United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
the court is pro se petitioner Timothy Chesser's
motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Doc. 532]. From 2012 through 2014,
Chesser conspired with other individuals to manufacture
methamphetamine. During the course of the conspiracy, Chesser
purchased pseudoephedrine from various pharmacies and used
that pseudoephedrine to manufacture methamphetamine on at
least thirty occasions.
August 6, 2015, Chesser pleaded guilty to conspiring to
manufacture at least fifty grams of methamphetamine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1) and
841(b)(1)(A); and to possessing methamphetamine precursors,
in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(a)(6). Because Chesser
had a prior Tennessee conviction for manufacturing a
controlled substance, he faced an enhanced penalty range of
twenty years to life imprisonment on the conspiracy charge
and an enhanced penalty range of up to twenty years
imprisonment on the possession of methamphetamine precursors
charge. In his Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, Chesser
agreed that the minimum mandatory sentence of twenty years
imprisonment followed by at least ten years of supervised
release would be the appropriate disposition of his case.
Chesser also agreed not to file any motions or pleadings
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, with the exception of
motions raising claims of prosecutorial misconduct or
ineffective assistance of counsel.
December 14, 2015, the court sentenced Chesser to the
agreed-upon term of twenty years imprisonment. Chesser did
not appeal his conviction or sentence, and the judgment
became final on December 28, 2015. Chesser timely filed a
§ 2255 motion on November 28, 2016. Chesser asserts that
his prior Tennessee drug conviction can no longer be used to
enhance his sentence in light of Mathis v. United
States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), and his counsel was
constitutionally ineffective for not making that argument at
obtain relief pursuant to 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 that was so
fundamental as to render the entire proceeding
invalid.” Short v. United States, 471 F.3d
686, 691 (6th Cir. 2006). 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).
argues that the enhancement of his sentence pursuant to 21
U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) was improper in light of the
United States Supreme Court's subsequent decision in
Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), as
well as the decision of the United States Court of Appeals
for the Fifth Circuit in United States v. Hinkle,
832 F.3d 569 (5th Circuit. 2016). Chesser claims
that, in light of Mathis, his prior Tennessee drug
conviction cannot be used to enhance his federal sentence.
Chesser is wrong on the facts and the law.
contends his sentence was improperly enhanced because his
Tennessee conviction was not analyzed using the
“categorical approach” applied in Mathis
and Hinkle. However, Mathis addressed the
proper procedures to be used when determining whether a
conviction qualifies as a predicate offense under the
“enumerated offenses” clause of the definition of
“violent felony” in the Armed Career Criminal
Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). Similarly, in Hinkle,
the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
applied the categorical approach of Mathis to
determine whether a prior Texas conviction was a
“controlled substance offense” within the meaning
of §4B1.1(a) (Career Offender) of the United States
Sentencing Guidelines. Hinkle, 832 F.3d 569, 570-71.
Chesser's sentence was enhanced under the provisions of
§ 841(b)(1)(A) because of his prior Tennessee felony
drug conviction. Section 841(b) provides enhanced penalties
for a person who conspires to manufacture at least fifty
grams of methamphetamine “after a prior conviction for
a felony drug offense has become final.” 21 U.S.C.
Supreme Court has held that the definition of “felony
drug offense” in 21 802(44) controls as the exclusive
definition for purposes of § 841(b)(1)(A). Burgess
v. United States, 553U.S. 124, 127 (2008). To qualify as
a “felony drug offense, ” no detailed comparison
of elements is required. Rather, 21 U.S.C. § 802(44)
merely requires that the prior state or federal offense (1)
be punishable by more than one year in prison, and (2) that
it “prohibits or restricts conduct relating to narcotic
drugs, marihuana, anabolic steroids, or depressant or
stimulant substances.” By its terms, § 802(44)
does not require that the prior offense constitute any
particular species of crime, but only that it relates to
conduct involving drugs. Therefore, the use of the
categorical approach is neither necessary nor appropriate.
See United States v. Graham, 622 F.3d 445, 456-57
(6th Cir. 2010); United States v. Spikes,
158 F.3d 913, 932 (6th Cir. 1998) (no need to
utilize the guidelines where the statute plainly mandates a
more severe sentence). Similarly, multiple decisions issued
by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals confirm that
Mathis is inapplicable to sentences enhanced under
§ 841(b)(1)(A). See Smith v. Ormand, 2018 WL
7143637 at *2 (6th Cir. Jul. 30, 2018); Romo
v. Ormond, 2018 WL 4710046 at *4 (6th Cir.
Sept. 13, 2018 (Mathis is inapplicable to sentences
enhanced under § 841(b)(1)(A)); McKenzie v.
Ormond, No. 18-5072 (6th Cir. Jul. 11, 2018);
Hidalgo v. Smith, NO. 18-5230 (6th Cir.
Sept. 20, 2018).
does not dispute that, at the time of his conviction, his
prior Tennessee conviction for manufacturing a controlled
substance was considered a state felony, punishable for a
term of imprisonment of more than one year. Because his prior
conviction related to drugs and was “punishable by
imprisonment for more than one year” under the law of
the State of Tennessee, the conviction qualifies as a
“felony drug offense” under § 802(44) and,
accordingly, qualifies as a predicate offense for purposes of
the sentencing enhancement provided by § 841(b)(1)(A).
Chesser's prior Tennessee state conviction for
manufacturing a controlled substance was properly considered
as a prior “felony drug offense” so as to enhance
his sentence to a mandatory minimum of twenty years under
§ 841(b)(1)(A), and his counsel was not ineffective in
failing to argue otherwise.
is not entitled to relief under § 2255, a hearing is
unnecessary in this case, and a Judgment will enter
DENYING the Motion [Doc. 532].
 In accordance with Rule 4(b) of the
Rules Governing § 2255 Proceedings in the United States
District Courts (§ 2255 Rules), the Court has considered
all of the pleadings and filings in Petitioner's motion.
The Court has also considered all the files, records,
transcripts, and correspondence relating to Petitioner's