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United States v. Saunders

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

April 28, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RONALD LEE SAUNDERS, Defendant. Civil Action No. 7:16CV81214

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. GLEN E. CONRAD CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Ronald Lee Saunders, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed this action as a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The government has filed a motion to dismiss, to which Saunders has responded, making the matter ripe for consideration. For the reasons that follow, the government's motion to dismiss will be granted and Saunders' motion to vacate will be denied.

         Background

         Saunders was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 23, 2009. Count One of the indictment charged him with distribution of five grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Saunders entered a plea of guilty to that count on July 10, 2009.

         In preparation for sentencing, a probation officer prepared a presentence investigation report, which designated Saunders as a career offender under § 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Pursuant to that provision, a defendant is a career offender if, among other factors, "the defendant has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense." U.S.S.G. § 4Bl.l(a). Saunders' career offender designation was based on two prior felony convictions in the Circuit Court for the City of Roanoke: a 1997 conviction for distribution of cocaine, and a 2004 conviction in the same court for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. As a career offender, Saunders was subject to an enhanced range of imprisonment of 188 to 235 months under the Advisory Guidelines.

         Saunders appeared for sentencing on October 15, 2009. The court adopted the presentence report and determined that Saunders qualified for the career offender designation. However, based on multiple factors, the court varied from the career offender range and imposed a term of imprisonment of 164 months. The criminal judgment was entered on October 23, 2009. Saunders did not appeal his conviction or sentence.

         On November 28, 2016, Saunders moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Relying on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), Saunders argues that his prior drug convictions are not "controlled substance offenses" within the meaning of the Guidelines and, thus, that he was improperly sentenced as a career offender.

         On February 8, 2017, the government moved to dismiss Saunders' § 2255 motion as untimely. Saunders filed a response to the government's motion on February 23, 2017. The matter is now ripe for review.

         Discussion

         A one-year period of limitation applies to motions filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). The one-year period runs from the latest of the following dates:

(1) the date on which the j udgment of conviction becomes final;
(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action;
(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the ...

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