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Massengale v. United States

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

April 11, 2017




         Before the Court is Petitioner's supplemented motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Docs. 32, 44, 48].[1] The United States responded in opposition to the original pro se petition on January 2, 2015 [Doc. 35], and requested that this Court stay resolution of the supplemented petition pending Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017), on August 11, 2016 [Doc. 51]. For the reasons below, Petitioner's supplemented § 2255 petition [Docs. 32, 44, 48] will be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. The United States' request for a stay pending the Beckles decision [Doc. 51] will be DENIED as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 5, 2013, law enforcement officers found 58.6 grams of cocaine, digital scales, and other drug paraphernalia in Petitioner's vehicle during a traffic stop [Doc. 20]. He subsequently pled guilty to possessing cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C) [Id.]. At the time, Petitioner had several prior convictions, including thirteen Tennessee convictions for aggravated burglary [Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) ¶ ¶ 27-30, 35]. Based on three of those prior aggravated burglary convictions, Petitioner was deemed a career offender under Section 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines with an advisory range of 151 to 188 months' imprisonment [Id. ¶¶ 21, 59]. This Court sentenced Petitioner to 167 months' imprisonment on December 3, 2013 [Doc. 31]. He did not appeal, but instead filed the instant timely pro se petition for collateral relief on December 1, 2014 [Doc. 32]. On July 2, 2016, Petitioner supplemented that pro se filing with a second ground for collateral relief [Doc. 44].


         In addition to the petition, this Court is in possession of the United States' request to defer resolution of the § 2255 motion pending Beckles v. United States. Because the Supreme Court issued a decision in the Beckles case on March 6, 2017, the motion to defer will be denied as moot.


         A. 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).

         B. Analysis

         Petitioner articulates two theories in support of the requested sentencing relief. In the first, he argues that counsel rendered constitutionally deficient assistance when he failed to object to Petitioner's career offender designation based on the Supreme Court's decision in Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013) [Doc. 32].[2] In the second, Petitioner claims that Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), which held that the residual provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), was unconstitutionally vague, removed his convictions for aggravated burglary from Section 4B1.2's definition of “crime of violence” and that, without those convictions, he lacks sufficient predicate offenses for enhancement [Docs. 44, 48].

         1. Failure to Object to Career Offender Designation

         A petitioner alleging ineffective assistance of counsel must satisfy the two-part test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1987). See also, Huff v. United States, 734 F.3d 600, 606 (6th Cir. 2013). 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 is presumed to have provided effective assistance, 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 range of reasonable professional assistance; that is, the defendant must overcome the presumption that . . . the challenged action might be considered sound . . . strategy” (internal citation omitted)).

         Second, the petitioner must demonstrate “a reasonable probability that, but for [counsel's acts or omissions], the result of the proceedings would have been different.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. “An error by counsel, even if professionally unreasonable, does not warrant setting aside the judgment of a criminal proceeding if the error had no effect on the judgment.” Id. at 691; see also Smith v. Robbins, 528 U.S. 259, 285-86 (2000). If a petitioner fails to prove that he sustained prejudice, the Court need not decide whether counsel's performance was deficient. See United States v. Hynes, 467 F.3d 951, 970 (6th Cir. 2006) (holding that alleged ...

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