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Jerrell v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

February 23, 2018

JUNELLE ELAINE JERRELL, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THOMAS A. VARLAN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Junelle Elaine Jerrell (“Petitioner”) has filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct her sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Doc. 1401]. The United States has responded to the motion, objecting to Petitioner's requested relief [Doc. 1427]. The matter is now ripe for consideration. The Court has determined that Petitioner is not entitled to relief under § 2255, and therefore no evidentiary hearing is necessary. For the reasons set forth herein, Petitioner's § 2255 motion lacks merit and will be denied. Accordingly, Case No. 3:15-CV-140 will be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 19, 2013, a Grand Jury returned an Indictment charging Petitioner with conspiracy to manufacture fifty grams or more of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A). On May 1, 2013, Petitioner entered into a Plea Agreement with the government [Doc. 426]. On June 10, 2013, the government filed an “Information to Establish Prior Conviction, ” pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851. This placed Petitioner on notice that she was subject to an enhanced punishment as provided for in 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) as a result of a prior felony drug conviction. Specifically, the notice indicated Petitioner had a prior Class B felony conviction in Tennessee entered on October 29, 2012 for “Possession of Schedule II more than .5 grams”[1] [Doc. 505-1]. After the government filed the Information, Petitioner's counsel then withdrew, and the Court appointed new counsel on July 15, 2013 [Doc. 564]. On July 19, 2013, Petitioner signed an identical Plea Agreement as she had entered before [Doc. 568]. In her plea agreement, she agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to manufacture fifty grams or more of methamphetamine and acknowledged that “because [she] has a prior felony drug conviction the punishment for this offense is a minimum mandatory term of imprisonment of 20 years up to life . . . .” [Doc. 568, Plea Agreement, pg. 1]. As part of her plea agreement, Petitioner acknowledged that she had purchased or obtained from others pseudoephedrine which was used to manufacture “a conservative estimate of at least fifty (50) grams but less than 150 grams of actual methamphetamine, resulting in a base offense level of 32.” [Doc. 568, Plea Agreement, pg. 2]. In the plea agreement, Petitioner waived filing a direct appeal and any challenges to her conviction or sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 except for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel [Doc. 568, Plea Agreement, pg. 6].

         The Court then scheduled a change of plea hearing. At this hearing, the District Court advised Petitioner that she faced a twenty year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment [Doc. 1261, Transcript, pg. 9, 11-12]. The following colloquy before the Court occurred:

THE COURT: Specifically, do you understand because you have a prior felony drug conviction, the punishment for this offense is a minimum mandatory term of imprisonment of twenty years to life . . . .
MS. JERRELL: Yes.

[Doc. 1261, pg. 11-12].

         Based on Petitioner's stipulation in the Plea Agreement, the Presentence Report (“PSR”) calculated her guideline range of imprisonment to be the statutorily required minimum sentence of twenty years. PSR ¶ 85. No objections were filed to the PSR [Doc. 986]. On January 16, 2014, the government filed a motion authorizing the Court to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence pursuant to both 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e) and U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 [Doc. 1035].

         At her sentencing hearing on March 25, 2014, the District Court again asked Petitioner if she understood that because of her prior felony drug conviction, the offense “requires a sentence consisting of a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of twenty years up to life” [Doc. 1273, pg. 4]. The following colloquy then occurred regarding her prior felony drug offense:

THE COURT: Similarly, are you aware of the fact that on June 10, 2013, the government filed a notice of enhancement based on your prior felony drug conviction, that being possession of Schedule II, more than .5 grams, in the Criminal Circuit Court of Anderson County, Tennessee, Case No. B0C00905, on October 29, 2012?
MS. JERRELL: Yes.
THE COURT: Do you affirm or deny this prior conviction?
MS. JERRELL: I affirm.
THE COURT: Do you understand any challenge to this prior conviction not made before sentence is imposed may not thereafter be raised to attack the sentence? Do you understand what I'm asking there?
MS. JERRELL: I'm not sure.
THE COURT: I mean, I've asked you to affirm the prior conviction. I'm asking you again about that, but do you understand that if you don't make a challenge, to the extent there could be a challenge to the fact of the prior conviction, that if you don't make it before sentence is imposed you can't, somewhere, time, down the road, say, attack your ...

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