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United States v. Wilson

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

December 5, 2019




         Before the Court is a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and supplement thereto, filed by Defendant William Hugh Wilson (ECF Nos. 99, 102). The Government has filed a response to the motion, arguing that the grounds for relief are meritless and/or procedurally defaulted. The Court agrees with the Government. Accordingly, the motion under § 2255 will be denied.

         I. Background

         On January 5, 2017, Michigan authorities executed a search warrant at a residence in Kalamazoo, Michigan, after an informant purchased cocaine from that location on two occasions. The informant identified Defendant as the one who sold him cocaine during the first purchase. After entering the residence, police discovered four firearms-including two shotguns, a revolver and a pistol-as well as 5 grams of cocaine, digital scales, plastic baggies, a crack pipe, and razor blades. At the time, Defendant was a convicted felon. He had been convicted of possession with intent to deliver less than 50 grams of controlled substances, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.7401(2)(a)(iv), on five previous occasions.

         On February 23, 2017, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Defendant with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count 1), as well as possession with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count 2).

         On June 1, 2017, Defendant pleaded guilty to Count 1 in exchange for the dismissal of Count 2. Under a plea agreement, the Government agreed to recommend a sentence at the low end of the Sentencing Guidelines range, and to not oppose a reduction in Defendant's offense level for acceptance of responsibility. (Plea Agreement, ECF No. 46, PageID.94.)

         The Final Presentence Investigation Report (“PIR”) calculated Defendant's recommended range of sentence under the Sentencing Guidelines as 262 to 327 months, based on a total offense level of 34 and a criminal history category of VI. (PIR, ECF No. 61, PageID.246.) The PIR set the offense level at 34 because Defendant is an “armed career criminal” under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.4 (2016) (setting the offense level at 34 for armed career criminals). Defendant had at least three prior convictions for a “serious drug offense, ” as that term is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(A). All five of his prior drug convictions are serious drug offenses because each of them was punishable by up to 20 years in prison. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.7401(2)(a)(iv).

         The PIR determined that Defendant was not eligible for any credit for acceptance of responsibility (see PIR, PageID.220), but Defendant's counsel objected to that determination and the Court granted the objection. (Sentencing Tr., ECF No. 82, PageID.538.) Accordingly, the Court reduced the total offense level to 31, resulting in a sentencing range of 188 to 235 months. The Court sentenced Defendant near the bottom of the guidelines range to 204 months in prison.

         Defendant appealed his sentence, arguing that the ACCA enhancement did not apply because his prior drug convictions involved small quantities of drugs and, thus, were not “serious drug offenses.” The Court of Appeals rejected that argument and affirmed this Court's judgment. See United States v. Wilson, No. 17-2324 (6th Cir. July 16, 2018). It also noted that Defendant had “knowingly and voluntarily” waived his right to appeal. Id.

         Defendant now raises the following grounds for relief in his motion under § 2255 and supplement thereto:[1]

I. This court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this case.
II. The plea in this matter is inadmissible evidence.
III. [Defendant's] prior state drug convictions do not qualify as a serious drug offense for (ACCA) enhancement.

(§ 2255 Motion, ECF No. 99, PageID.642, 643; Mot. to Supplement, ECF No. 102, PageID.711.)

         II. Standards

         A. Merits

         A prisoner who moves to vacate his sentence under § 2255 must show that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence, that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or that it is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255. To prevail on a § 2255 motion “a petitioner must demonstrate the existence of an error of constitutional magnitude which had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the guilty plea or the jury's verdict.” Humphress v. United States, 398 F.3d 855, 858 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Griffin v. United States, 330 F.3d 733, 736 (6th Cir. 2003)). Non-constitutional errors are generally outside the scope of § 2255 relief. United States v. Cofield, 233 F.3d 405, 407 (6th Cir. 2000). A petitioner can prevail on a § 2255 motion alleging non-constitutional error only by establishing a “fundamental defect which inherently results in a ...

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