United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING MOTION UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255 TO
VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE, ORDER DISMISSING
CIVIL CASE NO. 17-CV-10248 AND ORDER DENYING CERTIFICATE OF
PAGE HOOD CHIEF JUDGE.
October 6, 2015, pursuant to a Rule 11 Plea Agreement (R.
557: Plea Agreement, PgID 4398), Petitioner Aaron Scott pled
guilty to Counts Three and Four of the Fourth Superseding
Indictment for: (a) possession with intent to distribute more
than five grams of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C
§ 841(a)(1)(Count Three); and (b) possession of a
firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(Count Four). On
January 14, 2016, Petitioner was sentenced to twelve months
imprisonment on Count Three and a sixty month consecutive
sentence on Count Four, for a total of seventy-two months of
imprisonment. (R. 568: Judgment).
March 6, 2016, Petitioner filed a notice of appeal (R. 569:
Notice of Appeal), and on April 14, 2016, the Sixth Circuit
dismissed Petitioner's appeal at his request. (R. 580:
Order of Dismissal, PgID 4512). On January 5, 2017, the Sixth
Circuit dismissed Petitioner's appeal for a second time,
again at Petitioner's request. (R. 596: Order of
Dismissal, PgID 14727). Petitioner then filed a Section 2255
motion claiming that his possession of the firearm was not in
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Petitioner also
claims that the drugs (cocaine base) found at the house on
Yonka Street were not packaged for sale and no drug dealing
nexus between the drugs and the Yonka location existed. (R.
597: Motion to Vacate, PgID 4731-32; R. 594: Plea Hearing,
PgID 4687). The Government filed a brief in response. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court denies Petitioner's
Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct the Sentence.
§ 2255 motion, Petitioner alleges there was insufficient
evidence as to his convictions for: (1) possession of a
firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; (2)
possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of
cocaine base; and (3) maintaining a drug-involved premises.
Petitioner also alleges ineffective assistance of counsel,
claiming that he should have been offered a minor-role
reduction as part of the plea bargain.
Standard of Review
2255 authorizes a federal prisoner to move the district court
to vacate a sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Motions
brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 are subject to a one-year
limitations period established by the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”).
Dunlap v. United States, 250 F.3d 1001, 1004-05 (6th
Cir. 2001). The AEDPA established a one-year limitations
period for § 2255 motions, generally running from
“the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes
final.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1). When a movant does
not pursue a direct appeal to the court of appeals, the
conviction becomes final on the date the time for filing such
an appeal expires. Sanchez-Castellano v. United
States, 358 F.3d 424, 428 (6th Cir. 2004). In order to
prevail on a § 2255 motion, a petitioner “must
allege three bases: (1) an error of constitutional magnitude;
(2) a sentence imposed outside of the statutory limits; or
(3) an error of fact or law that was so fundamental as to
render the entire proceeding invalid.” Weinberger
v. United States, 268 F.3d 346, 351 (6th Cir. 2001).
may not conduct a collateral review of a judgment where the
issues for review have been decided on direct appeal.
DuPont v. United States, 76 F.3d 108, 110-11 (6th
Cir. 1996). A court also may not conduct a collateral review
of an issue that has been procedurally defaulted by the
defendant's failure to raise the grounds for review on
direct appeal. Massaro v. United States, 530 U.S.
500, 504 (2003). Section 2255 is not a substitute for a
direct appeal and a defendant cannot use it to circumvent the
direct appeal process. United States v. Frady, 460
U.S. 152, 164-65 (1982); Elzy v. United States, 205
F.3d 882, 884 (6th Cir. 2000). Where a defendant fails to
raise claims on direct appeal and attempts to raise them in a
§ 2255 motion, the defendant must show good cause for
failure to raise the claims and establish prejudice or the
defendant must show he or she is actually innocent.
Regalado v. United States, 334 F.3d 520, 528 (6th
Insufficiency of Evidence
who claim insufficiency of the evidence bear a very heavy
burden. United States v. Ray, 803 F.3d 244, 262-64
(6th Cir. 2015). A federal court must first “determine
whether, viewing the trial testimony and exhibits in the
light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier
of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime
beyond a reasonable doubt.” Brown v. Konteh,
567 F.3d 191, 205 (6th Cir. 2009). Section 2255 is not a
substitute for a direct appeal and a defendant cannot use it
to circumvent the direct appeal process.
Possession of Firearm in Furtherance of Drug
first claims that there was insufficient evidence as to the
charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug
trafficking crime. (R. 597: Motion to Vacate, PgID 4731). The
term “in furtherance of, ” under § 924(c) is
understood in its ordinary or natural meaning to consist of a
“helping forward…advancement, [or] promotion,
[therefore] the weapon must promote or facilitate the
crime.” Ray, 803 F.3d at 262 (quoting
United States v. Mackey, 265 F.3d 457, 460-61 (6th
Cir. 2001)). Mere ...