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Rogers v. United States

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

April 20, 2017

BUFORD W. ROGERS, Petitioner,



         Before the Court is the United States's motion to deny and dismiss Petitioner's supplemented pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Doc. 959]. Petitioner submitted the petition on May 23, 2016 [Docs. 916, 962]. In it, he challenges his enhancement under Section 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines based on Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), which held that the residual provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), was unconstitutionally vague [Id. (suggesting that his sentence is no longer valid because the residual clause in Section 4B1.2 is equally vague)].[1]

         On March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Beckles v. United States, which held that the United States Sentencing Guidelines are “not amenable to vagueness challenges.” 137 S.Ct. 886, 894 (2017). Two weeks later, this Court entered an Order (1) explaining that Beckles necessarily meant that “Johnson . . . does not undermine sentences based on Guideline enhancements;” (2) instructing the parties to “file any motion that they want[ed] the Court to consider in conjunction with, or prior to, ruling on [the instant] petition[] on or before April 1, 2017;” and (3) requiring that responsive pleadings be filed on or before April 15, 2017 [Doc. 958].

         On March 27, 2017, the United States filed the instant motion to dismiss Petitioner's Johnson-based challenge to his career offender designation in light of Beckles [Doc. 959]. On April 13, 2017, Petitioner filed a motion requesting this Court consider his Johnson-based request for sentencing relief in light of Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), and Molina-Martinez v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1338 (2016) [Doc. 962].[2] He provided no further analysis.


         To the extent that Petitioner challenges his career offender designation based on Johnson, that argument fails because the Guidelines are not subject to void for vagueness analysis. Beckles, 137 S.Ct. 894. As a result, both of Petitioner's prior federal felony drug convictions remain controlled substance predicates under Section 4B1.1(a)(3).[3] See, e.g., United States v. Jenkins, 613 F.App'x 754, 755 (10th Cir. 2015) (deeming Johnson “irrelevant” where enhancement stemmed from drug offenses). Similar to Johnson, neither Mathis nor Molina-Martinez have any impact on the validity or propriety of Petitioner's designation as a career offender.


         For the foregoing reasons, the United States's motion to deny and dismiss [Doc. 959] will be GRANTED and Petitioner's supplemented § 2255 petition [Docs. 916, 962] will be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. This Court will CERTIFY any appeal from this action would not be taken in good faith and would be totally frivolous. Therefore, this Court will DENY Petitioner leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal. See Fed. R. App. P. 24. Petitioner having failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right, a certificate of appealability SHALL NOT ISSUE. 28 U.S.C. § 2253; Fed. R. App. P. 22(b).




[1] The ACCA mandates a fifteen-year sentence for any felon who unlawfully possesses a firearm after having sustained three prior convictions “for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The statute defines “violent felony” as “any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” that (1) “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another” (the “use-of-physical-force clause”); (2) “is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves the use of explosives” (the “enumerated-offense clause”); or (3) “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” (the “residual clause”). 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). It was this third clause-the residual clause-that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in Johnson. 135 S.Ct. at 2563.

Section 4B1.1 enhances a defendant's offense level if he or she qualifies as a “career offender, ” i.e., adult defendant whose offense of conviction is a “crime of violence or controlled substance offense” and who has “at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.” U.S. Sentencing Manual § 4B1.1(a). “Crime of violence” under the Guidelines is defined in an almost identical manner as “violent felony” under the ACCA. See U.S. Sentencing Manual § 4B1.2(a) (adopting identical use-of-force and residual clauses as well as a nearly identical enumerated-offense clause).

[2] In Mathis, the Supreme Court held that: (1) a prior conviction does not qualify as a generic form of a predicate violent felony for purposes of the ACCA if an element of the crime of conviction is made broader than an element of the generic offense by way of an enumerated list of alternative factual means for satisfaction of the former; and (2) Iowa's burglary statute- which defines “structure” to include any building, structure, [or] land, water, or air vehicle”- had a broader locational component than generic burglary. 136 S.Ct. at 2247-48, 53-54. Because the “structure” element of Iowa's burglary statute was broader than the parallel element of generic ...

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