United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
AARON M. SAMMONS, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the motion of Aaron M. Sammons
(“Sammons” or “petitioner”) to
vacate, set aside or correct sentence, [Doc. 54, 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.
Factual and Procedural Background
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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 ...