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Payton v. United States

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

January 23, 2018

Earl Payton Jr., Movant,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING MOVANT'S MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE [111]

          Arthur J. Tarnow, Senior United States District Judge

         Movant Earl Payton filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 2255 [111] on May 13, 2016. The Government filed a Response [114] on June 24, 2016. Because Payton's Motion is time-barred, the Court DENIES the Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence [111].

         Factual and Procedural Background

         I. Plea and Sentencing

          On January 25, 2008, Payton pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Controlled Substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. Payton's plea was entered pursuant to a Rule 11 Plea Agreement.

         The Plea Agreement provided a sentencing guidelines range of 262 to 327 months, based on the application of the career offender provisions of the Sentencing Guidelines. [Dkt. #32 at 4]. The Plea Agreement listed three prior burglary convictions and one prior controlled substance conviction. The Plea Agreement further provided that “the court must impose a sentence of no less than 20 years because defendant has a prior felony drug conviction.” [Dkt. #32 at 17]. At the Sentencing Hearing on April 24, 2008, neither Payton, nor his counsel, raised any objections to the PSR or sentencing guidelines range. The Court sentenced Payton to 25 years of imprisonment.

         II. Direct Appeal

         On May 7, 2008, Payton filed a Notice of Appeal [44]. Payton challenged his conviction on the grounds that: the plea was unknowing; he was provided ineffective assistance of counsel in entering the plea bargain; and his within guidelines sentence was based on false information.

         On June 9, 2010, the Sixth Circuit affirmed Payton's conviction. U.S. v. Payton, 380 Fed.App'x 509, 510 (6th Cir. 2010). The Sixth Circuit summarized the primary issue raised on appeal as follows:

When Payton pled guilty, he and the government mistakenly assumed he had two prior felony drug convictions. Taking this premise as a given, the government promised, as part of Payton's plea agreement, to file an information listing only one of Payton's prior convictions rather than enhanc[ing] the mandatory minimum sentence to life imprisonment by listing the second conviction.
Payton, as it turns out, had just one prior felony drug conviction, meaning that he faced a mandatory minimum if convicted of 240 months, not life imprisonment. The apparent source of the misunderstanding was that Michigan authorities charged him with three additional drug-related felonies in 2005, but he eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor.
As to the instant offense, Payton claims he would not have pled guilty and would not have waived his Fifth and Sixth Amendment trial rights had he known the government never had the option of seeking a mandatory life sentence.

Id. at 511.

         The Sixth Circuit rejected Payton's argument. In holding that Payton failed to satisfy the plain error standard, the Court explained that the district court “had no obligation to probe whether Payton benefitted from each promise by the government in the plea agreement, and it thus had no reason to probe his criminal history.” Id. at 512. The Court further explained that Payton failed to demonstrate that the plea “prejudicially affected his substantial rights, ” particularly where he “had little to gain by going to trial.” Id. (noting that “proceeding to trial likely ...


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