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Hopkins v. United States

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

April 28, 2017




         Movant Hopkins moves to vacate his 200-month sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. The Court has carefully reviewed Petitioner's motion and determined that an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary to the resolution of this case. See Rule 8, Rules Governing 2255 Cases; see also Arredondo v. United States, 178 F.3d 778, 782 (6th Cir. 1999) (holding that an evidentiary hearing is not required when the record conclusively shows that the petitioner is not entitled to relief). There is no merit to the Movant's position, and the motion is DENIED.


         On August 14, 2012, a grand jury indicted Petitioner Hopkins on one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and multiple counts of distribution of heroin. A superseding indictment was returned on September 26, 2012, adding distribution counts. On November 26, 2012, based on a plea agreement, Hopkins plead guilty to the first count of the superseding indictment, charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. In exchange, the government agreed to dismiss the remaining charges against him and further agreed not to file a supplemental information under 21 U.S.C. § 851, relieving Petitioner of the risk of an increased mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and a maximum of life imprisonment. In his plea agreement, Petitioner also waived the right to appeal issues not preserved at sentencing if his sentence was at or below the maximum guidelines range.

         Petitioner's base offense level was 32 (based on 1.2 kilograms of heroin) plus two levels for the specific offense characteristic of possession of a dangerous weapon under U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1), minus three levels for acceptance of responsibility, [1] for a total offense level of 31. The criminal history was VI (based on 11 criminal history points and career offender scoring). Hopkins was a career offender under the guidelines based on two predicate offenses for unarmed robbery and delivery of less than five grams of crack cocaine. Accordingly, the guidelines came to 188-235 months. The Court imposed a guideline sentence of 200 months on April 26, 2013. Hopkins did not appeal his conviction or sentence.

         Hopkins filed a pro se Section 2255 motion on April 11, 2014. On June 9, 2014, the Court allowed Hopkins to amend his petition (ECF No. 6). The Court again provided Hopkins with leave to amend his petition on October 9, 2014 (ECF No. 13). The government filed a response to Hopkins's Section 2255 motion on December 5, 2014 (ECF No. 22). On December 28, 2015, Hopkins supplemented his motion for a third time to add an ineffective assistance of counsel claim premised on the Supreme Court's Johnson decision (ECF No. 23). The Court appointed counsel to assist with Petitioner's Johnson claim on June 20, 2016 (ECF No. 26).


         A federal prisoner may challenge his sentence by filing in the district court where he was sentenced a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. A valid Section 2255 motion requires a petitioner to show that “the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Section 2255 affords relief for a claimed constitutional error only when the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the proceedings. Watson v. United States, 165 F.3d 486, 488 (6th Cir. 1999). Non-constitutional errors generally are outside the scope of Section 2255 relief, and they should afford collateral relief only when they create 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.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Generally, with the exception of claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, claims not first raised on direct appeal are procedurally defaulted and may not be raised on collateral review. Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500, 503-04 (2003). “Where a defendant has procedurally defaulted a claim by failing to raise it on direct review, the claim may be raised in habeas only if the defendant can first demonstrate either cause and actual prejudice, or that he is actually innocent.” Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         I. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Petitioner's first four grounds for attacking his sentence all involve some variation of the allegation that his right to effective assistance of counsel was violated. Petitioner's first three grounds allege several claims of deficient performance at sentencing. Petitioner's final ground claims defense counsel provided ineffective assistance by refusing to appeal his career offender enhancement.

         Normally, to establish a claim of ineffective assistance, a criminal defendant must show deficient performance and actual prejudice. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984); Roe v. Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470, 476-77 (2000). A district court “must judge the reasonableness of counsel's challenged conduct on the facts of the particular case, viewed as of the time of counsel's conduct, and judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential.” Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. at 477. Counsel must be “a reasonably competent attorney” and give “reasonably effective assistance.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. Petitioner must show that “counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. Actual prejudice means “a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceedings would have been different.” Id. at 694. Petitioner has not established either deficient performance or actual prejudice on any of his claims in this case.

         A. The Sentencing Stage

         Petitioner claims defense counsel was ineffective at the sentencing stage for three different reasons. First, Hopkins argues that his counsel's performance was deficient because he failed to challenge the quantity of heroin attributed to him (ECF No. 1, PageID.5). Second, Hopkins claims defense counsel provided deficient performance because he failed to challenge Hopkins's career offender enhancement on the basis that one of his predicates was not an adult conviction, and another is no longer a valid predicate after the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson (ECF No. 1, PageID.6-7; ECF No. 13, PageID.51; ECF No. 23, PageID.115). Third, Hopkins claims defense counsel was ineffective because he failed to object to the government's denial of acceptance of responsibility credits (ECF No. 13, PageID.50). All of these claims lack merit.

         1. Objection to ...

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