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United States v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 5, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ERIC JOHNSON Criminal No. CCB-10-716

MEMORANDUM

CATHERINE C. BLAKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Now pending is Eric Johnson’s petition to vacate, set-aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 74). In December 2011 Johnson pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and was later sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment. (ECF No. 51). In support of the instant motion challenging his sentence, Johnson argues that this court improperly enhanced his sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), and that his attorney provided ineffective assistance in violation of his rights under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See (Pet’r’s Mot. to Vacate 5-6, ECF No. 74). This matter has been fully briefed, and no evidentiary hearing is necessary. For the reasons set forth below, Johnson’s § 2255 petition will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Johnson was charged by indictment on November 18, 2010, with one count of possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (ECF No. 1). On December 12, 2011, he entered into a conditional guilty plea agreement, reserving the right to appeal the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress various statements he made to the police and evidence recovered from his home. (ECF No. 44). On March 7, 2012, Johnson appeared for sentencing. (ECF No. 50). The court noted that Johnson had “four qualifying convictions-three serious drug offenses, and one that would qualify as a crime of violence”-which were identified in paragraphs 37, 39, 40, and 42 of the Presentence Report (“PSR”) prepared by the U.S. Probation Office. (Sentencing Hr’g Tr., Gov.’s Opp. Ex. 1 at 3:6-9, ECF No. 80). The four convictions, all from the Circuit Court of Maryland, Baltimore City, were described in the PSR as:

(1) a 1991 conviction for Possession with the Intent to Distribute, for which Johnson was sentenced to a prison term of two years;
(2) a 1994 conviction for Possession with the Intent to Distribute Cocaine, for which Johnson was sentenced to a prison term of two years and six months;
(3) a 1998 conviction for Possession with the Intent to Distribute Heroin, for which Johnson was sentenced to a prison term of twelve years; and
(4) a 1998 conviction for one count of Assault 2nd Degree, for which Johnson was sentenced to a prison term of six months

See (Presentence Report, Gov.’s Opp. Ex. 2 (Sealed Doc.) at 9-10).[1] Based on these four convictions, the PSR designated Johnson an armed career criminal under the ACCA. (Id. at 10). During Johnson’s sentencing hearing, the court likewise noted that Johnson’s “four qualifying convictions . . . mean[] that he . . . is an armed career criminal.” (Sentencing Hr’g Tr., Gov.’s Opp. Ex. 1 at 3:7, 10-11, ECF No. 80-1).

Defense counsel confirmed that he had reviewed the PSR with Johnson, and that neither he nor Johnson had any additions, corrections, or modifications. (Id. at 3:1-3). The court thus sentenced Johnson to the mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years’ imprisonment under the ACCA. (Id. at 10:21-24). After Johnson timely appealed the denial of his motion to suppress, the Fourth Circuit affirmed that decision. (ECF Nos. 53, 69). See United States v. Johnson, 734 F.3d 270 (4th Cir. 2013). The Supreme Court denied Johnson’s petition for certiorari on June 2, 2014. See Johnson v. United States, 134 S.Ct. 2696 (2014).

Johnson, who appears pro se, timely filed the instant motion. See (ECF No. 74); 28 U.S.C. § 2255(1). Notably, documents filed pro se are “liberally construed” and are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted).

ANALYSIS

Johnson raises two grounds for habeas relief. First, he asserts that the district court erroneously deemed him an armed career criminal under the ACCA, which resulted in an enhanced sentence. Second, Johnson argues that his trial attorney’s failure to challenge his armed ...


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