United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
A. VARLAN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on now Petitioner, Michael Lee
Jackson's pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or
correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Doc.
1313]. The Government filed a response in opposition [Doc.
pursuant to a plea agreement [Doc. 148],  entered a guilty
plea to one count of conspiracy to manufacture
methamphetamine [Doc. 418]. This Court sentenced Petitioner,
who had a prior felony drug conviction, to a sentence of 90
months' imprisonment [Doc. 965]. Jackson did not appeal
this conviction or sentence.
Petitioner, represented by counsel, filed a Motion to Reduce
Sentence [Doc. 1541], based on Amendments 782 and 788 to the
United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual, both of which
were effective November 1, 2014. This Court granted that
Motion and reduced Jackson's sentence to 31 months'
imprisonment [Doc. 1547]. Because this reduced sentence was
less than the time Jackson had already served, the new
sentence became a sentence of “time served.” As a
result, Jackson was released from custody in April 2016.
obtain relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a petitioner
must demonstrate “(1) an error of constitutional
magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside the statutory
limits; or (3) an error of fact or law that was so
fundamental as to render the entire proceeding
invalid.” Short v. United States, 471 F.3d
686, 691 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Mallett v. United
States, 334 F.3d 491, 496-97 (6th Cir. 2003)). He
“must clear a significantly higher hurdle than would
exist on direct appeal” and establish a
“fundamental defect in the proceedings which
necessarily results in a complete miscarriage of justice or
an egregious error violative of due process.” Fair
v. United States, 157 F.3d 427, 430 (6th Cir. 1998).
§ 2255 motion, Petitioner asserts that his sentence
should have been in “the range of 51-63 months, ”
and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at
sentencing. The Court finds that these claims do not warrant
the first claim, that Petitioner's original sentence was
too long, the Court finds that this claim is moot. Petitioner
argues that his original sentence should have been in the
range of 51-63 months. Subsequently, the Court did reduce
Petitioner's sentence to 31 months, based on the 2014
Amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual.
Petitioner's sentence then became “time served,
” and he was released. Petitioner, moreover, was
released well before he had served 51 months, the minimum
sentence which he claims in his § 2255 Petition he
should have received.
also argues that his counsel was ineffective in failing to
properly advise him about the length of sentence he would
receive. Specifically, Petitioner claims that he only entered
a guilty plea because his lawyer told him that he would
“only do 24-36 months” if he pled guilty [Doc.
1313]. A petitioner alleging ineffective assistance of
counsel must satisfy the two-part test set forth in
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1987).
See Huff v. United States, 734 F.3d 600, 606 (6th
Cir. 2013) (applying the Strickland test to an
ineffective assistance of counsel claim). First, the
petitioner must establish, by identifying specific acts or
omissions, that counsel's performance was deficient and
that counsel did not provide “reasonably effective
assistance, ” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687, as
measured by “prevailing professional norms.”
Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374, 380 (2005). Counsel
is presumed to have provided effective assistance, and
petitioner bears the burden of showing otherwise. Mason
v. Mitchell, 320 F.3d 604, 616-17 (6th Cir. 2003);
see also Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (stating that a
reviewing court “must indulge a strong presumption that
counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of
reasonable professional assistance; that is, the defendant
must overcome the presumption that . . . the challenged
action might be considered sound . . . strategy”
(internal citation omitted)).
the petitioner must demonstrate “a reasonable
probability that, but for [counsel's acts or omissions],
the result of the proceedings would have been
different.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694.
“An error by counsel, even if professionally
unreasonable, does not warrant setting aside the judgment of
a criminal proceeding if the error had no effect on the
judgment.” Id. at 691; see also Smith v.
Robbins, 528 U.S. 259, 285-86 (2000). If a petitioner
fails to prove that he sustained prejudice, the Court need
not decide whether counsel's performance was deficient.
See United States v. Hynes, 467 F.3d 951, 970 (6th
Cir. 2006) (holding that alleged “flaws” in trial
counsel's representation did not warrant new trial where
the claims, even if true, did not demonstrate that the jury
would have reached a different conclusion).
present case, Jackson asserts that his lawyer's
ineffectiveness was in telling Jackson that if he entered
into a plea agreement, and pled guilty, Jackson “would
only do 24-36 months” [Doc. 1313]. The Court finds that
this claim also is moot. As explained above, this Court
reduced Jackson's sentence to 31 months, and Jackson was
released from custody on “time served.” The
reduced sentence is within the “24-36 months”
range that Petitioner claims he expected to serve when he
agreed to plead guilty. Moreover, when Petitioner was
released from custody, upon the ordering of a sentence
reduction by this Court, he had been in custody for 36
months, starting with his initial appearance and order of
detention [Doc. 77]. Accordingly, this claim of
ineffectiveness not only lacks any prejudice to Petitioner,
it also is moot.
the Court finds that because the claims presented in the
Motion [Doc. 1313] are moot and therefore, lack merit,
Petitioner is not entitled to relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. A hearing is unnecessary in this case.
Accordingly, the Court will DENY
Petitioner's motion [Doc. 1313].
addition, the Court will CERTIFY that any
appeal from this action would not be taken in good faith and
would be totally frivolous. Therefore, this Court will
DENY Petitioner leave to proceed in
forma pauperis on appeal. See Fed. R. App. P.
24. Petitioner has failed to make a substantial showing of
the denial of a constitutional right, therefore, a
certificate of appealability SHALL NOT
ISSUE. 28 U.S.C. § 2253; Fed. R. App. P. 22(b).