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Pruitt v. United States

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

September 12, 2017

TOBIAS PRUITT, Petitioner,



         Before the Court is a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (“2255 Motion”) [Doc. 26], a memorandum in support [Doc. 29], and a motion to amend the 2255 Motion [Doc. 30] filed by federal prisoner, Tobias Pruitt (“Petitioner”).[1]Respondent United States of America (the “Government”) filed a response in opposition to the 2255 Motion [Doc. 28] and this matter is now ripe. For the reasons stated below, Petitioner's 2255 Motion will be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In July 2011, a federal grand jury charged Petitioner with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) [Doc. 9]. Pursuant to a written plea agreement, Petitioner pleaded guilty to the charge on January 4, 2012, [Docs. 15, 17]. In his plea agreement and during his plea colloquy, Petitioner acknowledged that as part of his plea agreement, he waived his right to appeal his conviction or sentence, but reserved the right to appeal “a sentence imposed above the sentencing guideline range as determined by the district court.” [Doc. 17, at ¶ 13]. Petitioner also waived “the right to file any motions or pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 or to collaterally attack [Petitioner's] conviction(s) and/or resulting sentence, ” except for “claims of ineffective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct not known to [Petitioner] by the time of the entry of judgment.” [Doc. 17, at Page ID # 33, ¶ 13]. After conducting a proper plea colloquy, the Court found that Petitioner was fully capable and competent to enter an informed plea; the plea was made knowingly and with full understanding of each of the rights waived by Petitioner; the plea was made voluntarily and free from any force, threats, or promises, apart from the promises in the plea agreement; Petitioner understood the nature of the charge and penalties provided by law; and the plea had a sufficient basis in fact [Docs. 18 & 19].

         Using the applicable advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines (“Guidelines”), the probation office found Petitioner's base offense level was 24 [Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) at ¶ 12]. After a four-level enhancement for possessing the firearm in connection with another felony offense (specifically, shooting at law enforcement officers and possessing items associated with drug distribution), a six-level enhancement for creating a serious risk of bodily injury to the officers involved in pursuing him, and a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, Petitioner's total offense level was 31 [PSR” ¶¶ 13-14, 19-21]. Petitioner had a criminal history category of III, and the corresponding Guidelines range was 135 to 168 months' imprisonment, restricted by the 120-month statutory maximum to a Guideline term of imprisonment of 120 months [PSR at ¶¶ 30, 50].

         Petitioner objected to application of both enhancements and the general process of sentencing on several grounds and an all-embracing sentencing hearing was held to address the objections. The Court overruled Petitioner's extensively argued objections [Doc. 24]. Petitioner was sentenced to 120 months' imprisonment in a Judgment filed on April 23, 2012 [Doc. 21].

         Petitioner did not appeal, so his conviction became final at the expiration of the time for seeking such review, May 7, 2012.[2] Acknowledging he had only one year to file a motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255, Petitioner filed a request seeking additional time to file such a motion on January 4, 2013, well within the applicable one-year time limitation [Doc. 22]. Petitioner's request for an extension was denied a few days later on January 10, 2013 [Doc. 23]. Several months later, the one year statute of limitations for filing a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ran on May 7, 2013. Over a year later, Petitioner's 2255 Motion, which is dated June 19, 2014, was filed on June 23, 2014 [Doc. 26 at Page ID # 146]. A memorandum supporting the 2255 Motion was not filed until many months later on October 27, 2014 [Doc. 29].

         II. STANDARDS

         A prisoner in federal custody may file a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 “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.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) establishes a statute of limitations applicable to collateral challenges under § 2255.

         Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings in the United States District Courts requires a district court to summarily dismiss a § 2255 motion if “it plainly appears from the face of the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief.” See also Pettigrew v. United States, 480 F.2d 681, 684 (6th Cir. 1973) (“A motion to vacate sentence under § 2255 can be denied for the reason that it states ‘only bald legal conclusions with no supporting factual allegations.'” (quoting Sanders v. United States, 373 U.S. 1, 19 (1963))). If the motion is not summarily dismissed under Rule 4(b), Rule 8 requires the court to determine, after a review of the answer and the records of the case, whether an evidentiary hearing is required.

         III. ANALYSIS

         In his 2255 Motion, Petitioner protests against the Court's imposition of the sentencing enhancements and his allegedly unreasonable sentence, he asserts his counsel failed to object to the Court's decision to not order his federal sentence concurrent with a yet-to-be-imposed state sentence, [3] and he faults counsel for allegedly failing to allow Petitioner to testify as requested and for failing to advise Petitioner of his right to appeal his sentence. In his motion to amend, Petitioner alleges ineffective assistance of counsel because his plea agreement contains waivers, specifically the 28 U.S.C. § 2255 waiver.

         In its response to the 2255 Motion, the Government argues Petitioner's claims are time-barred, waived, and meritless. The Government did not respond to Petitioner's motion to amend or the additional arguments first made in Petitioner's memorandum.

         A. Petitioner's 2255 ...

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