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United States v. Singletary

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 18, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Michael Singletary, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO VACATE, SET ASIDE, OR CORRECT SENTENCE UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255 RE: DKT. NOS. 73, 99, 108

          YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         On March 26, 2015, defendant Michael Singletary filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. section 2255. (Dkt. No. 73.) Defendant originally raised the following grounds: ineffective assistance of counsel (“IAC”) in failing (1) to apprise him of the length of his sentence and the elements of his offenses and (2) to file a notice of appeal as requested; and (3) alleging that the Court applied the sentencing guidelines in error. On June 25, 2015, the Court denied the first and third grounds, but ordered the government to respond as to the second ground for relief. (Dkt. No. 76.) The government responded on October 8, 2015 addressing such issue. (Dkt. No. 89.)

         During the pendency of such briefing, the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) was announced, which may have had implications on the application of the sentencing guidelines to defendant. Thus, on March 7, 2016, the Court vacated defendant's deadline to file his reply to the government's response. (Dkt. No. 96.) On April 15, 2016, the Court granted defendant's request for permission to file a reply brief on his remaining IAC claim and any affirmative petitions for relief under Johnson by June 24, 2016. (Dkt. No. 98.) On June 6, 2016, defendant filed such briefs (Dkt. No. 99)[1] and the government responded on December 5, 2016 (Dkt. No. 106). On March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). On the basis of such decision, the government moved to dismiss defendant's section 2255 motion to the extent that it was based on the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson. (Dkt. No. 108.)

         Having considered all of the papers filed by the parties, the record in this case, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court Orders follows: The Court Grants the government's motion to dismiss defendant's supplemental section 2255 motion. (Dkt. No. 108.) The Court Denies defendant's remaining ground for section 2255 relief based on his IAC claim. (Dkt. No. 73.)[2]

         I. Background

         A. Sentencing Background

         On March 20, 2014, Michael Singletary pled guilty to (i) being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 922(g), and (ii) obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 1512(c)(2). He was sentenced to 144 months in prison. (Dkt. No. 67.) His sentence was enhanced under U.S.S.G. section 2K2.1(a)(2) on the basis of two prior crimes of violence. He was previously convicted of first-degree robbery in violation of California Penal Code section 211 and assault with a deadly weapon. With the enhancement, his sentencing range was calculated to be 140 to 175 months based on a total offense level of 28 and a criminal history category of VI.

         B. Johnson v. United States and Beckles v. United States

         In Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), the Supreme Court addressed a challenge to the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. section 924(e), which provides that a defendant with three prior “violent felony” convictions faces a fifteen-year mandatory-minimum sentence if convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. section 922(g). 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). The Johnson Court held that the residual clause in the ACCA is so vague that it “both denies fair notice to defendants and invites arbitrary enforcement by judges.” 135 S.Ct. at 2557. Accordingly, the Johnson Court held that an increase to a defendant's sentence under the clause “denies due process of law.” Id. In Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), the Supreme Court held that Johnson is retroactive as applied to the ACCA.

         The ACCA residual clause definition of “violent felony, ” which encompasses any crime that “involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another, ” is identical to the residual clause of the Guidelines' definition of “crime of violence.” However, on March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court addressed whether Johnson applied to such similar language contained in the Sentencing Guidelines. Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). The Supreme Court distinguished the ACCA and the Guidelines explaining that unlike the ACCA, the “advisory Guidelines do not fix the permissible range of sentences” and thus are not “subject to a vagueness challenge under the Due Process Clause.” Id. at 892. Thus, the Supreme Court held that similar language in the advisory Sentencing Guidelines are not void for vagueness. Id. at 895.

         II. Legal Standard

         A prisoner in custody under sentence of a federal court, making a collateral attack against the validity of his or her conviction or sentence, must do so by way of a motion to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 2255 in the court which imposed the sentence. Tripati v. Henman, 843 F.2d 1160, 1162 (9th Cir. 1988). Under 28 U.S.C. section 2255, a federal sentencing court may grant relief if it concludes that a prisoner in custody was sentenced in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.

         III. Discussion

         A. Section 2255 ...


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