United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
the court is pro se petitioner James Brian
Joyner's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his
sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Doc.
482]. The United States has responded to the
motion, objecting to Joyner's requested relief [Doc.
484]. For the reasons set forth herein, the court finds
Joyner's Â§ 2255 motion lacks merit and will be denied,
and the case dismissed. Because Joyner is not entitled to
relief under Â§ 2255, no evidentiary hearing is necessary.
31, 2016, Joyner entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to
distribute Oxycodone, Morphine, Oxymorphone, and Alprazolam
by writing illegal prescriptions. For approximately three
months in 2010, Joyner was employed at the Breakthrough Pain
Therapy Center in Maryville, Tennessee, as a licensed medical
doctor. During this time, he issued prescriptions to patients
for narcotics without a legitimate medical purpose and
outside the course of professional medical practice.
Breakthrough was a pain clinic that issued prescriptions for
scheduled narcotics to every patient despite the absence of
any medical justification for the prescriptions. It operated
from July 2009 until it was closed by law enforcement in
December 2010. The owners of the clinic had no medical
training and could not write prescriptions, so they employed
various medical providers, including Joyner, to write
prescriptions for patients.
was the medical provider for 530 patient visits. He
prescribed medications and every patient he saw was
prescribed a scheduled narcotic. In addition, Joyner provided
his signature in a supervisory physician role for various
files in which prescriptions were issued by nurse
practitioners and physician assistants who were employed by
grand jury returned criminal charges against nine medical
practitioners who had worked at the clinic, including Joyner.
All were charged with conspiring to distribute controlled
substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841 and
conspiring to commit money laundering in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 1956(h).
through counsel, negotiated a written plea agreement to plead
guilty to the drug conspiracy, in exchange for dismissal of
the money laundering count. Joyner stipulated that he had
issued prescriptions for scheduled narcotics outside the
usual course of professional practice and without a
legitimate medical purpose. He also stipulated that the
controlled substance quantities obtained through the illegal
prescriptions he wrote had the marijuana equivalency of at
least 6, 661.07 kilograms of marijuana.
November 17, 2016, the court sentenced Joyner to 70 months
imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised release.
Joyner did not appeal his conviction or sentence, and the
judgment became final on December 1, 2016. Joyner filed a
§ 2255 motion on November 9, 2017. Joyner contends that
his counsel was constitutionally ineffective in three
respects: (1) for not alleging a violation of the Speedy
Trial Act; (2) for allowing or inducing him to enter an
involuntary guilty plea; and (3) for not objecting to the
drug quantity attributed to him at sentencing. Joyner also
claims that the government “suppressed inconsistent
proffer statements, video recordings, fabricated and coached
grand jury testimonies” in violation of Brady v.
Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
obtain relief pursuant to § 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).
petitioner alleging ineffective assistance of counsel must
satisfy the two-part test set forth in Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1987). First, the
petitioner must establish, by identifying specific acts or
omissions, that counsel's performance was deficient and
that counsel did not provide “reasonably effective
assistance, as measured by prevailing professional
norms.” Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374, 380
(2005). Counsel is presumed to have provided effective
assistance, and a petitioner bears the burden of showing
otherwise. Mason v. Mitchell, 320 F.3d 604, 616-17
(6th Cir. 2003) A reviewing court “must indulge a
strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within
the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; that
is, the defendant must overcome the presumption that . . .
the challenged action might be considered sound . . .
strategy.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689.
a petitioner must demonstrate “a reasonable
probability” that, but for counsel's acts or
omissions, “the result of the proceedings would have
been different.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694.
“An error by counsel, even if professionally
unreasonable, does not warrant setting aside the judgment of
a criminal proceeding if the error had no effect on the
judgment.” Id. at 691. If a petitioner fails
to prove that he sustained prejudice, the court need not
decide whether counsel's performance was deficient.
See United States v. Hynes, 467 F.3d 951, 970 (6th
Cir. 2006) (holding that alleged “flaws” in trial
counsel's representation did not warrant new trial where
the claims, even if true, did not demonstrate that the jury
would have reached a different conclusion).
the petitioner has the burden to establish that he is
entitled to relief. See Bevil v. United States, No.
2:06-CR-52, 2010 WL 3239276, at *3 (E.D. Tenn. Aug. 16, 2010)
(recognizing that “burden of proving ineffective
assistance of counsel is on the petitioner”); see
also Douglas v. United States, No. 2:05-cr-07, 2009 WL
2043882 at *3 (E.D. Tenn. July 2, 2009) (stating that
“[w]hen a defendant files a § 2255 motion, he must
set forth facts which entitle him to relief”).
Speedy Trial Act
argues that his counsel was ineffective for not moving to
dismiss the indictment for violating the “70-day Speedy
Trial statute of limitations.” In support of his
argument, Joyner states that he was employed with the pain
clinic from April 30, 2010 until July 30, 2010. The
indictment was returned by the grand jury on October 7, 2014,
and defendant was not taken to trial until May 25, 2016, some
591 days later.
Speedy Trial Act generally requires a federal criminal trial
to begin within seventy days after a defendant is charged or
makes an initial appearance, but contains a detailed scheme
under which certain specified periods of delay are not
counted. United States v. Brown, 498 F.3d
523, 529 (6th Cir. 2007). As relevant here, the
Speedy Trial Act deems excludable:
Any period of delay resulting from a continuance granted by
any judge on his own motion or at the request of the
defendant or his counsel or at the request of the attorney
for the government, if the judge granted such continuance on
the basis of his findings that the ends of justice served by
taking such action outweigh the best interests of the public
and the defendant in a speedy trial. No such period of delay
resulting from a continuance granted by the court in
accordance with this paragraph shall be excludable under this
subsection unless the court sets forth, in the record of the
case, either orally or in writing, its reasons for ...