United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO VACATE SENTENCE PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Dkt. 40) AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
MARK A. GOLDSMITH, District Judge.
Now before the Court is Defendant Erik E. Thompson's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Dkt. 40). Defendant's motion raises claims regarding the career offender guidelines - that he did not know that he would be sentenced under them, that he did not know he would receive the sentence he did, and that he did not qualify as a career offender - and that his counsel was ineffective regarding these issues. The Government filed a response (Dkt. 51), and Defendant filed a reply (Dkt. 52). Having reviewed the briefing, the Court concludes that Defendant's arguments are meritless and that his counsel was not ineffective with respect to Defendant's sentence under the guidelines. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant's motion.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Defendant on October 3, 2012, charging him with possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Indictment (Dkt. 12). The grand jury returned a superseding indictment approximately one month later, adding a count of distribution of cocaine base. See First Superseding Indictment (Dkt. 22).
Defendant, through counsel, filed a motion to determine his status as a career offender based on purportedly differing Sixth Circuit authority as to whether home invasion third degree, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.110a(4), constitutes a predicate "crime of violence." See Def. Mot. to Determine Status (Dkt. 18). The Court declined to rule on this issue, noting that the motion "ask[ed] the Court to determine whether, in the hypothetical circumstance that Defendant is convicted, he would be considered a career offender for sentencing purposes." 12/13/12 Order at 1 (Dkt. 25). The Court concluded that "[b]ecause Defendant has not been convicted and has not pled guilty, it would be outside the scope of the federal judicial power for the Court to render an advisory opinion on the applicability of the career offender provision of the United States Sentencing Guidelines." Id. at 1-2.
Defendant subsequently entered into a Rule 11 plea agreement with the Government. Plea Agreement (Dkt. 33). The agreement set forth the elements and factual predicate for the distribution offense. Id. at 1-3. The agreement also stated that, utilizing the career offender guidelines, Defendant's sentencing guideline range was 151-188 months' imprisonment. Id. at 3. The parties agreed that a sentence of "180 months['] imprisonment is the appropriate disposition of the case, " and the Rule 11 agreement permitted withdrawal if the Court's sentence diverged from this agreed-upon sentence. Id. at 4, 6-7. Defendant's signature appears at the bottom of the agreement, below the following statement:
By signing below, defendant acknowledges having read (or been read) this entire document, understanding it, and agreeing to its terms. Defendant also acknowledges being satisfied with defense attorney's advice and representation. Defendant acknowledges having had a full and complete opportunity to confer with counsel, and that all of defendant's questions have been answered by counsel.
Id. at 10-11.
At his plea hearing, Defendant acknowledged that he had reviewed the Rule 11 plea agreement, understood it, and signed it. See Plea. Tr. at 8-10 (Dkt. 49). The Court also confirmed that Defendant understood that the agreement set forth a sentencing guideline range of 151-188 months' imprisonment, and that, if the Court accepted the agreement, his sentence would be 180 months' imprisonment. See id. at 15-18. Defendant stated on the record that he understood. Id . The Court also asked Defendant if anybody had made any promises to get him to sign the agreement, other than those promises contained in the agreement and discussed on the record; Defendant said "No." Id. at 10-12. He then entered a plea of guilty. Id. at 24.
The Court subsequently accepted the guilty plea and adopted the Rule 11 plea agreement. See id. at 24-25; Sentencing Tr. at 4 (Dkt. 50). At sentencing, the Court utilized the sentencing guidelines and found that Defendant qualified as a career offender. See Sentencing Tr. at 5. Both Defendant's counsel and the Government agreed with the Court's assessment. Id . The Court also found that a guideline range of 151-188 months' imprisonment applied; again, all of the parties agreed with this conclusion. Id. at 5-6. The Court then heard from the parties regarding sentencing. Upon the Government's turn to address the Court, Government counsel simply stated the following: "Your Honor, I would just ask the Court to sentence the defendant in accordance with the Rule 11 Plea Agreement, that being to 180 months['] incarceration." Id. at 11. The Court subsequently did so, sentencing Defendant to 180 months' imprisonment and three years' supervised release. Id. at 13. This motion followed.
III. 28 U.S.C. § 2255 STANDARD
This motion is brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which provides in pertinent part:
A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).
To prevail on a section 2255 motion, "a petitioner 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). Non-constitutional errors are generally outside the scope of section 2255 relief. See United States v. Cofield, 233 F.3d 405, 407 (6th Cir. 2000). A movant can prevail on a section 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) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
A court should grant a hearing to determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law on a section 2255 motion "[u]nless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). "[N]o hearing is required if 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.'" Valentine v. United States, 488 F.3d 325, 333 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Arredondo v. United States, 178 F.3d 778, 782 (6th Cir. 1999)). "If it plainly appears from the motion, any attached ...