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Lyles v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 9, 2015

DARRAH LYLES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Crim. No. ELH-11-00112

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, District Judge.

Darrah Lyles has filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. ECF 74 ("Petition"). He has also filed a supporting memorandum and exhibits. ECF 74-1. In particular, Lyles challenges his 2012 conviction and sentence of 96 months' imprisonment for the offense of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).[1] The United States has filed an opposition, with exhibits, seeking dismissal of the Petition as time barred or, in the alternative, denial on the merits. ECF 79 ("Opposition"). Lyles has replied, ECF 80 ("Reply"), and the government, with leave of court (ECF 81, 82), has filed a surreply. ECF 83 ("Surreply"). Along with the Surreply, the government submitted transcripts of Lyles's guilty plea and the sentencing. See ECF 83-1, 83-2.

The Petition has been fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary to resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I will dismiss the Petition.

I. Factual Background

On March 2, 2011, Lyles was charged in a two-count Indictment with the offenses of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and possession of a firearm by a felon, under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). See ECF 1; see also ECF 74-1 at 17-18. Lyles subsequently signed a plea agreement dated March 14, 2012. ECF 59; ECF 79-4 (Plea Agreement). On March 19, 2012, Lyles waived indictment and entered a plea of guilty to a one-count Superseding Information charging possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i). See ECF 58; ECF 79-3 (Waiver of Indictment); ECF 59; ECF 79-4. The plea agreement was entered pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C), [2] in which the parties agreed to make a joint sentencing recommendation to the Court of 96-months' imprisonment, with dismissal of the original Indictment at sentencing. ECF 79 at 3 (Opposition); ECF 79-4, ¶ 9.

On June 22, 2012, Lyles appeared for sentencing. The Court accepted the parties' "C plea" recommendation and imposed the agreed-upon sentence of 96 months' imprisonment. ECF 71, 72. Judgment was entered on June 26, 2012. ECF 72. No appeal was noted by Lyles. See Docket, ECF 79-1.

Notably, although the sentence exceeded the statutory mandatory minimum of 60-months' imprisonment, it was significantly below the range of imprisonment recommended by the advisory federal sentencing guidelines. In particular, the sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of imprisonment ranging between 262 to 327 months. ECF 73. Moreover, the sentence was well below the statutory maximum of life imprisonment. ECF 83 at 6 (Surreply); see ECF 83-2 at 4 (Sentencing Transcript).

In his Petition, Lyles describes the offenses at issue as possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(D), and felon in possession of a firearm, under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). ECF 74 at 1. He alleges four grounds to support his Petition.

First, Lyles asserts that this Court committed error by running afoul of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Alleyne v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 2151, 2155 (2013). ECF 74-1 at 3 (Petition). Second, Lyles claims that he received ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel, because his trial lawyer failed to secure the 60-month mandatory minimum sentence and his appellate counsel failed to appeal the 96-month sentence. ECF 74-1 at 7. Further, Lyles contends that the District Court abused its discretion in accepting the guilty plea and by "incorrectly applying Guidelines." Id. Finally, he complains that the District Court "failed to state reasons in judgment and commitment as required." Id. at 8. Lyles maintains that he is "actually innocent'" of the offense of felon in possession of a firearm and should not have received an enhanced sentence. Id. at 12.

For the reasons that follow, Lyles's Petition will be dismissed.

II. Discussion

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a prisoner in federal custody may "move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence" if the petitioner shows "that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack...."

A. Limitations Period

A one-year statute of limitations applies to § 2255 petitions. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). Under § 2255(f), limitations runs from the latest of: (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 ...


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