMPRISONMENT. NOW, I DON'T KNOW WHETHER YOU AND MR. HESS HAVE DISCUSSED THE POSSIBILITY THAT YOU ARE WHAT'S COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS AN ARMED CAREER CRIMINAL PURSUANT TO SECTION 922, EXCUSE ME, 924(E)(1) OR NOT, BUT IT APPEARS THAT THE POTENTIAL MAXIMUM PENALTY TO WHICH YOU ARE EXPOSED BY THIS GUILTY PLEA IS CONSIDERABLY MORE THAN IS SET OUT IN THIS PLEA AGREEMENT. I CANNOT DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE SUBJECT TO SECTION 924(E)(1) UNTIL A PRESENTENCE REPORT IS PREPARED. I SIMPLY NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE AWARE THAT THE MAXIMUM TERM OF IMPRISONMENT IF YOU ARE AN ARMED CAREER CRIMINAL, THAT IS IF YOU HAVE THE PRIOR REQUISITE VIOLENT FELONY OR SERIOUS DRUG OFFENSES COMMITTED ON OCCASIONS DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER, THAT YOU WILL BE THEN SUBJECT TO A MAXIMUM TERM OF LIFE IMPRISONMENT.
A. I UNDERSTAND.
Q. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?
A. I UNDERSTAND THAT, YOUR HONOR.
THE COURT: MR. HESS, IS THAT SOMETHING YOU AND THE DEFENDANT HAVE DISCUSSED?
MR. HESS: WE HAVE, YOUR HONOR; AND BASED UPON THE CRIMINAL HISTORY THAT WE HAVE, AND I THINK WE HAVE IT ALL, IN MY CONVERSATIONS WITH HIM, JUST SO THE COURT UNDERSTANDS, HE DOES HAVE AN AGGRAVATED BURGLARY CHARGE, AND WE'VE DISCUSSED THAT CHARGE AND WHETHER OR NOT THAT'S CONSIDERED A VIOLENT CRIME, AND AS WELL AS THE OTHER CHARGES, MOST OF WHICH ARE BURGLARY OR THEFT CHARGES.
Q. ALL RIGHT. HERE'S THE BOTTOM LINE, MR. SAMMONS, I DON'T WANT YOU TO GO FORWARD WITH THIS GUILTY PLEA TODAY WITH A MISTAKEN UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU MIGHT SIMPLY BE SUBJECT TO A 10 YEAR MAXIMUM TERM OF IMPRISONMENT, WHEN IN FACT YOU MIGHT BE SUBJECT TO A MAXIMUM TERM OF LIFE, AS WELL AS A 15 YEAR MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?
A. YES, SIR.
Q. AND IN VIEW OF THAT, DO YOU WANT TO GO FORWARD WITH THIS GUILTY PLEA TODAY?
A. YES, SIR.
Q. AND, MORE SPECIFICALLY, DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT I CANNOT DETERMINE TODAY WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE IN FACT AN ARMED CAREER CRIMINAL AS DEFINED IN SECTION 924(E)(1)?
A. YES, SIR.
Q. YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THAT DETERMINATION CAN ONLY BE MADE AFTER A PRESENTENCE REPORT IS PREPARED AND BOTH YOU AND THE GOVERNMENT HAVE HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO OBJECT TO THAT PRESENTENCE REPORT?
A. YES, SIR.
Q. NOW, VERY IMPORTANTLY, MR. SAMMONS, DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT IF THIS COURT LATER DETERMINES THAT YOU ARE AN ARMED CAREER CRIMINAL WITHIN THE MEANING OF SECTION 924(E)(1), YOU WILL THEN BE SUBJECT TO A MANDATORY MINIMUM TERM OF 15 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT?
A. YES, SIR.
Q. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT ABSENT A GOVERNMENT MOTION FOR DOWNWARD DEPARTURE OR SOME OTHER VERY EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE, THIS COURT WOULD THEN HAVE NO DISCRETION TO IMPOSE ANY ...

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