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United States v. Wells

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

October 24, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
KEENAN LEWIS WELLS, Defendant-Petitioner.

          ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO VACATE SENTENCE PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [109]

          Nancy G. Edmunds United States District Judge

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner-Defendant Keenan Lewis Wells pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances (cocaine and marijuana) in violation of 21 U.S.C §§ 841(a)(1), 846. The Court sentenced Wells to be imprisoned for a term of 262 months, with an increased offense level based in part on a prior "crime of violence" conviction, as defined under § 4B1.2(a) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, for assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. The sentence enhancement was also based on a prior conviction for conspiracy and delivery of cocaine. Wells appealed, and the Sixth Circuit dismissed his appeal. Wells filed his first motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in 2002, which this Court denied.

         On June 2, 2016, Wells moved for authorization to file a second motion to vacate. On November 18, 2016, the Sixth Circuit granted the authorization, and Wells filed the instant motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 arguing that his prior conviction for assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder no longer qualifies as a crime of violence under the Guidelines. On January 31, 2017, the Court entered an Order Granting the Government's Motion to Stay Litigation pending the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). The Court lifted the stay and ordered briefing on April 17, 2017. The Government filed a response on May 17, 2017. Wells filed a reply on June 1, 2017. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Wells's motion.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, "[a] prisoner in custody under sentence of a [federal] court . . . claiming the right to be released . . . may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence." To prevail on a § 2255 motion, the petitioner must allege: "(1) an error of constitutional magnitude; (2) a sentence imposed outside the statutory limits; or (3) an error of fact or law that was so fundamental as to render the entire proceeding invalid." Mallett v. United States, 334 F.3d 491, 496-97 (6th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted).

         Wells argues that his sentence must be vacated in light of the Supreme Court's holding in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). In Johnson, the Supreme Court invalidated the violent crime residual clause of 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) as unconstitutionally vague. Wells argues that Johnson applies to the identically-worded residual clause of the Sentencing Guidelines, § 4B1.2(a)(2).

         After its decision in Johnson, the Supreme Court held in Beckles that the residual clause in Section 4B1.2(a)(2) of the Sentencing Guidelines is not unconstitutionally vague because the advisory Guidelines do not fix the permissible range of sentences: "To the contrary, they merely guide the exercise of a court's discretion in choosing an appropriate sentence within the statutory range." 137 S.Ct. at 892. However, Beckles does not resolve the issue in the instant case. This Court sentenced Wells in 2000, before the Sentencing Guidelines were declared advisory in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 245 (2005). Johnson's applicability to the pre-Booker mandatory sentencing scheme remains an open question after Beckles. See Beckles, 137 S.Ct. at 903 n.4 (Sotomayor, J., concurring).

         Nevertheless, the Sixth Circuit recently held that a claim relying on Johnson to challenge a pre-Booker sentence is barred by the statute of limitations. Raybon v. United States, 867 F.3d 625, 630 (6th Cir. 2017). The same reasoning applies in this case.

         28 U.S.C. § 2255(f) provides that the one-year statute of limitations "shall run from the latest of--

(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;
(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action;
(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the ...

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