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Williams v. United States

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

April 21, 2017

ANTHONY DOUGLAS WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Leon Jordan United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Petitioner's supplemented motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Docs. 40, 48, 57].[1] The United States responded in opposition on August 15, 2016 [Doc. 43]; Petitioner replied in turn on September 13, 2016 [Doc. 49]. Recently, the United States filed a motion to deny and dismiss the petition based on an intervening decision of the Supreme Court [Doc. 53]. In response, Petitioner filed a motion to “proceed pro se in [his] § 2255 motion” [Doc. 57]. Also before the Court are FDSET's motions to withdraw as counsel [Doc. 56] and for a 30-day extension for the submission of additional pro se arguments [Doc. 55]. For the reasons below, the motion to withdraw [Doc. 56] will be GRANTED, the request for an extension of time to amend [Docs. 55] will be DENIED, the motion to deny and dismiss [Doc. 53] will be GRANTED, and the supplemented § 2255 motion [Docs. 40, 48, 57] will be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In October of 2014, Petitioner pled guilty, pursuant to a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, to possessing with intent to distribute cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C), and using and carrying one or more firearms during and in relation to that drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) [Doc. 25]. In the plea agreement, the parties agreed that an aggregate term of 286 months' imprisonment would be appropriate for the offenses [Id. ¶ 6], and Petitioner “knowingly and voluntarily waive[d] the right to file any motions or pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, ” except for “claims of ineffective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct” [Id. ¶ 10(b)].

         Based on prior Tennessee convictions for felony evading arrest and burglary of a habitation, the United States Probation Office deemed Petitioner to be a career offender under Section 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines with an advisory Guideline range of 262 to 327 months' imprisonment [Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) ¶¶ 24, 40, 44, 69]. Consistent with the plea agreement, this Court sentenced Petitioner to an aggregate term of 286 months' imprisonment on February 12, 2015 [Doc. 34]. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

         The Supreme Court decided Johnson v. United States-invalidating the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)-on June 26, 2015. 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). Petitioner filed the instant petition within a year of that decision [Doc. 40]. On September 6, 2016, Petitioner field a pro se supplement to the original petition [Doc. 48].

         On March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court issued 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. 51]. On March 31, 2017, FDSET filed two motions: one asking to withdraw as appointed counsel under the Standing Order in light of Beckles [Doc. 56 (explaining that she cannot further pursue a motion to vacate under Johnson according to the limited appointment authorization provided by the Standing Order)]; and another requesting that the Court grant Petitioner leave and a 30-day extension of time to file additional pro se grounds for collateral relief [Doc. 55]. That same day, the United States filed a motion to dismiss Petitioner's Johnson-based challenge in light of Beckles [Doc. 53]. In response, Petitioner filed a motion to “proceed pro se” [Doc. 57].

         II. RESOLUTION OF NON-DISPOSITIVE MOTIONS

         Because Beckles forecloses any possibility of Johnson-based relief, the request to withdraw [Doc. 56] will be GRANTED and counsel will be relieved of her duties under the Standing Order. The request for an extension to file additional pro se claims [Doc. 55] will also be DENIED.

         While it is true that Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that leave to amend should “be freely given when justice so requires, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), relevant factors include “undue delay in filing, lack of notice to the opposing party, bad faith by the moving party, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and futility of amendment.” Anderson v. Young Touchstone Co., 735 F.Supp.2d 831, 833 (W.D. Tenn. 2010) (quoting Forman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1965)). FDSET filed the original petition on June 9, 2016 [Doc. 40]. At no point during the nine-month period leading up to the Beckles decision did Petitioner attempt to supplement FDSET's filing with alternative grounds for relief. In light of this unjustified delay, an extension of time would be inappropriate.

         III. MOTION TO DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE

         In addition to the petition, this Court is in possession of the United States' request to deny and dismiss Petitioner's collateral challenge to his career offender designation in light of Beckles. In response, Petitioner submitted a motion to “proceed pro se in [his] § 2255 motion” [Doc. 57]. In the motion, he argues that Beckles does not foreclose the requested collateral relief for the following reasons: (1) he asserts an as applied, not facial, challenge to the career offender enhancement; (2) even if the Guidelines residual provision remains intact, his prior conviction for felony evading arrest does not qualify as a crime of violence under Section 4B1.1; (3) he did not commit the prior state offenses in a violent manner; and (4) the Guideline residual clause is too vague for this Court to “fulfill [its] duty to arrive at the appropriate Guideline range” [Doc. 57]. For the reasons that follow, the motion to deny and dismiss will be GRANTED

         IV. SUPPLEMENTED PETITION FOR COLLATERAL RELIEF

         A. ...


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