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Webster v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 15, 2018

CRAIG WEBSTER, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se petitioner Craig Webster has filed a Motion that the Court construes as a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 71. It represents his third such Motion. The Court has considered the Motion and the Government's Opposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On June 16, 2005, Webster pled guilty to one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute 50 or more Grams of a Mixture Containing Cocaine Base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. At sentencing, the Court adopted the factual findings and advisory guidelines applications in the presentence report (“PSR”) and determined that Webster was a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 based on prior convictions for distribution of cocaine and second degree assault. PSR at ¶ 21. The career offender designation resulted in a criminal history category VI, which, together with the Court's calculation of Webster's final offense level as 34, resulted in an advisory guideline range of 262 to 327 months. Sentencing Hr'g Tr. at 8:3-10; ECF No. 59. On September 7, 2005, the Court sentenced Webster to 262 months' imprisonment, to be followed by five years of supervised release. ECF No. 21.

         After an unsuccessful appeal to the Fourth Circuit, United States v. Webster, 201 Fed.Appx. 946 (4th Cir. 2006), and the Supreme Court, Webster v. United States, 549 U.S. 1139 (2007), Webster filed his first motion to vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on May 15, 2007. ECF No. 29. On August 7, 2008, the Court denied his motion. ECF Nos. 42 & 43.

         On March 10, 2014, the Federal Public Defender (“FPD”) filed a Motion for Appointment of Counsel in Webster's case, suggesting that he might be eligible for relief in light of Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), and United States v. Royal, 731 F.3d 333, 340-42 (4th Cir. 2013). ECF 50. The Court granted that motion on March 19, 2014. ECF 51.

         Webster then, through the FPD, filed a request in the Fourth Circuit for authorization to file a second or successive § 2255 motion, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. § 2244. In re Craig Webster, No. 14-226. The Fourth Circuit denied the request, however, and Webster never filed a Descamps § 2255 motion in this Court. ECF No. 55.

         On March 7, 2016, the FPD again filed a Motion for Appointment of Counsel, indicating that Webster may be eligible for relief in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2251 (2015). ECF No. 58. United States District Judge Blake granted the Motion on the same date. Id. On May 11, 2016, Webster filed an Application for Leave to File a Successive Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the Fourth Circuit, relying on the new rule of law announced by Johnson. In re Craig Webster, No. 16-716. On June 21, 2016, the Fourth Circuit granted Webster's request and issued a Notice of Authorization. Id.

         On June 22, 2016, Webster filed his second § 2255 motion in this Court. ECF No. 62. In that Motion, Webster argued that Johnson, which struck down the Armed Career Criminal Act's residual clause (18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii)) as unconstitutionally vague, also struck down the identical residual clause in the career offender provision of the Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2)). Id. Therefore, Webster argued, his prior conviction for Maryland second degree assault would no longer qualify him as a career offender under the Sentencing Guidelines, and his sentence should be vacated. Id.

         Subsequently, the Supreme Court held that “the advisory Guidelines are not subject to vagueness challenges under the Due Process Clause, ” and therefore “§ 4B1.2(a)'s residual clause is not void for vagueness.” Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886, 890-92 (2017). As a result, Webster filed a Notice of Dismissal of 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion, alerting the Court that Webster was voluntarily dismissing his June 22 Motion to Vacate pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(i) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 67. The Court approved the Notice of Dismissal on the same day. ECF No. 68.

         On January 29, 2018, Webster, pro se, filed the present Motion, which the Court has construed as a Motion to Vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In it, Webster asks the Court to vacate or reduce his sentence due to, among other things, his counsel's ineffective assistance, Johnson, and/or changes in crack cocaine sentencing. ECF No. 71. Webster never received authorization from the Fourth Circuit to file this third Motion. On April 24, 2018, the Government filed an opposition, to which Webster has not replied.

         II. ANALYSIS

         “A second or successive § 2255 motion may not be filed absent authorization to do so from the Court of Appeals.” Stockton v. United States, 2013 WL 1345108, at *1 (D. Md. Apr. 1, 2013) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A) & 2255; In re Avery W. Vial, 115 F.3d 1192, 1197-98 (4th Cir. 1997 (en banc)). “Without such authorization, the district court lacks jurisdiction to hear the claims.” Id. (citing United States v. Winestock, 340 F.3d 200, 208-09 (4th Cir. 2003)).

         The present Motion to Vacate is Webster's third attempt to amend his sentence pursuant to § 2255. Webster has not filed a request with the Fourth Circuit for the present § 2255 Motion, nor has he received such permission. Although Webster received permission from the Fourth Circuit to file a second or successive § 2255 motion on June 21, 2016, that authorization was based on Webster's claim that Johnson applied to the Sentencing Guidelines and expired on June 26, 2016. Because that authorization does not apply to the present Motion, and because Webster has not requested or ...


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