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Coleman v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 13, 2015

ANTHONY COLEMAN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal No. RWT-10-0305

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROGER W. TITUS, District Judge.

Pending is Petitioner Anthony Coleman's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Upon review of the papers filed, and for the reasons stated below, the Court will deny Coleman's Motion.

BACKGROUND

As of March 13, 2010, Coleman was a felon who had not had his civil rights restored and, therefore, was not allowed to possess a firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); ECF No. 25-1. Despite this, Coleman had a.45 caliber pistol in his car when the Metropolitan Police pulled him over in Washington, D.C., for a routine traffic stop. ECF No. 25-1. In possession of an illegal weapon, and with law enforcement approaching, Coleman faced a dilemma, and his solution was to flee. Id. Unsurprisingly, fleeing backfired. The officers chased Coleman into Prince George's County, Maryland, where he crashed his car and was subsequently arrested. Id.

Coleman was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). ECF No. 1. He pled guilty on April 25, 2011. ECF No. 24. The plea agreement explicitly stated that, if Coleman were determined to be an armed career criminal, he would face a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years of incarceration. ECF No. 25 at 2. The plea agreement further stated that it was the Government's position that Coleman was, indeed, an armed career criminal. Id. at 4. At his Rule 11 hearing, Coleman was warned again by the Government that its position was that he was an armed career criminal, and that if that determination were made he would face a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years' incarceration. ECF No. 49 at 6-7. The Court then reiterated to Coleman that the Government's position was that he was an armed career criminal. Id. at 16.

In Coleman's presentence report ("PSR"), the probation officer determined that Coleman was, in fact, an armed career criminal, because he had at least three predicate convictions that were either violent felonies or serious drug offenses under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). Coleman's attorney vigorously argued that one of these convictions, a 1990 Maryland conviction for possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, should not be used to determine Coleman's armed career criminal status. ECF No. 31 at 5-8. The basis of this argument was that the conviction was the result of an Alford plea, in which Coleman did not actually admit to the facts underlying his conviction.[1] ECF No. 31 at 5-8. However, the PSR also revealed a fourth predicate conviction, a 1995 Washington, D.C. conviction for attempted possession with intent to distribute, that also qualified as a serious drug offense. ECF No. 39 at 9. Even without considering the 1990 Maryland conviction, Coleman still qualified as an armed career criminal. Accordingly, he was sentenced to the fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence. ECF No. 41. The Fourth Circuit affirmed Coleman's sentence on May 9, 2012. United States v. Coleman, 473 Fed.App'x. 223 (4th Cir. 2012).

Coleman timely filed a petition to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on March 20, 2013. ECF No. 55. Coleman asserts three grounds in support of his petition:

1. Ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to argue on appeal that his 1990 Maryland conviction should not have been used as a predicate offense to determine his armed career criminal status;
2. Denial of due process because Coleman was not provided with a copy of his PSR prior to his guilty plea; and
3. Ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to argue on appeal that the Court's finding that Coleman was an armed career criminal was not based on Shepard -approved documents.

Id. By order of this Court, ECF No. 56, the Government filed a response in opposition to Coleman's petition. ECF No. 61. Coleman has filed a reply, ECF No. 68, and his petition is now ripe for decision.[2]

ANALYSIS

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a prisoner in custody may file a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence, "claiming the right to be released upon the ground 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." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b), the Court may deny the motion without a hearing if "the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the ...


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