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Cureton v. United States

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

August 10, 2017

DONALD L. CURETON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THOMAS W. PHILLIPS, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is an amended motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 filed by Donald L. Cureton (“petitioner”) which challenges his enhanced sentence as an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), pursuant to Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015).[1] In light of both Johnson and the recent en banc decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Stitt, 860 F.3d 854 (6th Cir. 2017), it now is undisputed that petitioner no longer qualifies as an armed career criminal under the ACCA. Accordingly, petitioner's amended § 2255 motion [Doc. 55] will be GRANTED.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 6, 2004, a grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Tennessee returned a four-count superseding indictment against petitioner and a co-defendant. Petitioner was charged at Count One with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e); at Count Two with aiding and abetting the possession of equipment, chemicals, products and materials used to manufacture methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 843(a)(6) and 18 U.S.C. § 2; at Count Three with failure to appear before the court as required, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 3146(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A)(i); and, at Count Four with resisting a lawful court order, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 401(3) and 3147 [Doc. 23]. On May 18, 2004, petitioner entered a plea of guilty as to Counts One and Four of the superseding indictment [Doc. 27].

         The presentence investigation report (“PSIR”) identified three previous convictions for a violent felony, committed on occasions different from one another, that qualified petitioner as an armed career criminal under the ACCA. All three of those convictions were for aggravated burglary [PSIR ¶¶ 76, 77, 78].[3] As an armed career criminal, petitioner was subject to a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to a maximum of life at Count One and his advisory guideline sentencing range was 180 to 210 months [PSIR ¶¶ 104, 105].

         On March 30, 2005, petitioner was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 180 months as to Count One of the superseding indictment and 120 months as to Count Four, to be served concurrently, to be followed by a term of supervised release of five years on Count One and three years on Count Four, to be served concurrently. [Doc. 40]. On April 27, 2006, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed petitioner's classification and sentence as an armed career criminal [Doc. 49]. Petitioner's application for a writ of certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court on October 16, 2006 [Doc. 52].

         On June 6, 2016, petitioner, through court-appointed counsel, filed an amended § 2255 motion challenging his armed career criminal status based on the Supreme Court's invalidation of the ACCA residual clause in Johnson [Doc. 55]. The government's request to defer ruling on petitioner's motion pending an en banc decision from the Sixth Circuit in United States v. Stitt, 646 Fed. App'x 454 (6th Cir. 2016), was granted by the Court on October 19, 2016 [Doc. 62]. On June 27, 2017, the Sixth Circuit issued its en banc decision holding that a conviction of aggravated burglary under Tennessee law does not qualify as a violent felony predicate offense under the ACCA. United States v. Stitt, 860 F.3d at 856.

         On July 27, 2017, the parties filed a joint status report agreeing that petitioner no longer qualifies as an armed career criminal in light of Johnson and Stitt [Doc. 65].

         II. ANALYSIS

         1. TIMELINESS

         Section 2255(f) places a one-year period of limitation on all petitions for collateral relief under § 2255 which runs from the latest of: (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).

         Claims based on the Supreme Court's opinion in Johnson satisfy the third sub-category - the assertion of a newly recognized right made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. at 1268 (Johnson constitutes a new substantive rule of constitutional law made retroactively applicable on collateral review); In Re Watkins, 810 F.3d at 381-85. The one-year limitation period for filing a motion to vacate based on a right newly recognized by the Supreme Court runs from the date on which the Supreme Court initially recognized the right asserted, not from the date on which the right asserted was made retroactively applicable. Dodd v. United States, 545 U.S. 353, 357 (2005). Accordingly, Johnson triggered a renewed one-year period of limitation beginning on the date of that decision, June 26, 2015, and running until June 26, 2016.

         In this case, petitioner filed his amended § 2255 motion raising a Johnson claim on June 6, 2016, which falls safely within the one-year window for requesting collateral relief under Johnson.

         2. ...


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