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Wright v. United States

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

June 3, 2019

ANNIE WRIGHT, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PHILLIPS, JUDGE

         Petitioner Annie Wright (“Petitioner”) filed a pro se motion to vacate, set aside or correct her sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [Docs. 1, 5] and a supporting memorandum of law [Doc. 6].[1] The government has responded in opposition to her motion [Doc. 8]. Petitioner then submitted a letter to the Court seeking relief from her sentencing enhancement [No. 3:17-cr-68-02, Doc. 70], which the Court will construe as a supplement to her § 2255 motion.

         I. Background

         On December 6, 2017, Petitioner pled guilty to one count of aiding and abetting Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1951 and 2. On March 21, 2018, the Court sentenced Petitioner to a term of imprisonment of 57 months, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release [No. 3:17-cr-68-02, Doc. 49]. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal of her conviction or sentence, [2] but timely filed the instant petition for relief under § 2255 on January 15, 2019 [Doc. 1].

         II. Standard of Review

         To obtain relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a petitioner must demonstrate “(1) an error of constitutional magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside the statutory limits; or (3) an error of fact or law ... so fundamental as to render the entire proceeding invalid.” Short v. United States, 471 F.3d 686, 691 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Mallett v. United States, 334 F.3d 491, 496-97 (6th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1133 (2004)). A petitioner “must clear a significantly higher hurdle than would exist on direct appeal” and show a “fundamental defect in the proceedings which necessarily results in a complete miscarriage of justice or an egregious error violative of due process.” Fair v. United States, 157 F.3d 427, 430 (6th Cir. 1998).

         Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings in the United States District Courts requires a district court to summarily dismiss a § 2255 motion if “it plainly appears from the face of the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of the prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief.” See also Pettigrew v. United States, 480 F.2d 681, 684 (6th Cir. 1973) (“A motion to vacate sentence under § 2255 can be denied for the reason that it states ‘only bald legal conclusions with no supporting factual allegations.'”) (quoting Sanders v. United States, 373 U.S. 1, 19 (1963)). If the motion is not summarily dismissed under Rule 4(b), Rule 8(a) requires the court to determine, after a review of the answer and the records of the case, whether an evidentiary hearing is required. If a petitioner presents a factual dispute, then “the habeas court must hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the truth of the petitioner's claims.” Huff v. United States, 734 F.3d 600, 607 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Valentine v. United States, 488 F.3d 325, 333 (6th Cir. 2007)). An evidentiary hearing is not required “if the petitioner's allegations cannot be accepted as true because they are contradicted by the record, inherently incredible, or conclusions rather than statements of fact.” Valentine, 488 F.3d at 333 (quoting Arredondo v. United States, 178 F.3d 778, 782 (6th Cir. 1999)).

         III. Analysis

         A. Waiver

         The Court begins by noting that, in her plea agreement, Petitioner explicitly waived the right to file a § 2255 motion, except for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct [No. 3:17-cr-68-02, Doc. 31 p. 6 ¶ 10(b)]. A defendant may waive any right, even a constitutional right, if she does so knowingly and voluntarily, and a waiver provision in a plea agreement is enforceable. In re Acosta, 480 F.3d 421, 422 (6th Cir. 2007); accord Davila v. United States, 258 F.3d 448, 450-52 (6th Cir. 2001); Watson v. United States, 165 F.3d 486, 489 (6th Cir. 1999). Therefore, if Petitioner understood the terms of the plea agreement and made the waiver of her right to file a § 2255 motion voluntarily and knowingly, the waiver is valid and enforceable. See Slusser v. United States, 895 F.3d 437, 439 (6th Cir. 2018), cert. denied, 139 S.Ct. 1291 (2019).

         Here, there is little doubt that Petitioner knowingly and voluntarily entered into this waiver provision in her plea agreement. Although no transcript of the Court's change of plea hearing is in the record, this Court recalls that it verified, in testimony under oath by Petitioner, that she had read the plea agreement or that the plea agreement had been read to her, that she discussed the plea agreement with counsel and understood all its provisions, that she had read specifically paragraph 10(b) containing the waiver provision or that it had been read to her, and that she had fully discussed the waiver provision with her attorney. Moreover, Petitioner has not asserted claims within the limited category of claims where she retained a right to file a § 2255 motion, nor has she alleged any facts from which the Court could plausibly infer these claims. Thus, Petitioner knowingly and voluntarily waived her right to file a § 2255 motion with few exceptions and she has not asserted any claims within one of those exceptions.

         B. Sentence Enhancement

         Even assuming that Petitioner had not waived her right to collaterally attack her conviction, she has not asserted a valid claim for relief. In her first ground for relief [Doc. 5 at p. 4], Petitioner claims that her enhancement “falls directly under the Supreme Court ruling that 18 U.S.C. § 16(b) and § 924(c)(3)(B) are unconstitutionally vague.” In her supporting memorandum, Petitioner argues that her sentence was enhanced under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime [Doc. 6 at p. 2]. Relying on the Supreme Court's opinion in Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S.Ct. 1204 (2018), Petitioner contends that her conviction for brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence must be set aside as unconstitutionally vague [Doc. 6 at pp. 1-3]. This argument is without merit.

         As set forth in her plea agreement [No. 3:17-cr-68-02, Doc. 31 at p. 3 ¶ 4], Petitioner agreed that her sentence would be enhanced pursuant to United States Sentencing Guideline (“U.S.S.G.”) § 2B3.1(b)(2)(C), not pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Application of this Guideline enhancement is not predicated on whether an offense is classified as a crime of violence. See U.S.S.G. § 2B3.1(b)(2). As the Respondent correctly notes, Dimaya only invalidated the residual-clause definition of “crime of violence” in 18 U.S.C § 16(b) as “unconstitutionally vague.” 138 S.Ct. at 1216. Dimaya did not address the definition of “crime of violence” as used in the United ...


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