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Bartlett v. United States

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

October 3, 2019




         Ronald Bartlett has filed a pro se Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody (Doc. No. 1), challenging an allegedly illegal sentence previously imposed by this court. See United States v. Bartlett, No. 3:09-cr-00095 (M.D. Tenn. Sept. 25, 2009) (Judgment, Doc No. 46).[1] As explained below, the court finds that an evidentiary hearing is not required and that the movant is not entitled to relief.


         On June 22, 2009, Bartlett pleaded guilty to unarmed bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), before now-retired Judge Todd J. Campbell. (Crim. Doc. Nos. 13, 25, 26.) At a subsequent sentencing hearing, Judge Campbell adopted the findings in the Presentence Report (Crim. Doc. No. 49), which determined that the defendant was a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, based on three prior Tennessee convictions for aggravated burglary and one New York conviction for attempted robbery, third degree. (Crim. Doc. Nos. 44, 46, 47, 52.) Judge Campbell also determined that the defendant's advisory guideline range was 151 to 188 months, based on a total offense level of 29 and a criminal history category VI. (Crim. Doc. Nos. 47, 52.) The court imposed a sentence of 151 months of imprisonment. (Crim. Doc. No. 46.) The Sixth Circuit affirmed. (Crim. Doc. No. 53.)

         Bartlett, through counsel, filed his original pro se Motion to Vacate on March 31, 2016. Bartlett v. United States, No. 3:16-cv-695, (M.D. Tenn.) (Doc. No. 1). Judge Campbell appointed counsel, who filed an amended motion. The amended petition argued that Bartlett's sentence should be reduced based on Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct 2551 (2015), because he no longer qualified as a career offender under the guidelines. Following Judge Campbell's retirement, the matter was reassigned to the undersigned, and that motion, as amended, was denied on the basis of the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017), which held that the sentencing guidelines are advisory and not subject to a vagueness challenge. Bartlett v. United States, No. 3:16-cv-00695 (M.D. Tenn. June 22, 2017).

         On June 9, 2017, prior to the dismissal of the original § 2255 motion, Bartlett filed the instant Motion to Vacate, reasserting his claims that he was improperly sentenced as a career offender, because his prior convictions for burglary do not qualify as crimes of violence. The Motion to Vacate was originally assigned to Chief Judge Waverly Crenshaw, Jr., who conducted an initial review and, because it was filed prior to the final adjudication of the original motion, determined that the new Motion to Vacate should be transferred to the undersigned and treated as a motion to amend the original motion rather than as a successive motion. (Doc. No. 3.) Following transfer, this court granted Bartlett leave to amend and directed the government to respond to the amended Motion to Vacate. The government has filed its Response (Doc. No. 6), arguing that relief remains barred by Beckles and that, in any event, the arguments raised in the amendment are time-barred.


         To be entitled to relief, a prisoner who moves to vacate his sentence under § 2255 must show that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or that the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255. To prevail on a § 2255 motion, a movant “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)). Non-constitutional errors are generally outside the scope of § 2255 relief. United States v. Cofield, 233 F.3d 405, 407 (6th Cir. 2000). A movant can prevail on a § 2255 motion alleging non-constitutional error only by establishing a “fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice, or an error so egregious that it amounts to a violation of due process.” Watson v. United States, 165 F.3d 486, 488 (6th Cir. 1999) (quoting United States v. Ferguson, 918 F.2d 627, 630 (6th Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks and additional citation omitted)).

         As a general rule, any claims not raised on direct appeal are procedurally defaulted and may not be raised on collateral review unless the movant shows “cause” to excuse the procedural default and “actual prejudice” resulting from the alleged errors, United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 168 (1982) (citations omitted), or that he is “actually innocent.” Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998) (citations omitted). A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is not subject to the procedural-default rule, Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 504 (2003), and may be raised in a collateral proceeding under § 2255, regardless of whether the movant could have raised the claim on direct appeal. Id.

         Generally, claims raised in a § 2255 motion are subject to a one year statute of limitations running from the date the underlying conviction becomes final. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1). In addition, if the Supreme Court decides a case recognizing a substantive new right and the ruling is “made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review, ” a federal prisoner seeking to assert that right has one year from the date of the Supreme Court's decision within which to file his § 2255 motion. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3); Dodd v. United States, 545 U.S. 353, 358-59 (2005).


         In Johnson v. United States, the Supreme Court struck down the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), as unconstitutionally vague. Johnson, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 2557 (2015). It determined that the ACCA's residual clause-which defined “violent felony” to include any offense that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another”-is so vague that it “denies fair notice to defendants and invites arbitrary enforcement by judges.” Id. The Court subsequently affirmed that Johnson announced a new rule of substantive law that was retroactively applicable on collateral review, Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), thus authorizing the filing of new § 2255 motions raising Johnson-based claims with a one-year limitations period that began running on June 26, 2015, the day Johnson issued. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3).

         Bartlett was not sentenced under the ACCA. Instead, his sentencing range was based on the career-offender sentencing guideline. The career-offender guideline defines as a “career offender” any adult offender whose “offense of conviction is a felony that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense” and who “has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense.” U.S.S.G. § ...

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