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Jacks v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

May 14, 2019

JUNIOR JACKS, Petitioner,



         Federal inmate Junior Jacks has filed a motion 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 Jacks' § 2255 motion will be denied.


         In 2015, while on supervised release for a prior federal drug-trafficking conviction, Jacks purchased methamphetamine on multiple occasions and personally redistributed at least 50 grams of methamphetamine to others (Doc. 42 in No. 4:15-CR-14). He pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A) and 846 (id.).

         Jacks' stipulated drug quantity yielded a base offense level of 30 (Doc. 80 ¶ 25 in No. 4:15-CR-14). Because Jacks had two prior convictions for controlled substance offenses - a 2000 Tennessee conviction for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and a 2004 federal conviction for attempting to manufacture methamphetamine - he was deemed a career offender under United States Sentencing Guideline (“Guideline(s)”) § 4B1.1, with a corresponding offense level of 37 (id. at ¶¶ 31, 58-59). After a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, his total offense level was 34 (id. at ¶¶ 32-34). Given his criminal history category of VI, Jacks' Guideline range was 262 to 327 months' imprisonment (id. at ¶¶ 63, 93).

         At sentencing, this Court granted the Government's motion for downward departure and sentenced Jacks to 204 months' imprisonment (Doc. 127 in No. 4:15-CR-14; Doc. 134 p. 6-7, 29-30 in No. 4:15-CR-14). The Sixth Circuit affirmed that judgment in August 2017 (Doc. 137 in No. 4:15-CR-14).

         In the meantime, while his appeal was pending, Jacks filed the instant motion, contesting the propriety of his career-offender classification after the Supreme Court's decision in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016) (Doc. 1). This Court ordered the United States to respond, and Respondent complied with the order by filing a response on March 13, 2019 (Doc. 6).


         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).


         Jacks disputes his career-offender classification, contending that his prior Tennessee felony drug conviction is no longer a career-offender predicate after the Supreme Court's decision in Mathis, because the elements of the offense under the statute are allegedly broader than those constituting a controlled substance offense under the Guidelines.

         As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that a challenge to the calculation of an advisory Guidelines range ordinarily cannot be reviewed under § 2255. See, e.g., Gibbs v. United States, 655 F.3d 473, 479 (6th Cir. 2011) (noting because Guidelines are advisory, a Guidelines-based claim “does not raise an argument that [a petitioner] is ineligible for the sentence []he received”).

         Regardless, Jacks has not proven error in the calculation of his Guidelines range. To determine whether a prior conviction is a controlled substance offense under § 4B1.2, courts ordinarily apply a categorical approach, which requires the reviewing court to compare the elements of the statute of conviction with the “generic elements” of the offense. Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2248; Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254, 257 (2013). If the elements of the statute of conviction are broader than those comprising the generic offense, then the conviction cannot qualify as a violent felony, regardless of the particular facts of the case. See, e.g., Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2248-49.

         Where the statute of conviction is “divisible, ” in that it lists elements in the alternative to define several different variants of the crime, courts may employ the “modified categorical approach” in order to evaluate which of the alternative elements constituted the offense of conviction. See, e.g., Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2249; United States v. House, 872 F.3d 748, 753 (6th Cir. 2017). Applying the modified categorical approach in this case would require the Court to decide whether any of the alternatives match the federal definition of a controlled substance offense, and, if so, consult a limited set of documents (referred to as Shepard documents) to determine the elements of the crime of conviction. See id.; see also Shepard v. United States, 125 S.Ct. 1254 (2005). In conducting its inquiry, the Court's concern is not “whether the elements of the [state statute] contain the same words as the Guidelines' definition [of a controlled substance offense]” but rather, “it is ...

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