United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Memorandum Opinion resolves a Motion To Vacate, Set Aside, or
Correct Sentence filed by Benjamin Brown, Petitioner,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF 191 (the
“Petition”). The government filed a response in
opposition (ECF 201), along with exhibits. Brown has filed a
reply. ECF 204. At its core, Petitioner's various
complaints may be distilled to the overarching contention
that his lawyer was ineffective because his codefendants
received more lenient sentences.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(b), a hearing is required
“[u]nless the motion and the files and the records of
the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to
no relief . . . .” This is such a case; no hearing is
necessary. For the reasons that follow, I shall deny the
Factual and Procedural Background
November 12, 2014, Petitioner Benjamin Brown and five others
were indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute and
possess with intent to distribute the following controlled
substances: cocaine base (Count One); heroin (Count Two); and
cocaine (Count Three). ECF 1. Pursuant to a Plea Agreement
(ECF 125), Brown entered a plea of guilty on August 18, 2015
(ECF 124) to Count Three of the Indictment, charging
conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to
distribute five hundred grams or more of a mixture or
substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846.
Plea Agreement, the parties agreed that Mr. Brown qualified
as a Career Offender. See ECF 125, ¶ 6(a).
Notably, the plea was entered pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C) of
the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Id. ¶
8. Under the terms of the C plea, the parties agreed to a
sentence of imprisonment ranging between 84 months and 120
was held on December 1, 2015. ECF 157. At sentencing, the
Court found that Brown is a Career Offender with a final
offense level of 31 and a criminal history category of VI,
and an advisory sentencing guidelines range of 188 to 235
months of imprisonment. ECF 196 (Sentencing Transcript); ECF
201-2 (Sentencing Transcript); see also ECF 145
(Presentence Report); ECF 160 (Statement of Reasons). He
faced a mandatory minimum sentence of five years (60 months).
The Court imposed a sentence of 100 months' imprisonment,
which was within the C plea range of 84 to 120 months.
Judgment was entered on the same date. ECF 159.
did not note an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals
for the Fourth Circuit. Brown's Petition was docketed in
this Court on December 22, 2016. ECF 191. According to the
Petition, Brown signed and dated the Petition on December 14,
2016. Id. at 16.
facts are included in the Discussion.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(b), the post-conviction court must hold
a hearing “[u]nless the motion and the files and
records conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no
relief. . . .” See, e.g., United States v.
Lemaster, 403 F.3d 216, 220-23 (4th Cir. 2005);
United States v. White, 366 F.3d 291, 302 (4th Cir.
2004). Courts have determined that a hearing is not necessary
where “the motion . . . fail[s] to allege sufficient
facts or circumstances upon which the elements of
constitutionally deficient performance might properly be
found [or] where the defendant has failed to present any
affidavits or other evidentiary support for the naked
assertions contained in his motion.” United States
v. Taylor, 139 F.3d 924, 933 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted); accord United
States v. McGill, 11 F.3d 223, 225-26 (1st Cir. 1993).
On the other hand, a hearing is generally “required
when a movant presents a colorable Sixth Amendment claim
showing disputed material facts and a credibility
determination is necessary to resolve this issue.”
United States v. Robertson, 219 Fed. App'x 286,
286 (4th Cir. 2007); see also United States v. Ray,
547 Fed. App'x 343, 345 (4th Cir. 2013).
mindful that a self-represented litigant is generally
“held to a ‘less stringent standard[ ]' than
is a lawyer, and the Court must liberally construe his
claims, no matter how ‘inartfully' pled.”
Morrison v. United States, RDB-12-3607, 2014 WL
979201, at *2 (D. Md. Mar. 12, 2014) (internal citations
omitted); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)
(stating that claims of self-represented litigants are held
“to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers”); Bala v. Commonwealth of Va.
Dep't of Conservation & Recreation, 532 F.
App'x 332, 334 (4th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (same).
Nevertheless, I am satisfied that no hearing is necessary to
resolve Brown's claims.
Timeliness of Petition
the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f), a one-year
limitation period applies to petitions under § 2255,
which runs from the latest of:
(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes
(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
(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 on collateral review; or
(4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or
claims presented could have been discovered through the
exercise of due diligence.
Timeliness under § 2255(f) is assessed on a
“claim-by-claim basis.” Capozzi v. United
States, 768 F.3d 32, 33 (1st Cir. 2014) (per curiam)
(collecting cases from the Third, Sixth, Ninth, Tenth, and
Eleventh Circuits), cert denied, ___U.S. ___, 135
S.Ct. 1476 (2015); see Zach v. Tucker, 704 F.3d 917,
924-25 (11th Cir. 2013) (en banc) (explaining that a
petitioner may not use a single, timely claim to revive
time-barred claims), cert denied, ___ U.S. ___, 134
S.Ct. 156 (2013); Hannigan v. United States, 131
F.Supp.3d 480 (E.D. N.C. 2015), appeal dismissed,
638 Fed.App'x 234 (4th Cir. 2016) (per curiam), cert.
denied, ___U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 404 (2016); see
also Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 662
(2005); Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408,
416 n. 6 (2005).
case, sentencing was held on December 1, 2016. Judgment was
entered on the same date. ECF 159. Because the judgment was
entered on December 1, 2015 (ECF 159), the deadline to file a
Notice of Appeal expired fourteen days later. Fed. ...