United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division
OPINION AND ORDER
S. DAVIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
natter is before the Court on David Allen, Jr.'S
("Petitioner") Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or
Correct Sentence, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255,
Petitioner's § 2255 motion alleges a single claim
for relief, although it relies on various sub-claims seeking
to establish that the United States Constitution is void or
that this Court otherwise lacks jurisdiction over Petitioner.
Having considered the briefs and record, the Court finds that
an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary because the record
conclusively demonstrates that Petitioner is not entitled to
relief. See R. Gov. § 2255 Proc. for U.S. Dist.
Cts. 8(a). For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's
§ 2255 motion is DISMISSED.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
February 10, 2015, Petitioner was indicted by a federal grand
jury for failure to update his registration under the Sex
Offender Registration and Notification Act, in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 2250. On April 16, 2015, Petitioner pled
guilty to such charge, and on July 16, 2015, he was sentenced
to 30 months imprisonment. ECF No. 34.
did not appeal his conviction or sentence, but did timely
file the instant § 2255 motion seeking to vacate his
conviction and sentence. ECF No. 38. Petitioner asserts that
the United States Government lacked the authority to
criminally prosecute him and that this Court lacked
jurisdiction to convict and sentence him for committing a
federal crime. The United States filed a timely brief in
opposition to Petitioner's § 2255 motion, asserting:
(1) that Petitioner's § 2255 claim is procedurally
defaulted; and (2) that such claim alternatively fails on the
merits. ECF No. 44. Petitioner failed to file a reply brief
responding to such procedural and substantive arguments, and
the deadline for filing a reply has long since passed. This
matter is therefore ripe for review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
federal prisoner, in custody, may collaterally attack his
sentence or conviction by moving the district court "to
vacate, set aside or correct the sentence." 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255(a). To obtain such relief, a petitioner must
prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his sentence or
conviction was "imposed in violation of the Constitution
or laws of the United States, " that the district court
"was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence,
" that the sentence exceeds "the maximum authorized
by law, " or that the sentence or conviction is
"otherwise subject to collateral attack."
Id.; Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546,
547 (4th Cir. 1958). Because a § 2255 motion "is
ordinarily presented to the judge who presided at the
original conviction and sentencing . . . the judge's
recollection of the events at issue" may inform the
resolution of the motion. Blackledge v. Allison, 431
U.S. 63, 74 n.4 (1977).
§ 2255 motion is, in essence, a statutory federal habeas
corpus action that enables a petitioner to collaterally
attack his sentence or conviction through the filing of a new
proceeding, as contrasted with a direct appeal. United
States v. Hadden, 475 P.3d 652, 663 (4th Cir.
2007). With limited exceptions, a petitioner advancing new
claims asserted for the first time in a § 2255 motion
"must clear a significantly higher hurdle than would
exist on direct appeal." United States v.
Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 166 (1982). The "higher
hurdle" applies because, once a Petitioner's
opportunity to pursue a direct appeal has been waived or
exhausted, there is "a final judgment [that] commands
respect." Id. at 164-65. Accordingly, the
doctrine of procedural default generally prevents a district
court from reaching the merits of § 2255 claims that
were not raised on direct appeal unless a petitioner can
show: (1) "cause" excusing the failure to directly
appeal such alleged errors; and (2) "actual prejudice
resulting from the errors of which he complains."
United States v. Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d 490, 492-93
(4th Cir. 1999).
existence of cause for a procedural default must turn on
something external to the defense, such as the novelty of the
claim or a denial of effective assistance of
counsel.'" United States v. Pettiford, 612
F.3d 270, 280 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Mikalajunas,
186 F.3d at 493) . As for prejudice, it is not enough for a
petitioner to demonstrate "a possibility of
prejudice, " but rather, he must show that errors
"worked to his actual and substantial
disadvantage, " infecting the case with "error of
constitutional dimensions." Frady, 456 U.S. at
failed to pursue a direct appeal challenging the validity of
the United States Constitution, or this Court's
jurisdiction, and thus, his § 2255 claim raising such
arguments is procedurally defaulted. Petitioner is therefore
precluded from obtaining relief unless he demonstrates
both "cause" and "prejudice"
excusing his default. Considering first the "cause"
prong of the procedural default test, the only explanation
Petitioner offers in his § 2255 motion for failing to
previously raise such claim is his prior "lack of
knowledge." ECF No. 38, at 9. However, an asserted lack of
personal knowledge regarding the validity or invalidity of
the Constitution and/or authority of the United States
District Courts is not "a factor external to the
defense." See Anderson v. Clarke, No.
2:13cv223, 2014 WL 1203032, at *5 (E.D. Va. Mar. 24, 2014)
(holding that "pro se status, lack of
education, or lack of legal training, " are insufficient
to establish "cause" (citing Bonilla v.
Hurley, 370 F.3d 494, 498 (6th Cir. 2004))). Petitioner
therefore fails to demonstrate "cause."
similarly fails to demonstrate "prejudice" because,
for the reasons discussed in greater detail below,
Petitioner's contention that the United States
Constitution is void or otherwise without force, and his
associated arguments contending that this Court lacks
jurisdiction over the parties to this case and/or federal
crimes committed within the United States, fails on its face.
Petitioner thus fails to demonstrate that his prosecution,
conviction, or sentence was infected "with error of
constitutional dimensions." Frady, 456 U.S. at
170. Because Petitioner fails to overcome his procedural
default, his § 2255 motion is