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Carter v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

June 28, 2019




         I. Introduction

         Pending before the Court are Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence in Accordance With 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. No. 1); Petitioner's supplemental briefs (Doc. Nos. 12, 13, 16, 19, 23), and the Government's Responses (Doc. Nos. 8, 14, 21). For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's Motion (Doc. No. 1) is DENIED, and this action is DISMISSED.

         II. Petitioner's Criminal Proceedings

         Petitioner pled guilty on August 8, 2007, before former Judge Robert L. Echols, to unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924. (Doc. Nos. 1, 27, 28, 38 in No. 3:07cr00008). The guilty plea was not the result of a plea agreement between the parties. In the Presentence Investigation Report, the Probation Office determined Petitioner qualified for a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence as an Armed Career Criminal based on the following prior convictions: second-degree burglary of a dwelling in Williamson County, Tennessee in 1989; aggravated assault with a firearm in Davidson County, Tennessee in 1993; and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine in federal district court for the Middle District of Tennessee in 1997. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 18 in No. 3:07cr00008). At the subsequent sentencing hearing, on December 10, 2007, Judge Echols agreed that Petitioner was an Armed Career Criminal and his sentencing guideline range was 180 to 188 months. (Doc. Nos. 33, 34, 35, 39 in No. 3:07cr00008). Judge Echols sentenced Petitioner to the mandatory minimum 15-year (180-month) sentence. (Id.) On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed. (Doc. No. 40 in No. 3:07cr00008).

         III. Analysis

         A. Section 2255 Proceedings

         Petitioner has brought this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Section 2255 provides a statutory mechanism for challenging the imposition of a federal sentence:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). In order to obtain relief under Section 2255, a petitioner “‘must demonstrate the existence of an error of constitutional magnitude which had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the guilty plea or the jury's verdict.'” Humphress v. United States, 398 F.3d 855, 858 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Griffin v. United States, 330 F.3d 733, 736 (6th Cir. 2003)).

         If a factual dispute arises in a § 2255 proceeding, the court is to hold an evidentiary hearing to resolve the dispute. Ray v. United States, 721 F.3d 758, 761 (6th Cir. 2013). An evidentiary hearing is not required, however, if the record conclusively shows that the petitioner is not entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); Ray, 721 F.3d at 761; Arredondo v. United States, 178 F.3d 778, 782 (6th Cir. 1999). A hearing is also unnecessary “‘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.'” Monea v. United States, 914 F.3d 414, 422 (6th Cir. 2019) (quoting Valentine v. United States, 488 F.3d 325, 333 (6th Cir. 2007)).

         Having reviewed the record in Petitioner's underlying criminal case, as well as the filings in this case, the Court finds it unnecessary to hold an evidentiary hearing because the records conclusively establish Petitioner is not entitled to relief on the issues raised.

         B. Petitioner's Johnson Claim

         Petitioner argues his sentence should be vacated based on the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, __U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 192 L.Ed.2d 569 (2015). In Johnson, the Supreme Court held the so-called “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), to be unconstitutionally vague. The ACCA imposes a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for defendants convicted of certain firearms offenses who have three previous convictions for a “violent felony” or a “serious drug offense.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The “residual clause” is part of the italicized definition of “violent felony” as set forth below:

(2) As used in this subsection-
(B) the term “violent felony” means any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, or any act of juvenile delinquency involving the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or destructive device that would be punishable by imprisonment for such term if committed by an adult, that -
(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the ...

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