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Miles v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 20, 2018

ANTHONY MILES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

         Since November 2015, Anthony Miles, the self-represented Petitioner, has submitted numerous filings stemming from his conviction on a charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. This Memorandum Opinion resolves Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence (ECF 568), as amended (ECF 584) (collectively, the “Petition”).[1]

         The government opposes the Petition. See ECF 585. Miles replied by way of a “Motion.” ECF 586. In addition, he filed a “Motion For Production Of District Court Record In Crim. No. ELH-13-0512” (ECF 589), and a “Motion For Expansion Of The Record” (ECF 599).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b), a hearing is required “[u]nless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show the prisoner is entitled to no relief . . . .” This is such a case. No. hearing is necessary. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant ECF 599, but I will deny ECF 589. And, I shall deny the Petition (ECF 568, ECF 584).

         I. Procedural Background

         On September 24, 2013, Miles and thirteen others were indicted on various drug related charges. See ECF 1. Miles was charged in Count One with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. He was also charged in Count Nine with distribution of heroin on or about August 4, 2013, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Id. at 11.

         About a year later, on September 30, 2014, Miles entered a plea of guilty to Count One (ECF 351), pursuant to a Plea Agreement. ECF 352. Under the terms of the Plea Agreement, the offense to which Miles entered a guilty plea carried a maximum term of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum term of ten years' imprisonment. Id. ¶ 3; see 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A).

         The plea was entered pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. ECF 352, ¶ 9. Under the C plea, the parties agreed to a sentence of 120 months. Id. ¶ 10. That proposed sentence corresponded to the congressionally mandated minimum sentence.

         Paragraph 6 of the Plea Agreement set forth the parties' stipulations as to the sentencing guidelines. In ¶ 6(a), the parties agreed that Miles had a base offense level of 32 under § 2D1.1(4) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.” or “Guidelines”), which was based on the quantity of at least one kilogram of heroin but less than three kilograms of heroin. However, in ¶ 6(d) of the Plea Agreement, the parties anticipated the then impending changes to the Drug Quantity Table, which went into effect in November 2014. Therefore, it was agreed that at sentencing the defendant would seek a two-level downward reduction based on the changes to the Guidelines. The parties further agreed that, if the Court granted that variance, defendant would not seek a sentencing reduction at a later time, under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), based on the retroactive application of the amendment to the Guidelines. Id. at 4.

         At the guilty plea proceeding on September 30, 2014, Miles was sworn. See ECF 504 (Transcript) at 2. In response to questions from the Court, Miles indicated that he was fully satisfied with the legal representation provided by his attorney. Id. at 5. Moreover, the Court confirmed with Miles that he had entered a plea of guilty to Count One of the Indictment, which charged him with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. Id. at 7. Miles signified that he understood the offense to which he had entered a plea of guilty. Id.

         Moreover, the Court reviewed the elements of the offense at issue (ECF 504 at 7-8), as set forth in the Plea Agreement. See ECF 352, ¶ 2. Paragraph 2(a) specified that the elements included the drug quantity of one kilogram or more of heroin. Miles indicated that he understood. ECF 504, at 8. Miles was also advised of the maximum possible penalty of life imprisonment and the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years' incarceration. Id. at 8; see ECF 352, ¶ 3.

         In addition, the Court reviewed the particulars of ¶ 6(a) of the Plea Agreement, indicating that the offense involved “at least one kilogram, but less than three kilograms” of heroin. Id. In response to whether that quantity was “consistent” with what Miles had been told (id.), Miles responded in the affirmative. Id. at 12. After applicable deductions, the parties anticipated a final offense level of 27. Id. at 14.

         Of import here, ¶ 6(c) of the Plea Agreement (ECF 352) stated that Miles was “free to argue” as to any “offense characteristics, sentencing guideline factors, departures and/or adjustments, including as to [his] role in the offense . . . .” The Court reviewed that text. ECF 504 at 13. Miles was also advised that there was no agreement as to his criminal history and that he could be “deemed to be a career offender.” Id. at 14; ECF 352, ¶ 7. Miles indicated that he understood. Id.

         In addition, the Court reviewed with Miles the terms of the plea pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C). Pursuant to the terms of the C plea, the parties agreed to a sentence of 120 months' imprisonment, and Miles indicated that this was consistent with his understanding. ECF 504 at 15.

         Further, Miles was informed that in ¶ 11 of the Plea Agreement, he waived most of his appellate rights. However, he reserved the right to appeal a sentence in excess of 120 months. See ECF 352, 11(b)(i). Miles indicted that he understood. ECF 504 at 16-17.

         The Plea Agreement contained a written Statement of Facts (ECF 352 at 9-13), to which Miles stipulated. Id. at 13. Miles was advised that he had “agreed or stipulated to the Statement of Facts set forth in Attachment A” of the Plea Agreement. ECF 504 at 11. The Court added: “In other words, you've agreed that if this case went to trial at a minimum the government would prove [the facts in Attachment A] beyond a reasonable doubt.” Id. Notably, the written Statement of Facts specifically stated that the amount of heroin reasonably foreseeable to Miles “was at least one kilogram . . . .” ECF 352 at 12. Then, the Court inquired if Mr. Miles understood he had made “that agreement?” ECF 504 at 11. Miles responded in the affirmative. Id.

         The government also orally presented a summary of facts in support of the guilty plea. ECF 504 at 28-32. Among other things, the prosecutor stated that, if the case proceeded to trial, the parties stipulated that the government would prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the amount of heroin reasonably foreseeable to Miles was at least one kilogram of heroin. ECF 504 at 32. The Court specifically asked Miles if the government's factual summary was accurate. Id. He responded, “Yes, ma'am.” Id.

         On February 11, 2015, prior to sentencing, the Court ordered an attorney inquiry hearing, based on complaints from Miles. ECF 450. The magistrate judge held a hearing on February 18, 2015 (ECF 462) and determined that it was not necessary to appoint new counsel for Miles. ECF 505 at 2. See also ECF 447; ECF 463.

         The Presentence Report (“PSR”) was docketed on December 4, 2014. ECF 391. The Amended PSR is at ECF 491. The PSR reflected a base offense level that took into account the changes to the drug quantity table that went into effect in November 2014. Thus, the offense would have had a base level of 30, rather than 32. However, according to the PSR, Miles qualified as a career offender. ECF 391, ¶ 42; see also Id. ¶¶ 31, 33. Therefore, his base offense level jumped from 30 to 37. After three deductions for acceptance of responsibility, Miles's final offense level was a 34. See Id. ¶¶ 23, 24. If Miles were not a career offender, his final offense level would have been a 27. And, because of the career offender status, Miles's criminal history category increased from IV to VI.[2]

         Sentencing was held on March 20, 2015. ECF 486. At sentencing, Miles maintained that, pursuant to the terms of his Plea Agreement, he had the right to challenge the drug quantity attributable to him as well as his criminal history. ECF 505 (Transcript) at 3-5; see ECF 532, ¶ 6(c). The Court noted, inter alia, that the Plea Agreement involved a plea to Count One of the Indictment, and that count expressly charged conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. Id. at 5-6. Moreover, in the Statement of Facts, to which the defendant agreed, he stipulated that the amount of heroin foreseeable to him was at least one kilogram. Id. at 6.

         Ultimately, the Court determined that ¶ 6(c) of the Plea Agreement did not authorize a challenge to the drug quantity of one kilogram of heroin because, among other things, Miles had agreed to that drug quantity, under oath. See, e.g., ECF 505 at 16, 19-21. The Court observed that, applying commonsense to the construction of the Plea Agreement, and in reconciling the various provisions, the defendant was not on sound legal ground in attempting to “undercut his plea by challenging the drug quantity when the entire plea was predicated on a plea to Count One, which charged conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more.” Id. at 20. In this regard, the Court identified the various places in the Plea Agreement that referenced the one kilogram. Id. at 20-21.

         However, the Court expressly indicated to defendant, as follows, id. at 6: “Now, if you wish to withdraw your guilty plea and you want [defense counsel] to file a motion on your behalf, I will entertain that motion. I can't say now how I will rule in advance. But is that what you would like to do?” See also Id. at 9, 21. Defendant stated: “I'm not trying to withdraw the plea, Your Honor. I'm just trying to get what was promised to me within this contract.” Id. at 6. The Court also noted that the agreed upon term of 10 years' incarceration was linked to the drug quantity. Id. at 7. The Court reiterated, id. at 11-12: “I will entertain a motion to withdraw your guilty plea.” And, the Court repeated itself, stating, id. at 13: “Again, if you wish to withdraw your guilty plea, I am happy to entertain that request. . . . I'll keep an open mind, and we'll go from there.” Id. Further, the Court said, id. at 22-23: “So if you're unhappy with your decision to have pled to the offense, which was a one kilogram or more quantity, the only thing I can contemplate is a motion to withdraw your guilty plea. And that is your decision.” Significantly, based on what transpired, the Court declined to go forward with sentencing on that date. Id. at 26. I stated, in part: “I wouldn't want [Miles] to feel somebody pressured him today to proceed to a sentencing after we have spent all this time ironing out what I think the agreement permits and what it doesn't permit.” Id.

         Notably, Miles was granted about a month to file a motion to withdraw his plea. Id. at 34. See also ECF 464 (paperless order of February 18, 2015, allowing Miles to file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea by March 13, 2015). However, no motion to withdraw the guilty plea was filed. Therefore, on March 20, 2015, the Court again proceeded to sentencing. ECF 486.

         At the second sentencing proceeding, the Court reviewed all that had previously transpired. Mr. Miles reiterated, ECF 506 at 14: “I never had the opportunity for foreseeable drug amount in conspiracy. The government has used an alleged drug amount that was involved in the whole entire conspiracy. So basically, they're saying that I'm responsible for all the drugs that was in the conspiracy . . . .” In response, the Court again asked Miles, id. at 18: “Do you wish to file a motion to withdraw your guilty plea?” Miles responded, id.: “No, Ma'am.” At sentencing, the Court determined that Mr. Miles qualified as a career offender within the meaning of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, on the basis of a prior Maryland felony conviction for the offense of possession of CDS with the intent to distribute (ECF 391, ¶¶ 31-32), and for the prior federal offense of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Id., ¶¶ 33-38.[3] See ECF 506 at 22, 23.

         Based on a final offense level of 34 and a criminal history category of VI, the Court determined that the advisory sentencing guideline range called for a period of incarceration ranging between 262 and 327 months. ECF 506 at 24. After hearing argument from counsel for both sides, the Court agreed to abide by the C plea and imposed a sentence of 120 months' incarceration. Id. at 30-36. See ECF 489 (Judgment); ECF 490 (Statement of Reasons). As indicated, that sentence corresponded to the congressionally mandated minimum sentence. And, the sentence was well below the bottom of the Guidelines range.

         Within a few days, Miles noted his appeal to the Fourth Circuit. ECF 488. The government moved to dismiss the appeal, based on Miles's waiver of the right to appeal, as set out in the Plea Agreement. The Fourth Circuit granted the motion and dismissed the appeal. See ECF 533; ECF 534. The mandate issued on September 11, 2015. ECF 536.

         The Fourth Circuit stated, in part, ECF 533 at 1-2: “Upon review of the record, we conclude that the issue Miles seeks to raise on appeal, that the District Court erred in finding he could not challenge the drug quantity attributed to him, falls squarely within the compass of his waiver of appellate right.” Miles did not file ...


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