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Mills v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

March 23, 2017

BRANDON MILLS, Petitioner,



         Before the Court is Petitioner's pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Docs. 173, 178]. He bases the request for relief on Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), in which the Supreme Court held that the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), was unconstitutionally vague [Id.]. The United States responded in opposition on August 4, 2016 [Doc. 184]. 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 that follow, Petitioner's § 2255 motion will be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2007, Petitioner pled guilty to, and was subsequently convicted of, aiding and abetting the commission of four Hobbs Act robberies, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 and 2, and two counts of aiding and abetting the brandishing of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) and 2 [Docs. 56, 78]. The United States Probation Office assigned Petitioner an advisory Guideline range of 441 to 455 months' imprisonment [Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) ¶¶ 82-83 (noting that Petitioner's § 924(c) offenses resulted in statutorily mandated minimums of 384 months' imprisonment)]. The Court granted a motion for downward departure filed by the United States and sentenced petitioner to 321 months' incarceration on April 9, 2007 [Doc. 78]. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

         Four years later-in January of 2012, Petitioner field a motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea [Doc. 161]. Noting that the proper avenue for making such a request would be to file a motion under § 2255, this Court sent Petitioner a blank petition [Doc. 162]. On June 16, 2016, Petitioner filed the instant § 2255 motion [Docs. 173, 178]. The petition contains two theories for collateral relief: (1) several underdeveloped allegations of ineffective assistance suggesting counsel failed to “do what [Petitioner] instructed, ” seek a lesser sentence because this was Petitioner's “first felony, ” or “represent [Petitioner's] case right;” and (2) a challenge to Petitioner's § 924(c) convictions based on the Johnson decision [Id. at 4-10].


         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). Petitioner has failed to demonstrate that subsections (f)(2) or (f)(4) apply to her case. i.e., she has not established that any illegal action by the government prevented her from making the timely petition or the existence of facts affecting her case that could not have previously been discovered through the exercise of due diligence. As such, timeliness of the petition depends on whether its submission complied with subsections (f)(1) and (f)(3).

         A. Timeliness of Supplemented Petition Under Subsections (f)(1) and (f)(3)

         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)). Using the same reasoning, the Sixth Circuit has made clear that “when 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 conviction became final on April 23, 2007, fourteen days after the Court entered judgment on April 9, 2007. See Fed. R. App. Proc. 4(b)(1)(A)(i) (“In a criminal case, a defendant's notice of appeal must be filed in the district court within [fourteen] days after . . . the entry of . . . judgment.”). The window for requesting relief under that subsection expired on April 23, 2008, slightly less than eight years before Petitioner submitted the petition.

         To the extent Petitioner attempts to rely on subsection (f)(3)'s independent one-year filing period for newly-recognized rights made retroactively applicable on collateral review as justification for submitting the petition after April 23, 2008, only the claim for collateral relief based on the Johnson decision even arguably satisfies the conditions required to trigger that provision. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3) (requiring reliance on a newly recognized and retroactively applicable right); see also Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257, 1265 (2016) (“Johnson is . . . a substantive decision and so has retroactive effect . . . in cases on collateral review.”); In re Windy Watkins, 810 F.3d 375, 380-81 (6th Cir. 2015) (finding Johnson constitutes a new substantive rule of constitutional law made retroactively applicable on collateral review and thus triggers § 2255(h)(2)'s requirement for certification of a second or successive petition). By contrast, Petitioner's theories of ineffective assistance of counsel do not assert a newly recognized right and thus cannot rely on the one-year filing window under subsection (f)(3). As a result, timeliness of the ineffective assistance claims depend on whether or not subsection (f)(1) was tolled.

         B. Equitable Tolling of Subsection (f)(1)

         Section 2255(f)'s statute of limitations is not jurisdictional and may be tolled under limited, extraordinary circumstances. Dunlap v. United States, 250 F.3d 101, 1007 (6lth Cir. 2001). Used sparingly, a petitioner bears the burden of establishing that equitable tolling applies to her case, see Jurado v. Burt, 337 F.3d 638, 642 (6th Cir. 2003); Allen v. Yukins, 366 F.3d 396, 401 (6th Cir. 2004), and must show “(1) that [s]he has been pursuing [her] rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in [her] way and prevented timely filing, ” Holland v. Florida, 130 S.Ct. 2549, 2562 (2010); Hail v. Warden, 662 F.3d 745, 750 (6th Cir. 2011); see also Jurado, 337 F.3d at 643 (“Absent compelling equitable considerations, a court should not extend limitations by even a single day.”).

         Review of the petition and CM/ECF record fail to reveal a single extraordinary circumstance justifying Petitioner's failure submit the ineffective assistance of counsel claims within the one-year window permitted by subsection (f)(1). Compare Stovall v. United States, No. 1:12-cv-377, 2013 WL 392467, at *3 (E.D.T.N. Jan. 31, 2013) (rejecting request for equitable tolling of subsection (f)(1) in absence of evidence illustrating a diligent pursuit of the rights asserted); with Jones v. United States, 689 F.3d 621, 627 (6th Cir. 2012) (granting request for equitable tolling where the petitioner pled facts indicating he had been separated from his legal materials for an extended period of time due to multiple detention transfers and an illness). Because the theories of ineffective assistance are untimely, they will be denied without review.

         III. ...

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