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Robinson v. United States

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

September 4, 2019


          Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee



         Before the Court is Petitioner Charles A. Robinson's pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255 (Doc. 1, in Case No. 1:19-CV-211; Doc. 24, in Case No. 1:09-CR-15). Respondent, United States of America, opposes Petitioner's motion. (Doc. 4, in Case No. 1:19-CV-211.) For the following reasons, the Court will DENY Petitioner's § 2255 motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2009, Petitioner pleaded guilty to two counts of aiding and abetting the use, carrying, and brandishing of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) and 2. (Doc. 18, at 1, in Case No. 1:09-CR-15.) The underlying crimes of violence were two separate incidents of robbery in violation of Title 18, U.S.C. § 1951, one on March 30, 2007, and the other on May 8, 2007. (Doc. 1, in Case No. 1:09-CR-15.) On September 24, 2009, United States District Judge Curtis L. Collier sentenced Petitioner to a total of 384 months' imprisonment and five years of supervised release. (Docs. 22, 23, in Case No. 1:09-CR-15.) Petitioner did not appeal.

         On July 22, 2019, Petitioner filed the instant § 2255 motion, asserting that his § 924(c) convictions are unconstitutional in light of United States v. Davis, 139 S.Ct. 2319 (2019), entitling him to relief under § 2255. (See generally Doc. 1, in Case No. 1:19-CV-211.) This motion is now ripe for the Court's review.


         To obtain relief under § 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)). He “must clear a significantly higher hurdle than would exist on direct appeal” and establish 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).

         Section 2255(f) places a one-year period of limitation on all petitions for collateral relief under § 2255 which runs from the latest of: (1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final; (2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action; (3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or (4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f).

         In ruling on a motion made pursuant to § 2255, the Court must also determine whether an evidentiary hearing is necessary. “An evidentiary hearing is required unless the record conclusively shows that the petitioner is entitled to no relief.” Martin v. United States, 889 F.3d 827, 832 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting Campbell v. United States, 686 F.3d 353, 357 (6th Cir. 2012)); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). “The burden for establishing entitlement to an evidentiary hearing is relatively light, and where there is a factual dispute, the habeas court must hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the truth of the petitioner's claims.” Martin, 889 F.3d at 832 (quoting Turner v. United States, 183 F.3d 474, 477 (6th Cir. 1999)) (internal quotation marks omitted). While a petitioner's “mere assertion of innocence” does not entitle him to an evidentiary hearing, the district court cannot forego an evidentiary hearing unless “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.” Id. When petitioner's factual narrative of the events is not contradicted by the record and not inherently incredible and the government offers nothing more than contrary representations, the petitioner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         As a threshold matter, Petitioner's motion is timely under § 2255(f)(3). Petitioner's motion relies on Davis, which the Supreme Court decided on June 24, 2019, and Petitioner filed his petition on July 22, 2019, well within the one-year limitation period. (Doc. 1.) Accordingly, Petitioner's motion was timely filed.

         Petitioner contends that the Supreme Court ruled in Davis that 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) was unconstitutionally vague and, therefore, his two convictions under § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) are invalid. (Doc. 1, at 4.) He further argues that aiding and abetting under 18 U.S.C. § 2 relies on the residual clause in 924(c), rendering his convictions unconstitutional in light of Davis. (Id. at 5.) The Governments responds that the Supreme Court invalidated § 924(c)(3)(B) as unconstitutionally vague, but Petitioner was convicted under 924(c)(3)(A), and therefore Petitioner's convictions were unaffected by Davis. (See generally Doc. 4, in Case No. 1:19-CV-211.)

         Section 924(c) makes it a crime to use, carry, brandish, or discharge a firearm “during and in relation to any crime of violence or drug trafficking crime . . . .” 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). A ...

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