United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
Michael F. Urbanski United States District Judge.
Ronnie Maurice Jones, a federal inmate currently serving a
276-month sentence for drug offenses, has filed a Motion to
Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. ECF No. 572. On April 27, 2018, the United
States filed a motion to dismiss to which Jones responded on
November 5, 2018. ECF Nos. 579 and 593. For the reasons set
forth below, the court GRANTS the
government's motion to dismiss.
5, 2014, in a third superseding indictment, Jones was charged
with one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with
intent to distribute 1000 grams or more of a mixture
containing a detectable amount of heroin and to distribute
and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of
cocaine base (Count 1); one count of knowingly possessing a
firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (Count 2);
one count of possessing with intent to distribute a
measurable quantity of a mixture or substance containing a
detectable amount of heroin (Count 3); and one count of
possessing a firearm which previously had been shipped or
transported in interstate or foreign commerce after he had
previously been convicted of a crime punishable by more than
one year imprisonment (Count 4). ECF No. 122. On November 12,
2014, pursuant to a written plea agreement in accordance with
Fed R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C), Jones pleaded guilty to Counts
1, 3, and 4. Count 2 was dismissed. ECF Nos. 281, 282, 283.
time Jones entered die plea agreement, he acknowledged in
writing that the parties agreed he would be sentenced to a
360-month term of imprisonment if no substantial assistance
motion were made and a range of 180 months to 300 months if a
substantial assistance motion were made and granted by the
court. ECF No. 282 at 3. The written plea agreement detailed
the range of punishment on each count and specified that
Count 1 carried a punishment range of five years to life, a
fine of up to $10 million and a minimum of five years
supervised release; Count 3 carried a punishment range of up
to thirty years, a fine of up to $2 million, and a minimum
supervised release period of at least three years; and Count
4 was punishable by a sentence of up to ten years, a fine of
$250, 000, and a five-year term of supervised release.
Id. at 1-2.
change of plea hearing was held on November 12, 2014. At that
time, the court explained the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea process
in detail. Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 500 at 10-12, 16. The
government summarized the essential terms of the plea
agreement, again indicating that Count 4 bore a period of
incarceration of up to ten years. Id. at 12-13. The
court also told Jones that it would not accept the plea and
plea agreement until the Presentence Investigation Report
(PSR) was prepared and sentencing briefs by the parties
received. Id. at 20-21.
advance of the anticipated sentencing date of April 22, 2015,
a PSR was created. The PSR contained different statutory
penalties than those reflected in die plea agreement. For
Count 3, die statutory maximum was correctly noted to be
twenty years, and for Count 4, die penalty was enhanced under
die Armed Career Criminal Act to fifteen years to life. ECF
sentencing did not occur on April 22, 2015 as scheduled.
Instead, Jones addressed the court on certain communication
issues with his lawyer and die court explained die correct
statutory sentencing ranges to Jones on Counts 3 and 4. As to
Count 3, die court advised Jones that die statutory maximum
penalty was twenty, and not thirty, years. As regards Count
4, the PSR categorized Jones as an armed career criminal
based on his prior criminal record. Accordingly, die
punishment range for Count 4 was a minimum of fifteen years
to a maximum of life. Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 501 at 6-7, 12.
The government explained that the change in die Count 4
punishment range had no effect on die plea agreement and die
court told Jones that die punishment range was still 180
months to 300 months. Id. at 7. Jones stated that he
understood the punishment range. Id. at 8, 12.
April 22, 2015 hearing, die court again advised Jones of die
meaning of a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea, and told Jones that as
die court had not yet accepted die plea, Jones could withdraw
The fact of the matter is this is a Rule 11(c)(1)(C), as we
talked about when we met on November l2tii. I still
haven't accepted it. I took it under advisement. So if
you want to, you can withdraw it. You don't have to go
forward with this.
Id. at 4.
sentencing hearing was rescheduled for June 3, 2015. At the
outset of that hearing, the court again summarized the Rule
11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement and stated: "Now Mr. Jones, I
took the plea under advisement. Do you still want to go
forward with this plea agreement pursuant to Rule
11(c)(1)(C)?" Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 502 at 2-3. Jones
responded, "Yes, Your Honor." Id. at 3.
was then sentenced in accordance with the plea agreement to a
276-month term of imprisonment on Count 1; 120 months on
Count 3; and 180 months on Count 4, all to be served
concurrently. ECF No. 473 at 2. The prison term is to be
followed by a five-year term of supervised release on Counts
1 and 4 and a three-year term of supervised release on Count
3, also to run concurrently. Id. at 3.
filed a direct appeal and on February 16, 2016, the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal, finding that
Jones had waived his right to appeal as part of his plea
agreement. United States v. Jones. No. 15-4354 (4th
Or. Feb. 16, 2016). ECF Nos. 522, 523. Jones sought a writ of
certiorari from the United States Supreme Court but it was