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Vaughan v. United States

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

May 11, 2017

MARK VAUGHAN, 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. 96]. Petitioner submitted the petition on May 20, 2016 [Docs. 88, 94, 97]. 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 (suggesting that his sentence is no longer valid because the residual clause in Section 4B1.2 is equally vague)].[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2014, Petitioner pled guilty to a conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A) [Doc. 87]. Based on two prior California convictions for drug-trafficking, the United States Probation Office deemed Petitioner to be a career offender [Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) ¶¶ 35, 44, 45, 76]. In accordance with that designation, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 188 months' imprisonment on September 10, 2014 [Doc. 87]. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal of his conviction or sentence.

         The Supreme Court decided Johnson on June 26, 2015. Less than one year later, Petitioner filed the instant challenge based on that decision [Doc. 88]. Six months after the original filing-on December 5, 2016, Petitioner supplemented the petition with an equal protection challenge based on Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, 560 U.S. 563 (2010), Simmons v. United States, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011), and United States v. Newbold, 791 F.3d 455 (4th Cir. 2015) [Doc. 94].

         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. 95].

         On April 1, 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. 96]. In response, Petitioner filed a motion to amend requesting that 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. 97].[2] Specifically, he argues that the California statute that he was twice convicted of violating is indivisible and overly broad [Id.].


         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 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 September 24, 2014, fourteen days after the Court entered judgment. See Fed. R. App. P. 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 September 24, 2015, two-and-a-half years before submission of Petitioner's Johnson-based claim [Doc. 88], and three years before submission of his equal protection and Mathis-based grounds for collateral relief [Docs. 94, 97].

         To the extent Petitioner relies 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 supplements after September 24, 2015, 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 25 years, we have repeatedly made clear that application of the 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)). Similarly, Petitioner's equal protection claim does not assert a newly-recognized right and, even if it did, he submitted the challenge five-and-a-half years after the Supreme Court decided Holder. While Simmons and Newbold are more recent holdings, both are Court of Appeals decisions and thus incapable of triggering subsection (f)(3). As a result, timeliness of the Mathis-based and equal protection grounds depend on tolling of subsection (f)(1).

         B. Equitable Tolling of ...

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