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Griffin v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 3, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Crim. Action No. RDB-12-0585


          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         The pro se Petitioner Eugene Griffin (“Petitioner” or “Griffin”) pled guilty before this Court to one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine in violation of 21 § 841(a)(a). (ECF No. 28.) Judge Quarles of this Court[1] sentenced Petitioner to sixty-three (63) months imprisonment, ECF No. 38, consistent with his agreement with the Government to a sentencing range of 63 months to 132 months, pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Currently pending before this Court are Petitioner's Motion for Extension of Time to File 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 41), Motion to Reduce Sentence Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) (ECF No. 45), Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(ECF No. 48), and Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF No. 57). For the following reasons, Petitioner's Motion for Extension of Time to File 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 41) is DENIED as MOOT; the Motion to Reduce Sentence (ECF No. 45) is DENIED; the Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence (ECF No. 48) is DENIED; and Petitioner's Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF No. 57) is DENIED.[2]


         In August of 2009, Petitioner was arrested on charges in this case for possession with intent to distribute 41.58 grams of crack cocaine. (ECF No. 35 at 1.) Because this offense violated Petitioner's state court probation, he was held in state custody on a probation warrant. (Id.) Petitioner was still in state custody when he pled guilty in this Court to Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine, in violation of 21 § 841(a)(a), on September 3, 2013. (ECF No. 28.) The initial plea agreement contained a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) provision whereby Petitioner and the Government agreed to recommend a sentence between 63 and 132 months. (ECF NO. 29 at 4-5.) During Rearraignment, Petitioner stated that he understood that he was pleading guilty to possession of a quantity of cocaine for distribution. (ECF No. 54-3 at 4.) Petitioner also stated that he had met at length with his counsel regarding the terms of the Indictment, and that he was satisfied with his representation. (ECF No. 54-3 at 8.) In addition, Petitioner acknowledged that he understood he was waiving his right to appeal his sentence so long as it fell within the 63 to 132 month range. (ECF No. 29 at 6; ECF No. 54-3 at 14-15.)

         On October 13, 2013, after Rearraignment but prior to Sentencing, there was a hearing in state court on Petitioner's violation of state probation. (ECF No. 53 at 1.) At that hearing, Petitioner was sentenced to seven years in state custody. (Id.) In March of 2014, Petitioner was transferred to federal custody. (Id.) When Petitioner's counsel listened to a transcript of the state court hearing to determine why the state court gave Petitioner a seven year sentence, counsel discovered that the state's attorney had incorrectly stated that the controlled substance in the federal case was several kilograms of marijuana. (Id.)

         On June 27, 2014, the Government and Petitioner jointly requested that this Court sentence Petitioner to 63 months to reflect Petitioner's five years of incarceration at the Baltimore City Jail since his initial arrest in 2009. (Id.) This agreement was reflected in the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) provision in the plea addendum. (ECF No. 37.) Specifically, the addendum states that the parties agreed to make a joint recommendation of 63 months as “an appropriate and reasonable sentence” given the time Petitioner already served in the state case. (ECF No. 37.) Petitioner also expressly agreed not to challenge his state sentence in any way. (ECF No. 37 at 1-2.) On July 2, 2014, in accordance with the plea addendum, this Court sentenced Petitioner to 63 months with credit for time spent in federal custody since March 6, 2014. (ECF No. 38.)


         This Court recognizes that Petitioner is pro se and has accorded his pleadings liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a prisoner in custody may seek to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence on four grounds: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose the sentence, (3) the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to a collateral attack. Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 426-27 (1962) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2255). “[A]n error of law does not provide a basis for collateral attack unless the claimed error constituted ‘a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.'” United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979) (quoting Hill, 368 U.S. at 428).


         I. Motion to Reduce Sentence

         Petitioner filed a Motion to Reduce Sentence Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). (ECF No. 45.)[3] Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c), “a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission” may file a motion asking the Court to reduce his or her sentence. The Court may reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment “after considering the factors set forth in [18 U.S.C. § 3582(a)] to the extent that they are applicable, if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Amendment 782 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which became effective November 1, 2014, reduced the base offense levels in the Advisory Guidelines under § 2D1.1 for cocaine base offenses by 2 levels. The Sentencing Commission provided that Amendment 782 would apply retroactively. U.S.S.G. §§ lB1.10(d), (e)(1).

         However, when a defendant pleads guilty pursuant to a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, his or her eligibility for relief under § 3582(c) and U.S.S.G. Amendment 782 is contingent upon the role of the defendant's advisory Guidelines range in the agreement. Freeman v. United States, 564 U.S. 522, 537-41 (2011) (Sotomayor, J., concurring). As Justice Sotomayor explained, a defendant can demonstrate that his or her sentence was “based on” a Guidelines range-and thus that he or she is eligible for § 3582(c) relief-if either of the following exceptions applies: (1) the plea agreement “call[s] for the defendant to be sentenced within a particular Guidelines sentencing range, ” or (2) the plea agreement “provide[s] for a specific term of imprisonment ... but also make[s] clear that the basis for the specified term is a Guidelines sentence range applicable to the offense” of conviction, provided that “the sentencing range is evident from the agreement itself.” Id. at 538-39 (Sotomayor, J., concurring); see also United States v. Frazier, 531 Fed. App'x. 308, 309-10 (4th Cir. 2013) (delineating the two exceptions to Sotomayor's general rule that an 11(c)(1)(C) plea is not eligible for § 3582(c)(2) reduction).

         The parties did not reference Petitioner's sentencing guidelines range in the initial plea agreement or the addendum. (ECF Nos. 29, 37.) Given Petitioner's criminal history category of VI and offense level of 29, his Guidelines range was 151 to 188 months. (ECF No. 32.) Comparing this range to both of the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) recommended sentences, it is “clear that the basis” for the recommended 63 month term was not the 151 to 188 month Guidelines range applicable to Petitioner's offense to which he plead guilty. See Freeman, 564 U.S. at 539 (Sotomayor, J., concurring); see also Frazier, 531 Fed. App'x. at 310 (holding that an 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement was not eligible for reduction when the agreement did “not make clear that the specified term is a Guideline sentencing range applicable to the sentence of conviction”). Accordingly, the record shows that the advisory Guidelines range for Petitioner's offense did not form the basis for the stipulated sentence in his Rule 11(c)(1)(C) Plea Agreement. For this reason, Petitioner is not eligible for 18 U.S.C. § 3582 relief and his Motion to Reduce Sentence Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) (ECF No. 45) is DENIED.

         II. Motion to ...

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