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Wright v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville Division

November 18, 2019

WILLIAM WRIGHT, JR., Petitioner,



         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Motion for Relief from Judgment Pursuant to Rules 60(b)(1) and 60(b)(6) [doc. 69]. The government has not responded, and the time for a response has long passed. See E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.1(a). For the reasons below, Petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion [doc. 69] is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2005, Petitioner pled guilty to three counts of possessing a firearm as a felon, all in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1). [Doc. 33]. Based on three prior Florida robbery convictions, the United States Probation Office classified Petitioner as an armed career criminal subject to the Armed Career Criminal Act's (“ACCA”) fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence. [Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) ¶¶ 19, 28, 32-33]. Based on this designation, the Court sentenced Petitioner to 180 months' imprisonment on January 17, 2006. [Doc. 33]. Petitioner appealed, but the Sixth Circuit affirmed his convictions and sentences on April 3, 2007. [Doc. 38]. Petitioner did not seek a writ of certiorari.

         On October 29, 2008, Petitioner filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. [Doc. 45]. This Court denied that motion on February 28, 2012. [Docs. 50, 51]. Thereafter, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), holding that the residual clause of the ACCA was unconstitutionally vague, on June 26, 2015. Petitioner requested leave to file a second or successive § 2255 motion based on that decision. The Sixth Circuit authorized a second or successive filing. [Doc. 56].

         On November 2, 2016, Petitioner's second or successive § 2255 motion was filed in this Court, raising one claim: that his ACCA-enhanced sentence was unconstitutional in light of Johnson. [Doc. 57]. The Court ordered the government to respond, and later granted an extension of time, up to January 13, 2017, for the government to respond. [Docs. 58, 60]. Before the government responded, the federal public defender entered an appearance on behalf of Petitioner. [Doc. 61]. On January 17, 2017, the government responded in opposition to Petitioner's § 2255 motion. [Doc. 64]. The record indicates that, on February 16, 2017, the Court received a letter, addressed to Petitioner's defense attorney, and the Court forwarded the letter to the federal defender's office.

         This Court ultimately concluded that Florida robbery remains a violent felony under the ACCA's use-of-physical-force clause. [Doc. 65]. Accordingly, on April 10, 2017, the Court denied Petitioner's § 2255 motion on the merits. [Id.]. On May 1, 2017, Petitioner filed a “reply” to the government's response to his § 2255 motion, as well as the instant Rule 60(b) motion. [Docs. 68, 69].

         II. ANALYSIS

         In the instant Rule 60(b) motion, Petitioner asserts that the Clerk of Court erroneously failed to file his letter, addressed to his defense counsel, as a reply to the government's response. [Doc. 69 at 2]. Petitioner further asserts that his counsel's failure to file a timely reply in opposition to the government's response was a denial of his procedural due process rights. [Id.]. In support, Plaintiff has attached a copy of the letter addressed to his defense counsel, dated January 29, 2017, in which Petitioner informs defense counsel that he has attached a reply to the government, and asks counsel to edit the reply with any additional arguments. [Id. at 7]. Alternatively, Petitioner requested that counsel notify him if she could no longer assist him, so that he could file the reply pro se, or for counsel to submit the pro se reply to the Court on his behalf. [Id.].

         In addition to the instant Rule 60(b) motion, Petitioner has filed what appears to be the pro se reply brief that he allegedly asked counsel to file on his behalf. [Doc. 68]. In his reply, Petitioner asserted that the Fritts[1] and Seabrooks[2] decisions, on which the government's response relied, were distinguishable because those cases involved convictions for armed robbery, as opposed to ordinary robbery. [Id. at 2-3]. Petitioner further argued that, at the time of two of his convictions, the least culpable act criminalized under the Florida robbery statute was “robbery by sudden snatching, ” which only qualified as a violent felony under the ACCA's residual clause. [Id. at 5].

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) allows a court to relieve a party from a final judgment for specific reasons:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for ...

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