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Neal v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

June 28, 2017

COREY DREGIS NEAL Petitioner
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the Court are the Petitioner's Motion To Vacate, Set Aside, Or Correct Sentence In Accordance With 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. No. 1), the Petitioner's Supplemental Brief (Doc. No. 9), and the Government's Response. (Doc. No. 10). For the reasons set forth herein, the Petitioner's Motion (Doc. No. 1) is DENIED, and this action is DISMISSED.

         II. Procedural and Factual Background

         In the underlying criminal case, the Petitioner pled guilty, pursuant to a Plea Agreement, before now-retired Judge Todd J. Campbell, to participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (Doc. Nos. 510, 511 in Case No. 3:11cr00194). The Plea Agreement contemplated cooperation by the Petitioner potentially leading to a Government motion for a reduced sentence for substantial assistance. (Id.) The Petitioner acknowledged in the Plea Agreement that he qualified for the career offender enhancement in the United States Sentencing Guidelines. (Id.) At the subsequent sentencing hearing, on June 23, 2014, Judge Campbell granted the Government's motion for a substantial assistance reduction, and sentenced the Petitioner to 131 months of imprisonment. (Doc. Nos. 1843, 1845, 1846 in Case No. 3:11cr00194). The record indicates that no appeal was taken.

         III. Analysis

         A. The Section 2255 Remedy 28 U.S.C. Section 2255 provides federal prisoners with a statutory mechanism by which to seek to have their sentence vacated, set aside or corrected:

(a) A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

         In order to obtain relief under Section 2255, the petitioner must demonstrate constitutional error that had a “‘substantial and injurious effect or influence on the guilty plea or the jury's verdict.'” Hamblen v. United States, 591 F.3d 471, 473 (6th Cir. 2009)(quoting Griffin v. United States, 330 F.3d 733, 736 (6th Cir. 2003)).

         The court should hold an evidentiary hearing in a Section 2255 proceeding where a factual dispute arises, unless the petitioner's allegations “‘cannot be accepted as true because they are contradicted by the record, inherently incredible, or [are] conclusions rather than statements of fact.'” Ray v. United States, 721 F.3d 758, 761 (6th Cir. 2013)(quoting Arredondo v. United States, 178 F.3d 778, 782 (6th Cir. 1999)). In addition, no hearing is required where “the record conclusively shows that the petitioner is entitled to no relief.” Arredondo, 178 F.3d at 782 (quoting Blanton v. United States, 94 F.3d 227, 235 (6th Cir. 1996)). See also Fifer v. United States, 660 F.App'x 358, 359 (6th Cir. Aug. 22, 2016).

         Having reviewed the pleadings, briefs and records filed in Petitioner's underlying criminal case, as well as the pleadings, briefs and records filed in this case, the Court finds that it need not hold an evidentiary hearing in this case to resolve the Petitioner's claims. The record conclusively establishes that the Petitioner is not entitled to relief on his claims for the reasons set forth herein.

         B. Johnson v. United States Through the Motion To Vacate, the Petitioner contends that his sentence should be vacated based on the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). In Johnson, the Supreme Court held that the so-called “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), is unconstitutionally vague. The ACCA provides for a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for defendants convicted of certain firearms offenses who have three previous convictions for a “violent felony” or a “serious ...


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