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West v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

April 26, 2017




         Before the Court is Petitioner's supplemented pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Docs. 170, 180]. Recently, the United States filed a motion to deny and dismiss the petition based on an intervening Supreme Court decision [Doc. 186]. Petitioner did not respond and the time for doing so has now passed [Doc. 183]. For the reasons below, the United States' motion to deny and dismiss [Doc. 186] will be GRANTED and Petitioner's supplemented § 2255 motion [Docs. 170, 180] will be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2011, Petitioner pled guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C) [Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) ¶¶ 2, 8]. Based on two sets of Tennessee convictions-one for aggravated assault and aggravated burglary and one for possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, the United States Probation Office deemed Petitioner to be a career offender under Section 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines with a Guidelines range of 188 to 235 months' imprisonment [Id. ¶¶ 33, 70]. In accordance with that designation, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 135 months' imprisonment on May 9, 2012 [Doc. 117]. Petitioner did not appeal.

         Roughly three years later-on June 23, 2016, Petitioner filed a pro se petition challenging this Court's use of his prior aggravated burglary and aggravated assault convictions as predicate crimes of violence based on Johnson, which held that the residual provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), was unconstitutionally vague [Doc. 170 (arguing that the Guidelines residual clause is equally vague)]. During pendency of the appeal-on December 5, 2016, Petitioner supplemented his petition with a related, but novel ground for relief: the Supreme Court's decision in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), removed his prior drug conviction from Section 4B1.2's definition of “controlled substance offense” [Doc. 180].[1]

         On March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Beckles v. United States, holding 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. 183]. On March 30, 2017, the United States filed a motion to dismiss Petitioner's Johnson-based challenge to his career offender designation in light of Beckles [Doc. 186]. Petitioner did not file a response in opposition.


         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). This same provision governs the timeliness of later-filed amendments. Cameron v. United States, No. 1:05-cv-264, 2012 WL 1150490, at *3-6 (E.D. Tenn. April 5, 2012) (citing Olsen v. United States, 27 F. App'x 566 (6th Cir. Dec. 14, 2001)). Petitioner has failed to demonstrate that subsections (f)(2) or (f)(4) apply to his case. i.e., he has not established that any illegal action by the government prevented him from making the timely petition or the existence of facts affecting his case that could not have previously been discovered through the exercise of due diligence. As such, timeliness of the supplemented petition depends on whether submission of the grounds for relief therein 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 May 23, 2012, fourteen days after the Court entered judgment on May 9, 2012. 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 May 23, 2013, more than three years before submission of the petition and supplement.

         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 and supplement after May 23, 2013, only his claim for collateral relief based on Johnson 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 Mathis-based challenge to use of his prior drug offense as a controlled substance offense Under Section 4B1.1(a)(3) does not assert a newly recognized right and thus cannot rely on the one-year filing window under subsection (f)(3). Mathis involved application of the categorical approach first adopted by the Supreme Court in Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 599 (1990), and refined in Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), to a new set of facts. See Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2281 (citing “longstanding principles” and noting that prior “cases involving the modified categorical approach [had] already made exactly [the same] point”); Id. at 2257 (“Our precedents make this a straightforward case. For more than [twenty-five] years, we have repeatedly made clear that application of the [Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA)] involves, and involves only, comparing elements.”). As such, the holding of that case cannot be characterized as articulating a “rights-creating rule, ” i.e., a newly recognized right within the scope of § 2255(f)(3). See, e.g., Henderson v. United States, No. 16-00572, 2016 WL 4967898, at *2 (W.D. Mo. Sept. 16, 2016) (“[The] Mathis [decision] does not present a new rule or procedure.”); Leone v. United States, No. 95-00960, 2016 WL 4479390, at *8-9 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 24, 2016) (noting that the Mathis decision did not articulate a “new rule” within the meaning of subsection (f)(3)). Thus, timeliness of Petitioner's Mathis-based ground depends on tolling.

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

         Section 2255(f)'s statute of limitations is not jurisdictional and may be tolled under 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 his 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 he has been pursuing [his] rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in [his] way and prevented timely filing, ” Holland v. Florida, 130 S.Ct. 2549, 2562 (2010); Hail v. Warden, 662 F.3d 745, ...

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