United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
ORDER DENYING MOTION PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §
2255 AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 filed
by the Movant, Lapettra Demond Watkins. For the reasons
stated below, the Court DENIES Watkins's § 2255
September 18, 2006, a federal grand jury returned a one-count
superseding indictment charging Watkins and a co-defendant,
James Brown, with possession of “crack” cocaine
with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a). (No. 06-10051, Crim. ECF No. 22.) Watkins entered a
guilty plea on December 28, 2006 (id., Crim. ECF No.
43), pursuant to a written plea agreement (id.,
Crim. ECF No. 46). At a hearing on April 4, 2007, the Court
sentenced Watkins to a 188-month term of imprisonment, to be
followed by four years of supervised release. (Id.,
Crim. ECF No. 56.) Judgment was entered on April 5, 2007.
(Id., Crim. ECF No. 57.) In accordance with a waiver
in the plea agreement, Watkins did not file an appeal.
(Id., Crim. ECF No. 46 at 2-3.)
subsequently filed four motions for reduction of his
sentence, all of which were denied. (Id., Crim. ECF
Nos. 65, 72, 75 & 107.) He also filed an initial pro
se motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on March 27,
2008, which was denied on February 17, 2011. Watkins v.
United States, No. 08-1069-JDT-egb (W.D. Tenn). He did
not file an appeal.
17, 2016, Watkins filed the present § 2255 motion
through counsel, contending that his sentence is
constitutionally invalid under the decision in Johnson v.
United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). (ECF No. 1.) The
Sixth Circuit granted leave to file the motion as second or
successive, but authorized this Court to hold the case in
abeyance pending the Supreme Court's decision in
Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). (ECF
No. 8, In re Watkins, No. 16-5863 (6th Cir. Oct. 20,
to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(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
prisoner seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 must
allege either (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) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
§ 2255 motion is filed, it is reviewed by the Court and,
“[i]f it plainly appears from the motion, any attached
exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving
party is not entitled to relief, the judge must dismiss the
motion.” Rule 4(b), Rules Governing § 2255
Proceedings (“§ 2255 Rules”). “If the
motion is not dismissed, the judge must order the United
States attorney to file an answer, motion, or other response
within a fixed time, or to take other action the judge may
Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e),
requires a fifteen-year sentence for a felon who is convicted
of unlawfully possessing a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g) and who has three prior convictions “for
a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both.”
Id., § 924(e)(1). The ACCA defines
“violent felony” as “any crime punishable
by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” that (1)
“has as an element the use, attempted use, or
threatened use of physical force against the person of
another, ” (2) “is burglary, arson, or extortion,
involves use of explosives, ” or (3) “otherwise
involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of
physical injury to another.” Id., §
924(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). The last part of that definition is
commonly referred to as the “residual clause.” In
Johnson, supra, the Supreme Court held the
ACCA's residual clause was unconstitutionally vague and
that increasing a defendant's sentence under the clause
was, therefore, a denial of due process. 135 S.Ct. at 2563.
The Supreme Court later held the decision in Johnson
was retroactive and thus applicable to cases on collateral
review. Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257
was sentenced not under the ACCA but under the career
offender provision of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines,
U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. The career offender guideline provides
that a defendant who is convicted of “a felony that is
either a crime of violence or a controlled substance
offense” qualifies for an increased sentence if he
“has at least two prior felony convictions of either a
crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.”
§ 4B1.1(a). At the time Watkins was sentenced, the
definition of “violent felony” in the career
offender guideline contained a residual clause that was
identical to the residual clause in the ACCA. §
4B1.2(a)(2) (2006). Watkins thus argues that his sentence is
invalid because the residual clause in the career offender
guideline is also unconstitutionally vague.
argument is foreclosed by the decision in Beckles v.
United States, 137 S.Ct. 886, 892-95 (2017), in which
the Supreme Court held “that the advisory Sentencing
Guidelines are not subject to a vagueness challenge under the
Due Process Clause and that § 4B1.2(a)'s residual
clause is not void for vagueness.” 137 S.Ct. at 895.
Watkins was sentenced under the advisory guidelines, after
the decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S.
220 (2005). Therefore, his 188-month sentence is valid.
§ 2255 motion, together with the files and record in
this case, “conclusively show that the prisoner is
entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b);
see also Rule 4(b), § 2255 Rules. A response
from the United States is not necessary. Accordingly, the
§ 2255 motion is DENIED.
U.S.C. § 2253(a) requires the district court to evaluate
the appealability of its decision denying a § 2255
motion and to issue a certificate of appealability
(“COA”) “only if the applicant has made a
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional
right.” 28 U.S.C. § ...