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Lindsay v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

June 7, 2019




         Federal inmate James Samuel Lindsay 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 Lindsay's § 2255 motion will be denied.


         As revealed by the Court-authorized interception of Lindsay's telephone calls and text messages, he participated in a methamphetamine-distribution conspiracy [Doc. 88 ¶ 4 in No. 1:15-CR-52]. In August 2015, the United States filed notice, consistent with 21 U.S.C. § 851(a), of its intent to seek an enhanced sentence based on two of Lindsay's prior drug convictions [Doc. 99 in No. 1:15-CR-52]. The next month, Lindsay pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 5 grams of methamphetamine and at least 50 grams of a methamphetamine mixture in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B) [Doc. 88 ¶ 1 in No. 1:15-CR-82]. As part of his plea agreement, Lindsay waived his right to appeal and collaterally attack his conviction or sentence, with the exception of claims of prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel [Id. at ¶ 12].

         Based on his prior Tennessee convictions for aggravated assault and two instances of promoting the manufacture of methamphetamine, Lindsay was designated a career offender [Doc. 204 ¶¶ 25, 49, 53, 56]. After a three-level reduction for responsibility, Lindsay's total offense level was 34 [Id. at ¶¶ 25-28]. Lindsay had 14 criminal history points, for a criminal history category of VI, which was the same category required by his career-offender classification [Id. at ¶¶ 59-60]. The resulting Sentencing Guideline (“Guideline(s)”) range was 262 to 327 months' imprisonment [Id. at ¶ 96]. The Court ultimately sentenced Lindsay to 262 months' imprisonment [Doc. 254 in No. 1:15-CR-152].

         Notwithstanding the appeal-waiver provision in his plea agreement, Lindsay sought an appeal. The Sixth Circuit affirmed his conviction and sentence [Doc. 297 in No. 1:15-CR-52]. On or about November 3, 2017, Lindsay filed the instant § 2255 motion [Doc. 1]. The United States was ordered to respond to Lindsay's allegations, and it complied by filing its response on December 7, 2017 [Doc. 4].


         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).


         In his petition, Lindsay contends that he was incorrectly classified as a career offender under the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“Guideline(s)”), and that counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to establish this fact. In Strickland v. Washington, the Supreme Court set forth a two-pronged test for determining whether a convicted defendant has received the ineffective assistance of counsel. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Strickland holds that a petitioner alleging the ineffective assistance of counsel must establish (1) that counsel's performance was deficient, such that counsel did not render reasonably effective assistance as measured by prevailing professional norms; and (2) that he was prejudiced by the deficiency, i.e., that there exists a reasonable probability that but for counsel's alleged acts or omissions, the results of the proceedings would have been different. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-88, 694; Huff v. United States, 734 F.3d 600, 606 (6th Cir. 2013) (applying Strickland test to § 2255 claims). The failure to satisfy either prong of Strickland requires dismissal of the claim and relieves the reviewing court of a duty to consider the other prong. Nichols v. United States, 563 F.3d 240, 249 (6th Cir. 2009); see also Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697.

         Under the Guidelines, “a defendant is a career offender if (1) [he] was at least eighteen years old at the time [he] committed the instant offense of conviction; (2) the instant offense of conviction is a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense [as defined under § 4B1.2]; and (3) the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.” Guideline § 4B1.1(a).

         To determine whether a prior conviction qualifies under § 4B1.2, courts ordinarily apply a categorical approach to simple, straightforward statutes, which requires the reviewing court to compare the elements of the statute of conviction with the “generic elements” of the offense. Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243, 2248 (2016); 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 predicate offense, regardless of the particular facts of the case. See, e.g., Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2248-49.

         However, 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 a “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 requires the reviewing court to decide whether any of the alternatives match the federal definition, 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” but rather, “it is ‘whether the elements of [the statute] are of the type that would justify its inclusion within the definition[.]” United States v. Douglas, 563 Fed.Appx. 371, 377 (6th Cir. 2014) (emphasis in original) (citation omitted).

         A. ...

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