United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
Jere Lynn Seaton (“Seaton”) has filed a motion to
vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2255 (“§ 2255”) [Doc. 164].
The United States has responded to the motion, objecting to
Seaton's requested relief [Doc. 172]. The matter is now
ripe for consideration. The Court has determined that Seaton
is not entitled to relief under § 2255 and, therefore,
no evidentiary hearing is necessary. For the reasons set
forth herein, Seaton's § 2255 motion lacks merit and
will be DENIED, and the case (No. 3:14-CV-266) IS DISMISSED.
September 21, 2005, the Grand Jury returned a multi-count
Indictment against Seaton, charging him with, among other
offenses, a conspiracy to distribute 1, 000 kilograms or more
of marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846,
841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A), and possessing a firearm by a
convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) [Doc.
3, Indictment]. On January 20, 2006, the Government
filed a Notice of Enhancement pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §
851, subjecting Seaton to enhanced punishment based upon his
two prior felony drug convictions [Doc. 58].
28, 2006, Seaton entered into a Plea Agreement [Doc. 109] in
which he agreed to plead guilty to a lesser included offense
of conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of
marijuana and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon [Doc.
109, pg. 1]. Because Seaton agreed to plea to the lesser
included offense under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B), Seaton
avoided a mandatory life sentence based on his prior two
felony drug convictions. As part of the Plea Agreement,
Seaton waived filing any direct appeal of his conviction or
sentence and waived filing a § 2255 motion to
collaterally attack the plea except as to ineffective
assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct [Doc. 109,
pg. 8-9]. The United States and Seaton also entered into an
Agreed Factual Basis in which he stipulated that he had two
prior felony offenses: (1) “January 26, 1999 - Case No.
6963, Circuit Court for Sevier County, Tennessee, Possession
of Marijuana for Resale” and (2) “January 26,
1999 - Case No. 6962, Circuit Court for Sevier County,
Tennessee, Sale Marijuana.” [Doc. 110, pg. 2].
on Seaton's stipulation in the Agreed Factual Basis that
he was responsible for at least 700 but less than 1, 000
kilograms of marijuana, the Presentence Report
(“PSR”) calculated his base offense level to be
30. The PSR then detailed Seaton's criminal history,
determining that Seaton was a career offender under U.S.S.G.
§ 4B1.1. In support of that classification, it noted
that Seaton had a prior conviction for possession with the
intent to sell marijuana on October 16, 1996 for which he
received a two-year sentence of imprisonment. PSR ¶ 45.
It also noted that on January 26, 1999, Seaton was convicted
of Delivery of Marijuana, with an offense date of March 5,
1997, for which he was sentenced to four years imprisonment.
PSR ¶ 48. Also on that date, it noted that Seaton was
convicted of another Delivery of Marijuana offense, with an
offense date of March 17, 1997, for which he was sentenced to
four years imprisonment. PSR ¶ 49. Because Seaton had at
least two prior felony drug convictions, the PSR treated
Seaton as a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1,
resulting in an offense level of 37 and a criminal history
category of VI. After reducing his offense level to 34 for
acceptance of responsibility, the PSR calculated his advisory
sentencing guideline range to be 262-327 months. On August 2,
2006, the District Court sentenced Seaton to 262 months on
the marijuana conspiracy count and 120 months on the
possession of a firearm by a conviction felon count
concurrent with each other [Doc. 115, Judgment].
Eight years later, on June 16, 2014, Seaton filed this motion
under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
Standard of Review
Court must vacate and set aside petitioner's sentence if
it finds that “the judgment was rendered without
jurisdiction, or that the sentence imposed was not authorized
by law or otherwise open to collateral attack, or that there
has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional
rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable
to collateral attack, ...” 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Under
Rule 4 of the Governing Rules, the Court is to consider
initially whether the face of the motion itself, together
with the annexed exhibits and prior proceedings in the case,
reveal the movant is not entitled to relief. If it plainly
appears the movant is not entitled to relief, the court may
summarily dismiss the § 2255 motion under Rule 4.
defendant files a § 2255 motion, he must set forth facts
which entitle him to relief. Green v. Wingo, 454
F.2d 52, 53 (6th Cir. 1972); O'Malley v. United
States, 285 F.2d 733, 735 (6th Cir. 1961).
“Conclusions, not substantiated by allegations of fact
with some probability of verity, are not sufficient to
warrant a hearing.” O'Malley, 285 F.2d at
735 (citations omitted). A motion that merely states general
conclusions of law without substantiating allegations with
facts is without legal merit. Loum v. Underwood, 262
F.2d 866, 867 (6th Cir. 1959); United States v.
Johnson, 940 F.Supp. 167, 171 (W.D. Tenn. 1996).
warrant relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 because of
constitutional error, the error must be one of constitutional
magnitude which had a substantial and injurious effect or
influence on the proceedings. Brecht v. Abrahamson,
507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993) (citation omitted) (§ 2254
case); Clemmons v. Sowders, 34 F.3d 352, 354 (6th
Cir. 1994); see also United States v. Cappas, 29
F.3d 1187, 1193 (7th Cir. 1994) (applying Brecht to
a § 2255 motion). If the sentencing court lacked
jurisdiction, then the conviction is void and must be set
aside. Williams v. United States, 582 F.2d 1039,
1041 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 988 (1978).
To warrant relief for a non-constitutional error, petitioner
must show a fundamental defect in the proceeding that
resulted in a complete miscarriage of justice or an egregious
error inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair
procedure. Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339, 354 (1994);
Grant v. United States, 72 F.3d 503, 506 (6th Cir.),
cert. denied, 517 U.S. 1200 (1996). In order to
obtain collateral relief under § 2255, a petitioner must
clear a significantly higher hurdle than would exist on
direct appeal. United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152
§ 2255 motion, Seaton claims that he received
ineffective assistance of counsel and that the District Court
erred in finding that his prior felony drug convictions for
possession with the intent to sell marijuana and sale of
marijuana were “controlled-substance offenses”
within the meaning of the career offender provision of the
Sentencing Guidelines, citing U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 and
§ 4B1.2 [Doc. 164, pg. 5-6]. He argues that the
designation of these prior felony drug convictions violate
Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013) and
United States v. Ryan, 407 F.App'x 30 (6th Cir.
2011), because Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-17-417 is a
divisible statute that ultimately falls outside the scope of
what constitutes a controlled substance offense under the
Sentencing Guidelines. Seaton acknowledges that his §
2255 motion is outside the normal one year statute of
limitations but contends his motion is timely because
Descamps constitutes a “change in the law,
” thus permitting him to file this motion beyond the
one year limitation period [Doc. 164, pg. 13].
to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, federal prisoners may
“petition their sentencing court to correct or
invalidate sentences imposed upon them provided that they are
‘in custody under a sentence of a court established by
Act of Congress' and provided that they make their
petitions prior to the expiration of a one-year statute of
limitations.” Ospina v. United States, 386
F.3d 750, 752 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting § 2255). Section
2255 provides for a one-year limitations period, which shall
run from the latest of:
(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes
(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 ...