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Buford v. United States

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

May 9, 2019

TERELL BUFORD, Petitioner,



         Federal inmate Terell Buford has filed a motion, as supplemented, to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Respondent has filed a response in opposition to the motion. Having considered the pleadings and the record, along with the relevant law, the Court finds that it is unnecessary to hold an evidentiary hearing[1], and Buford's § 2255 motion will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND


         After receiving information that drugs were being distributed from a store solely owned and operated by Buford, law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant to search that store for evidence of narcotics trafficking [Doc. 12 p. 2 in No. 1:14-CR-32]. While executing the warrant, officers found a loaded .22 pistol and resale quantities of marijuana, cocaine, and cocaine base [Id.]. Buford admitted that the gun was his, that he had been distributing drugs from his store, and that he had a previous felony conviction [Id. at 2-3]. Thereafter, Buford pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) [Docs. 15-18 in No. 1:14-CR-32].

         Based on his prior Tennessee convictions for two aggravated robberies, an aggravated burglary, an aggravated assault, and possessing cocaine for resale [see Doc. 19 ¶¶ 36, 37, 39, and 45 in No. 1:14-CR-32], Buford was deemed an armed career criminal under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), and was sentenced to 200 months' imprisonment [Doc. 67 in No. 1:14-CR-32]. Aggrieved, Buford appealed, and his appeal was rejected by the Sixth Circuit by order filed October 5, 2015 [Doc. 79 in No. 1:14-CR-32].[2]

         Buford signed the instant § 2255 motion on September 1, 2016, and it was stamped “filed” in this Court on September 9, 2016 [Doc. 1]. The Court ordered the United States to respond to the motion, and the Government filed its response on October 5, 2016 [Doc. 5]. Thereafter, Buford filed a reply to the response in October 2016 and a supplement to his initial § 2255 motion in December 2016 [Docs. 7 and 8]. Subsequently, over the next fifteen months, Buford filed numerous motions to supplement his petition to add additional claims and citations to legal authority [Docs. 9, 11, 12, 17, and 18]. On April 25, 2019, the Court granted Buford's motions to supplement his petition, noting that Buford should not construe the grant of his motions “as a ruling as to the merits or timeliness of any” of the supplements [Doc. 25].


         After a defendant has been convicted and exhausted his appeal rights, a court may presume that “he stands fairly and finally convicted.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 164 (1982). A court may grant relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, but the statute “does not encompass all claimed errors in conviction and sentencing.” United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979). Rather, collateral attack limits a movant's allegations to those of constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude, or those containing factual or legal errors “so fundamental as to render the entire proceeding invalid.” Short v. United States, 471 F.3d 686, 691 (6th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).


         A. Sentencing relief under Johnson

         As noted above, Buford was sentenced as an armed career criminal under the ACCA, which requires a 15-year minimum sentence for a felon who unlawfully possesses a firearm after having sustained three prior convictions “for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The statute defines a “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” (the “use-of-force clause”); (2) “is burglary, arson or extortion, involves the use of explosives” (the “enumerated-offense clause”); or (3) “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” (the “residual clause”). 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B).

         In Johnson v. United States, the Supreme Court struck down the residual clause of the ACCA as violative of due process. Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2563. However, the Court held that its decision did not apply “to the four enumerated offenses, or the remainder of the Act's definition of a violent felony.” Id. Therefore, “a defendant can still receive an ACCA-enhanced sentence based on the statute's use-of-force clause or enumerated offense clause.” United States v. Priddy, 808 F.3d 676, 683 (5th Cir. 2015); see also United States v. Smith, 817 F.3d 492, 493 (6th Cir. 2016) (rejecting vagueness challenge to the ACCA's enumerated-offense clause).

         Buford's Tennessee convictions for aggravated robberies are unaffected by Johnson, because these convictions qualify as violent felonies under the ACCA's use-of-force clause. United States v. Mitchell, 743 F.3d 1054, 1058-60 (6th Cir. 2014); see also United States v. Taylor, 800 F.3d 701, 719 (6th Cir. 2015) (“[T]he Supreme Court's holding in Johnson leaves unaffected this Court's determination that simple robbery in Tennessee is a predicate offense under ‘the use of ...

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