United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. MESSITTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Edwards, pro se, has filed a Memorandum of Law in
Support of his Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct
Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The Court will
treat this Memorandum of Law as a renewed Motion under §
2255. But, for the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES
said Motion WITH PREJUDICE.
April 6, 2006, pursuant to a Plea Agreement, Edwards pled
guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to
Distribute Five Kilograms or More of a Mixture or Substance
Containing a Detectable Amount of Cocaine in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 846. The base offense level for a violation of
21 U.S.C. § 846 under the United States Sentencing
Commission Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) then in effect was a 32.
U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c)(4). However, because Edwards had at
least two prior felony convictions of a controlled substance
offense, he was a “career offender” pursuant to
U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, and his offense level was 37. Edwards
received a two-level reduction for acceptance of
responsibility. Accordingly, his total adjusted offense level
was 35. Edwards's criminal history category was VI not
only because he was assigned fourteen criminal history
points, but also because he was a career offender pursuant to
§ 4B1.1. On June 21, 2006, Edwards was sentenced to 292
months imprisonment, within the guideline range for an
offense level of 35 and criminal history category of VI,
which, in 2006, was 292 to 365 months.
direct appeal was taken. However, on February 28, 2007,
Edwards filed a pro se Motion to Vacate, Set Aside,
or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, arguing,
among other things, that no appeal had been taken because his
counsel did not act at his request to file the appeal. The
Court felt that the easiest solution would be to permit
Edwards to pursue his direct appeal and therefore denied his
§ 2255 Motion without prejudice. Accordingly, the Court
vacated its original June 21, 2006 judgment and re-entered
it, effective May 30, 2007, to allow a new period of appeal
to run. The May 30, 2007 Memorandum Opinion and Order
directed the Clerk to mail copies of same to Edwards, who was
serving his sentence for the underlying offense. On January
31, 2008, however, Edwards wrote the Court inquiring about
the status of the case, asserting that, while he had received
notice of the May 30, 2007 Order, he had not received a copy
either of it or the accompanying Memorandum Opinion.
Therefore, Edwards indicated that he had missed the new
window in which to note a direct appeal. In a Memorandum
Opinion and Order on October 31, 2008, the Court entered yet
another date on the Order of Judgment and Commitment in order
to provide Edwards with yet another window in which to take a
direct appeal. ECF Nos. 589-90.
November 1, 2008, Edwards filed a Notice of Appeal, ECF No.
591, and, on June 23, 2009, the Fourth Circuit affirmed this
Court's judgment. ECF No. 645. The Fourth Circuit held
that, on direct appeal, it could not rule with respect to any
ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Accordingly, the
issue of ineffective assistance remained open.
statute, Edwards had one year, i.e. until June 23, 2010, to
file a motion with this Court under § 2255. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255(f)(1). He did not in fact do so. It was not until
September 17, 2010, that he filed a Memorandum of Law in
Support of his Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct
Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 681.
Edwards apparently believed that his original § 2255
motion was still in effect, despite the fact that it had been
denied without prejudice more than three years earlier. Be
that as it may. There is no need to dispose of Edwards's
case on technical procedural grounds.
Court will treat his Memorandum of Law in Support of his
Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2255, ECF No. 681, as a timely filed Motion
under § 2255, but for the reasons that follow, it will
deny the Motion on the merits.
Memorandum, treated as a subsequent § 2255 Motion,
presents two questions: (1) Was his counsel ineffective for
failing to seek vacatur of the state controlled substance
offense convictions, which caused him to qualify as a career
offender? and (2) Was Edwards contractually entitled to an
offense level of 32 based upon promises made to him in the
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
asserts that he was not represented by counsel in two state
controlled substance offense convictions (Maryland cases
CT891221A and CT891200X) that were used to determine his
status as a career offender pursuant to U.S.S.G. §
4B1.1. According to Edwards, if his attorney in the instant
case had sought vacatur of those convictions, he would not
have been labeled a career offender and his offense level
would have totaled 30 (a base offense level of 32 with a
two-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility), rather
than 35 (the career offender level of 37 with a two-level
reduction for acceptance of responsibility). Accordingly,
Edwards argues that, but for the ineffective assistance of
his counsel, his sentence would have been shorter.
is correct that if he were not a career offender, the
sentencing guideline range would have been
different. However, as the Court now explains,
Edwards's state convictions would not have been vacated.
As a result, he was correctly labeled a career offender, and
his offense level of 35 was proper.
it is clear Edwards was represented by counsel in both state
convictions. His Presentence Report in the present case
states that he was “[r]epresented by legal
counsel” in both case CT891221A and case CT891220X, and
the Court has independently verified with the Circuit Court