United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING MOVANT'S MOTION TO VACATE, SET
ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE ; DENYING MOVANT'S MOTION
FOR JUDGMENT ; DENYING CERTIFICATE OF
J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge.
9, 2015, Movant Martell Davone Watkins was charged via
indictment [Dkt. 10] with two counts of Distribution of
Controlled Substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1), Felon in Possession of a Firearm - Armed Career
Criminal, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1),
924(e), and Possession of Firearms in Furtherance of a Drug
Trafficking Crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).
Mr. Watkins entered a guilty plea to Count One of the
indictment, distribution of heroin, on October 13, 2016. On
January 31, 2017, the Court sentenced Mr. Watkins to 120
months' imprisonment and a three-year term of supervised
release. Judgment  was entered on February 17, 2017.
Watkins filed a Motion to Vacate Sentence under 22 U.S.C.
§ 2255  on August 22, 2017. The Government responded
to Mr. Watkins' motion on October 17, 2017 .
later, Mr. Watkins filed a Motion for Judgment , on the
grounds that the Government's response to the § 2255
motion was 15 days late. The Government responded the same
reasons explained in depth below, Mr. Watkins' Motion to
Vacate Sentence under 22 U.S.C. § 2255  and Motion
for Judgment  are DENIED. Mr. Watkins is
denied a certificate of appealability.
succeed on a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct
sentence, a 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.” Pough v. United States, 442 F.3d
959, 964 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Mallett v. United
States, 334 F.3d 491, 496-97 (6th Cir. 2003)). “To
prevail on a claim of constitutional error, a prisoner
‘must demonstrate the existence of an error of
constitutional magnitude which had asubstantial and injurious
effect' on the proceedings.” Fairley v. United
States, No. 12-CR-20786, 2017 WL 2535462, at *1 (E.D.
Mich. June 12, 2017) (quoting Hamblen v. United
States, 591 F.3d 471, 473 (6th Cir. 2009)).
Watkins argues that, in light of Mathis v. United
States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016) and United States v.
Hinkle, 832 F.3d 569 (5th Cir. 2016), the Court erred in
classifying him as a career offender under the Guidelines.
Specifically, Mr. Watkins claims that his previous conviction
under M.C.L. § 333.7401 for delivery of a controlled
substance is an improper career offender predicate. He
submits that § 333.7401 is indivisible and
“broader than the [ ] Guidelines definition for a
controlled substance.” (Dkt. 69 at 8). He further
contends that § 333.7401 is “ambiguous and
uncertain” and that pursuant to the rule of lenity, the
ambiguity should be resolved in his favor. Id. at
Watkins also raises an ineffective assistance of counsel
claim. He maintains that had trial counsel properly
researched the issue, he would have discovered that Mr.
Watkins' prior conviction for cocaine delivery could not
be used to establish Mr. Watkins are a career offender.
Mr. Watkins' Career Offender Status
Guidelines provide for an increased sentence if the defendant
is a career offender. U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a) states:
A defendant is a career offender if (1) the defendant was at
least eighteen years old at the time the defendant committed
the instant offense of conviction; (2) the instant offense of
conviction is a felony that is either a crime of a violence
or a controlled substance offense; and (3) the defendant has
at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of
violence or a controlled substance offense.
“controlled substance offense” is “an
offense . . . that prohibits the manufacture, import, export,
distribution, or dispensing of a controlled substance (or a
counterfeit substance) or the possession of a controlled
substance (or a counterfeit substance) with intent to