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Coleman v. United States

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

June 27, 2018




         On May 19, 2015, pursuant to his negotiated plea agreement, Curtis Coleman (“Petitioner”) pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base (“crack”), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A) [Docs. 35, 39].[1] The Court accepted the guilty plea and referred the matter to the United States Probation Office for a Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) [Doc. 56, sealed]. Agreeing with the probation officer's determination that Petitioner was a career offender under Section 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines [Id.], the Court sentenced him on August 20, 2015, to 150 months' imprisonment and five years' supervised release [Doc. 73]. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal, but almost four months later-on December 14, 2015-he brought a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence, under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Doc. 92], and four days later, a timely amended § 2255 motion that supplanted the original motion [Doc. 93].

         The United States responded in opposition to Petitioner's § 2255 motion [Doc. 104], arguing that none of his claims provide any basis upon which relief may be granted. Petitioner's § 2255 motion is ripe for review, but also ripe for review are two later motions filed by Petitioner- to which the Court turns first.


         Petitioner has submitted a motion to amend his § 2255 motion [Doc. 126], his fourth such filing. Petitioner's previous motions to amend [Docs. 118-120], all seeking to assert a claim based on Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2246 (2016), were denied as futile because Mathis does not apply retroactively on collateral review and because the claim was barred by § 2255(f)'s one-year statute of limitation [Doc. 121]. Likewise denied was Petitioner's request to reconsider the denial of his motions to amend [Docs. 122-123]. There followed the pending motion to amend, in which Petitioner's advances what the Court understands to be an equitable tolling argument to save his untimely Mathis claim [Doc. 126].

         The one-year statute of limitations in AEDPA is not jurisdictional and is subject to equitable tolling. Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 645 (2010). A petitioner is “‘entitled to equitable tolling' only if he shows ‘(1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way' and prevented timely filing.” Ata v. Scutt, 662 F.3d 736, 741 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Holland, 560 U.S. at 649). A petitioner bears the burden of showing that he is entitled to equitable tolling. Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005); accord Griffin v. Rogers, 308 F.3d 647, 653 (6th Cir. 2002).

         Petitioner maintains that, following his sentencing, he was in transit, temporarily housed in various correctional facilities for a short periods of time, and did not have access to his legal paperwork for almost five months of the one-year period in which to file amendments to his motion to vacate. Petitioner asks the Court to consider that his proposed Mathis-based claim was only two months late. However, the Sixth Circuit has instructed that, “[a]bsent compelling equitable considerations, a court should not extend limitations by even a single day.” Graham-Humphreys v. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Inc., 209 F.3d 552, 561 (6th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted); cf., Vroman v. Brigano, 346 F.3d 598, 605 (6th Cir. 2003) (noting that the equitable tolling calculus focuses on more than one year and rejecting a petitioner's argument that his state court filing was one day late).

         After reviewing the record, the Court finds no extraordinary circumstance. Petitioner submitted numerous, timely filings to the Court during the one-year period established in § 2255(f)(1) (providing that the one-year period begins to run upon conclusion of direct appeal). For example, Petitioner was able to file an original § 2255 motion and an amended § 2255 motion after the one-year clock for filing a motion to vacate had ticked, respectively, for 102 days and 106 days [Docs. 92-93]. On day 130 of § 2255(f)(1)'s one-year clock, following Petitioner's transfer to a federal prison in Manchester, Kentucky, he filed a notice that his address had changed [Doc. 102]. By the time the clock had run for 266 days, Petitioner had filed three more motions, including: (1) a motion for a sentence reduction, under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and Amendments 782 and 788 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual [Doc. 103]; (2) a motion to amend his § 2255 motion [Doc. 107]; and (3) a motion for approval to correspond with his co-defendant [Doc. 111].

         As the Court has previously held, the § 2255(f)(1) one-year period expired in Petitioner's case on September 3, 2016 [Doc. 121]. Despite Petitioner's many submissions, the record does not reflect that Petitioner sought to add a timely claim under the ruling in Mathis, although that decision was issued on June 23, 2016, and although he had until September 3, 2016, within which to file a timely § 2255 claim, in reliance on that decision. Indeed, it was not until 72 days after the lapse of § 2255(f)(1)'s one-year period that Petitioner notified the Court of his transfer from the federal prison in Manchester, Kentucky, to a federal medical center in Lexington, Kentucky [Doc. 116, Notice of Address Change, filed Nov. 14, 2016]. Thus, the record before the Court suggests that Petitioner remained incarcerated in the same federal prison from June 23rd to September 3rd of 2016, during which time he could have moved the Court for permission to add a Mathis claim.

         The Court finds that Petitioner has failed to show an extraordinary circumstance and, accordingly, DENIES his motion to equitably toll § 2255(f)(1)'s limitations period [Doc. 126]. United States v. Marcello, 212 F.3d 1005, 1010 (7th Cir. 2000) (observing that “the threshold necessary to trigger equitable tolling is very high, lest the exceptions swallow the rule”); see also Graham-Humphreys v. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Inc., 209 F.3d 552, 561 (6th Cir. 2000) (“Absent compelling equitable considerations, a court should not extend limitations by even a single day.”); Portman v. Wilson, No. 10-CV-169-KSF, 2010 WL 4962922, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Dec. 1, 2010) (“It is well settled that . . . the frustrations of typical prison conditions that make prison-based litigation difficult, such as transfers [and] lack of access to copies and legal materials, do not constitute exceptional circumstances justifying equitable tolling.”) (citing cases).


         Next, Petitioner moves the Court to reconsider its prior order denying his motion to reconsider the denial of his motions to amend his amended § 2255 motion [Doc. 129]. Petitioner recognizes that his motion is not “the proper procedure, ” but he, nonetheless, appeals to this Court's “humanity, ” suggesting that circumstances existing in his case (i.e., the short duration of his prior criminal conduct-spanning only 2-3 years, as well as his good deeds, accomplishments, and personal background, added to the five months of § 2255(f)(1)'s one-year limitations statute that were spent being transferred to different prisons) deserve to be considered in any time-bar determination [Id.].

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not recognize motions to reconsider, Smith v. Hudson, 600 F.2d 60, 62 (6th Cir. 1979), but in this circuit, a court may view such a motion, if filed beyond the 28-day period authorized for filing a Rule 59(e) motion, as Rule 60(b) motion for relief from a judgment. Feathers v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 141 F.3d 264, 268 (6th Cir. 1998); see also Kitts v. United States, No. 2:11-CR-58-JRG-2, 2017 WL 5560173, at *2 (E.D. Tenn. Nov. 17, 2017) (citing Feathers, 141 F.3d at 268). It is proper to apply Rule 60(b) to § 2255 motions. United States v. Gibson, 424 Fed.Appx. 461, 464 (6th Cir. 2011) (citing Gonzales v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 529 (2005), and In re Nailor, 487 F.3d 1018, 1021(6th Cir. 2007)).

         Rule 60(b) permits a district court to grant relief from a final judgment for several reasons, such as mistake, inadvertence, surprise, excusable neglect, newly discovered evidence, fraud, misrepresentation, misconduct, a void judgment, or for “any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1)-(b)(6). A Rule 60(b) motion “attacks, not the substance of the federal court's resolution of a claim on the merits, but some defect in the integrity of the federal habeas proceedings.” Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 532.

         In the order from which Petitioner requests relief, the Court denied his Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend judgment (as construed) [Doc. 123]. The Court has reviewed the challenged order and is convinced that it thoroughly addressed each argument presented by Petitioner, correctly applied the relevant procedural rules and substantive law, and reasonably rejected his Rule 59(e) motion [Id.]. More important, Petitioner has not alleged any of the specific reasons that would justify relief under Rule 60(b)(1)-(b)(5).

         To the extent that Petitioner's motion is based on Rule (60)(b)(6) (predicating relief on “any other reason that justifies relief”), then Gonzalez requires “a movant seeking relief under Rule 60(b)(6) to show ‘extraordinary circumstances' justifying the reopening of a final judgment.” Gonzales, 545 U.S. at 535 (citations omitted). None of Petitioner's arguments as to his good deeds, personal background, achievements, or the brevity of the period of his criminal escapades, as iterated in his Rule 60(b) motion, constitutes an extraordinary circumstance. Id. at 535 (explaining that extraordinary circumstances “rarely occur in the habeas context”). The circumstances presented by Petitioner, though commendable, are run-of-the-mill circumstances in many cases involving federal criminal defendants. Furthermore, the Court has already addressed and rejected Petitioner's claim that his frequent transfers between prisons for five months of the one-year limitations period justifies equitable tolling. See Miller v. Mays, 879 F.3d 691, 698 (6th Cir. 2018) (noting the existence of equitable principles underlying Rule 60(b)(6)).

         Based on the above reasoning, Petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion, as construed [Doc. 129] is DENIED.


         The last motion is Petitioner's amended motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Doc. 93]. The United States responded in opposition [Doc. 104]. Petitioner did not file a reply to the Government's response. For the reasons discussed below, all claims in Petitioner's § 2255 motion, save one, will be DISMISSED and that single claim will proceed to an evidentiary hearing.

         A. ...

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