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United States v. Morton

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

March 13, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
REGINALD DARWIN MORTON, Defendant.

          Zachary T. Lee, Assistant United States Attorney, Abingdon, Virginia for United States; Reginald Darwin Morton, Pro Se Defendant.

          OPINION

          James P. Jones United States District Judge

         The defendant, Reginald Darwin Morton, has filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, challenging his conviction. The United States has filed a Motion to Dismiss and Morton has responded. After reviewing the record and considering the arguments of the parties, I will grant the United States' Motion to Dismiss and deny Morton's § 2255 motion as untimely.

         I.

         A jury found Morton guilty of drug-related charges on May 29, 2009. I entered his criminal judgment on September 18, 2009, and sentenced him to 240 months' incarceration. J. 2, ECF No. 2267. Morton appealed and the court of appeals affirmed his conviction but remanded for resentencing based on United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011). United States v. Morton, 443 F. App'x 775, 781 (4th Cir. 2011) (unpublished). On March 19, 2012, I resentenced Morton to 210 months imprisonment. Am. J. 2, ECF No. 2789. Morton again appealed, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed his sentence on December 17, 2012. United States v. Morton, 499 F. App'x 310, (4th Cir. 2012) (unpublished).

         Morton then filed a number of additional motions, including a Motion to Reduce Sentence, ECF No. 2960, a Motion for a New Trial, ECF No. 3195, and a Motion to Recuse, ECF No. 3196, all of which I denied, ECF No. 2962, 3199. Morton appealed the denial of his Motion for a New Trial and Motion to Recuse, but the Fourth Circuit affirmed, United States v. Morton, 589 F. App'x 231, 231 (4th Cir. 2015) (unpublished), and denied a Motion for En Banc Review, ECF No. 3248. Finally, Morton filed two additional motions to reduce his sentence, ECF Nos. 3269, 3276, which I denied on June 3, 2015, ECF No. 3289.

         On October 7, 2016, Morton filed the present § 2255 motion arguing that he is actually innocent of the drug conspiracy charge and that he received ineffective assistance because counsel failed to present exculpatory evidence.

         II.

         To state a viable claim for relief under § 2255, a defendant must prove: (1) that his or her sentence was “imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States”; (2) that “the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence”; or (3) that “the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Morton bears the burden of proving grounds for a collateral attack by a preponderance of the evidence. Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958).

         A court may consider the merits of a defendant's § 2255 motion only if it is timely filed. A one-year limitations period exists, starting from the latest of the following dates:

(1) the date on which the judgment 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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