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United States v. Hall

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

July 18, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JERMAINE LEE HALL, Petitioner.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MICHAEL F. URBANSKI, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Jermaine Lee Hall, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, ECF No. 52. The government filed a motion to dismiss, ECF No. 63, and the time allotted for Hall to respond has elapsed, making this matter ripe for consideration. After review of the record, the court concludes that Hall expressly waived any challenge to being considered a career offender under the United States Sentencing Guidelines in exchange for a jointly recommended sentence below the guidelines of 144 months. As such, the government's motion to dismiss will be granted, and Hall's § 2255 motion dismissed.

         I.

         On August 19, 2010, a federal grand jury charged Hall in a five-count indictment with various drug trafficking crimes. On March 1, 2011, Hall pleaded guilty, pursuant to a written plea agreement, to knowingly and willfully distributing more than five grams of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) ("Count One").[1] Plea Agree., ECF No. 27, at 1.

         The Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR") recommended, for Count One, a total offense level of 31, a criminal history category of VI, and an imprisonment range of 188 to 235 months. PSR, ECF No. 40, ¶¶ 27, 46. At the time of conviction for Count One, Hall had two prior felony convictions of controlled substance offenses, including a 1996 federal conviction for conspiracy to distribute cocaine base, and a 1998 Virginia conviction for two counts of distribution of cocaine. PSR ¶¶ 19, 22, 24, ECF No. 40. Accordingly, the PSR recommended that Hall be classified as a career offender, pursuant to USSG § 4B1.1. Id.

         A sentencing hearing was held before United States District Judge Samuel G. Wilson on August 1, 2011.[2]At the hearing, the parties made a joint recommendation for a sentence of 144 months. This joint recommendation represented the agreed resolution of the issue as to whether Hall was properly considered a career offender under § 4B1.1. As his counsel explained at sentencing, the issue concerned whether Hall's prior drug convictions were properly counted under the career offender guideline. As Hall's counsel explained, "we, basically give up the idea of litigating the relevant conduct issue and would admit for the purposes of this hearing that he would be a career offender, and then ask the Court to depart to the agreed upon 144 months." Sent. Hr'g Tr. ECF No. 55, at 4. The government agreed, stating: the "government believes, if it had to, it could have proven Mr. Hall was a career offender. But this resolution seems to serve the purpose of punishment." Id. Judge Wilson likened this agreement to a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea and observed "[e]ssentially, though, at this juncture, what he is doing, whether he is or isn't a career offender, he is surrendering his opportunity to challenge one way or another if he gets a 144-month sentence; is that right?" Id. at 5. Hall's counsel agreed, and the court proceeded to question Hall directly regarding the agreement.

The Court: You understand that if I go ahead and sentence you to - I will go ahead and sentence you to 144 months, if I agree with what is, essentially, a resolution of this matter, rather than resolve the question of whether you're a career offender or not. Do you understand that?
Defendant: Yes, sir.
The Court: I mean you have the right for me to decide whether you're a career offender or not. You understand that?
Defendant: Yes, sir.
The Court: And you understand you're essentially surrendering that here?
Defendant: Yes, sir.
The Court: Do you understand that if you do, and if I sentence you to 144 months, you also have these waivers in your plea agreement that prohibit you or preclude you ...

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