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Williams v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

May 9, 2016




Before the Court is Eugene Asomani Williams' ("Williams" or "movant") Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody [Dkt. No. 70], Oct. 21, 2015 ("Motion") in which he argues that the Supreme Court's holding in Johnson v. United States. 135 S.Ct. 2551, 2557 (2015), invalidated the Career Offender enhancement applied to his sentence pursuant the United States Sentencing Guidelines ("U.S.S.G." or "Sentencing Guidelines") § 4B 1.1. In addition, Williams initially raised arguments regarding the effectiveness of his trial counsel, which were subsequently withdrawn from consideration after he obtained counsel. See Reply to the Gov't's Resp. to the Mot. to Vacate, Correct, or Amend the Petitioner's Sent. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 at 1 [Dkt. No. 79], Dec. 29, 2015 ("Reply"). The government has responded to the motion. Gov't's Rep. to Petitioner's Mot. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sent. [Dkt. No. 76], Dec. 14, 2015 ("Gov't Opp'n").

Having reviewed the entire record, the Court finds no merit to Williams' motion, which will be dismissed.


On November 21, 2013, Williams was indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin resulting in death in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and one count of possession of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. §924(c)(l)(A). Indictment at 1, 5 [Dkt. No. 18], Nov. 21, 2013. The indictment charged Williams with dealing heroin that caused the death of at least three individuals and possessing a firearm in the course of those activities. Id. ¶¶ 10.14.11.

On January 22, 2014, Williams pleaded guilty under a written plea agreement to both counts of the indictment. Plea Agr. ¶1 [Dkt. No. 40], Jan. 22, 2014; Plea Hr'g Tr. 34:4-9, 34:24-35:10 [Dkt. No. 64], Jun. 13, 2014. Count I exposed Williams to a mandatory minimum often years to a possible maximum of life imprisonment, and Count II carried a mandatory minimum of five years to a possible maximum of life imprisonment, which had to be served consecutively to any term of imprisonment imposed for Count I. Plea Agr. ¶ 1; Plea Hr'g Tr. 14:8-23.

The Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR") prepared in advance of Williams' sentencing reflected past convictions for which he received nine criminal history points, which placed him in a criminal history Category IV for purposes of the Sentencing Guidelines. PSR at 29 [Dkt. No. 43], Apr. 9, 2014. These convictions, which included a juvenile conviction for simple assault, and adult convictions for possession of marijuana, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, distribution of cocaine, assault with a deadly weapon, possession of an unregistered firearm, and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, reveal Williams' long history of criminal activity. PSR ¶¶ 38-44. As a result of his criminal history, the PSR provided that "Mr. Williams [] received an enhancement for Career Offender, pursuant to § 4B 1.1, as he has two or more prior felony convictions for crimes of violence or controlled substance offenses. This enhancement has no real effect on his total offense level, but it results in an increase of his criminal history category to VI." PSR ¶56. The undisputed offense level was 40. Id. at 30; Sent. Hr'g Tr. 2:22-3:12. The Sentencing Guidelines at that time provided that with an offense level of 40, a criminal history in Categories III-VI would have resulted in the same guideline range of 360 months to life.[1]

Williams was sentenced on April 18, 2014 to 300 months of incarceration as to Count I and 60 months incarceration as to Count II consecutive to Count I, for a total sentence of 360 months incarceration followed by a total of five years of supervised release and other penalties. J. as to Eugene Asomani Williams [Dkt. No. 50], Apr. 18, 2014. In addition, the Court imposed a restitution obligation of $54, 128. Rest. Order [Dkt. No. 52], Apr. 18, 2014. Williams' sentence of 300 months incarceration on Count I was a 60 month variance from the bottom of the guidelines range for that count. PSR at 30; Sent. Hr'g Tr. 16:16-20.


Williams argues that the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson. 135 S.Ct. at 2557, which deemed the Armed Career Criminal Act's ("ACCA") residual clause unconstitutionally vague, applies with equal force to the parallel language of the Career Offender enhancement in U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, and therefore that his sentence should be vacated. The government argues in response that errors involving Sentencing Guidelines enhancements are not cognizable on collateral review, and even if such enhancements were cognizable, Johnson's holding bears no relevance to Williams' sentence.

A. Standard of Review

A motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides for collateral attack on a conviction or sentence when the conviction or sentence was imposed in violation of the United States Constitution or laws, when the court lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence, when the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or when the conviction or sentence is otherwise subject to a collateral attack. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). To prevail on a § 2255 motion, a movant bears the burden of proving his grounds for collateral relief by a preponderance of the evidence. See Jacobs v. United States. 350 F.2d 571, 574 (4th Cir. 1965).

Relief under § 2255 is designed to correct for fundamental constitutional, jurisdictional, or other errors, and it is therefore reserved for situations in which failing to grant relief would be "inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure or constitute[] a complete miscarriage of justice." United States v. Vonn. 535 U.S. 55, 64 (2002) (quoting United States v. Timmreck.441 U.S. 780, 783 (1979)). A ยง 2255 motion "may not do service for an appeal, " and claims that have been waived are ...

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