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Alexander v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

October 24, 2016

Tranier Wylon Alexander, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America, Respondent. Civil No. 16-10084

          OPINION & ORDER DENYING § 2255 MOTION AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          SEAN F. COX, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         In Criminal Case Number 11-CR-20180, Tranier Wylon Alexander (“Petitioner”) pleaded guilty, pursuant to a Rule 11 agreement, to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances within a school zone and to use a drug-involved premises. This Court sentenced Petitioner to a total term of imprisonment of 222 months.

         The matter is now before the Court on Petitioner's pro se Motion to Vacate Sentence, brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Because the files and records of the case conclusively establish that Petitioner is entitled to no relief as to the claims in this § 2255 motion, an evidentiary hearing is not necessary and the matter is ready for a decision by this Court. For the reasons set forth below, the Court shall DENY Petitioner's motion. The Court further declines to issue a certificate of appealability.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was one of six defendants indicted in this case. Petitioner was represented by Attorney Antonio D. Tuddles. In August 2011, a federal grand jury returned a first superseding indictment, charging Petitioner with the following: (1) one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances within a school zone and to use a drug-involved premises, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846, 856(a)(1), and 860(a); (2) eight counts of distribution of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and (3) one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). (Doc. #59). On September 28, 2011, the Government filed a “sentencing enhancement information pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, ” advising that Petitioner had a prior felony drug conviction. (Doc. #79).

         Rule 11 Plea Agreement

         On October 24, 2011, Petitioner pleaded guilty, pursuant to a Rule 11 Plea Agreement, to Count One of the Indictment, which charged “Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances within a School Zone and to Use a Drug-Involved Premises, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846, 856(a)(1), and 860(a).” (Doc. #96, Rule 11 Plea Agreement, at Pg ID 302-03).

         Petitioner's Rule 11 Plea Agreement provided that either party could withdraw from the agreement if the Court were to decide not to accept the parties' agreed upon sentence. (Id. at Pg ID 308). The Agreement also contained an appellate-waiver provision that stated as follows:

Defendant waives any right he may have to appeal his conviction. If the sentence imposed does not exceed the maximum allowed by Part 3 of this agreement, defendant also waives any right he may have to appeal his sentence. If the sentence imposed is within the guideline range determined by Paragraph 2B the government agrees not to appeal the sentence, but retains its right to appeal any sentence below that range.

(Id. at Pg ID 309).

         Attached to the Plea Agreement were sentencing guideline worksheets, which listed Petitioner's prior convictions and specified that Petitioner qualified as a career offender under USSG § 4B1.1. (Id. at Pg ID 312-18). In the Rule 11 Plea Agreement, the parties agreed that the applicable guideline range was 262-327 months.

         Presentence Report

         On January 10, 2012, the probation department prepared a presentence report (“PSR”). Petitioner's base offense level was calculated at 28 pursuant to United States Sentencing Guideline U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1. (PSR at ¶ 33). Petitioner's base offense level was increased two levels pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1) because he possessed a firearm. (Id. at ¶ 34). Another four levels were added to Petitioner's base offense level because he was an organizer or leader of a criminal activity pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a). (Id. at ¶ 36). Chapter Four Enhancements were applied because Petitioner was determined to be a career offender, which resulted in an offense level of 37 pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. (Id. at ¶ 39). Petitioner received a three-level acceptance of responsibility downward departure. (Id. at ¶¶ 40-41). Petitioner's total offense level was calculated at 34. (Id. at ¶ 42). The PSR determined that the applicable guideline range was 262-327 months of imprisonment.

         The PSR identified the following prior convictions in support of the determination that Petitioner was a career offender: (1) “Attempt Delivery/Manufacture (Narcotic or Cocaine) Less Than 50 Grams;” (2) “Fleeing Police 3rd Degree;” (3) “Delivery/Manufacture (Narcotic or Cocaine) Less Than 50 Grams;” and (4) “Delivery/Manufacture (Narcotic or Cocaine) Less Than 50 Grams.” (Id. at ¶¶ 44-47).

         Petitioner's Sentencing

         At sentencing, on March 30, 2012, the Government moved for a 10 to 15 percent downward departure from the guideline range pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1. (Doc. #214, Sentencing Transcript, at Pg ID 2225, 2231). The Government specifically recommended a range of 222 to 294 months and asked that the Court impose a sentence of 240 months. (Id. at 2226). In so doing, the Government acknowledged Petitioner's substantial assistance. (Id. at 2225, 2231).

         Petitioner's trial counsel, Mr. Tuddles, asked the Court to accept the Rule 11 Plea Agreement. (Id. at 2222). Mr. Tuddles stated that neither he nor Petitioner had any objections to the to the Presentence Report. (Id. at 2229-30). Mr. Tuddles further asked for a variance amounting to half of what the Government had proposed. (Id. at 2228). Specifically, Mr. Tuddles asked that Petitioner be sentenced to 120 months. (Id.).

         The Amended Judgment (Doc. #171), issued on April 20, 2012, indicates that Petitioner pleaded guilty to Count 1 of the Indictment. The remaining counts against Petitioner were dismissed. This Court sentenced Petitioner to a total term of 222 months - a term below the range specified in Petitioner's Rule 11 Plea Agreement.

         Petitioner's § 2255 Motion

         On January 11, 2016, Petitioner filed the instant pro se motion, seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. # 208, Pet. Br.). Petitioner asserts four grounds for relief.

         As to Ground One, Petitioner contends that he was rendered ineffective assistance of counsel “because his counsel failed to explain the issues of leadership role enhancements, weapons enhancements or criminal history points.” (Id. at Pg ID 2179).

         As to Ground Two, Petitioner “contends that his sentence is in violation of his Constitutional Rights because he was enhanced on a sentence that did not fall within the scope of a career criminal enhancement based on the sentencing structure that Michigan had in place ...


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