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Sykes v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 16, 2018

ROBERT WILLIAN SYKES, JR. Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett, United States District Judge.

         On December 3, 2015, Robert Williams Sykes, Jr. ("Sykes" or "Petitioner") pled guilty to two counts of Hobbs Act Robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a). On April 6, 2016, Judge Marvin J. Garbis of this Court sentenced Petitioner to seventy-two (72) months imprisonment, followed by supervised release for a term of three (3) years.[1] On April 13, 2016, Petitioner appealed his sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on the grounds that this Court miscalculated his sentencing guidelines by denying him a three level reduction and erred by denying his motion for a downward departure. On December 20, 2016, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the Petitioner's sentence. United States v. Sykes, No. 16-4206, 671 Fed.Appx. 199 (4th Cir. Dec. 20, 2016).

         On March 8, 2018, Petitioner filed the pending Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, arguing that his counsel was ineffective during his sentencing. (ECF No. 68.).[2] The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated herein, Petitioner Sykes' Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 68) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On August 20, 2015, a federal grand jury in Maryland returned an indictment charging Petitioner Sykes with two counts of Hobbs Act Robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a). According to the statement of facts set forth in the Presentence Investigation Report (ECF No. 25) to which the Petitioner agreed, on November 30, 2014 Sykes walked into a Family Dollar Store in Baltimore City, Maryland, approached the front counter, and demanded money or threated that he would start shooting. (ECF No. 25.) The cashier complied and handed Sykes about $97.00 before he fled. (Id.) A customer in the store followed Sykes out the door and took a picture of him as he was entering the driver's side door of a Cadillac. (Id.) A few days later, on December 2, 2014, Sykes entered the Advance Auto Parts in Baltimore City, Maryland, holding a bb-gun in his left hand. (Id.) He demanded that both employees at the register give him money from the register. (Id.) When they told him that they could not open the register without a key, he fled the store. (Id.) On December 3, 2015, Petitioner pled guilty to both counts of Hobbs Act Robbery. (ECF No. 21.)

         At Petitioner's sentencing on April 6, 2016, the Presentence Investigation Report assigned Petitioner nine criminal history points, resulting in a criminal history category IV and an advisory guideline range of sixty-three (63) to seventy-eight (78) months. (ECF No. 25 ¶ 18-31, 34-37, 72.) At sentencing, the Government and defense counsel disagreed over whether the Government should be permitted to introduce evidence of uncharged conduct. (Sent. Tr., ECF No. 59 at 15-19.) Ultimately, this Court permitted the Government to introduce evidence of uncharged conduct, indicating that whether the evidence was excessive would depend on the relevant factors found in 18 U.S.C. § 3553. (Id. at 19.) After the presentation of evidence and witness testimony and legal argument, this Court sentenced Sykes within the guideline range to seventy-two (72) months imprisonment followed by supervised release for a term of three (3) years. (ECF No. 49.)

         On April 12, 2016, Sykes appealed his sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, on the grounds that this Court miscalculated the guidelines by denying him a three level attempt reduction and erred by deriving his motion for a downward departure. (ECF No. 51.) On December 20, 2016, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the judgment of this Court. See United States v. Sykes, No. 16-4206, 671 Fed.Appx. 199 (4tli Cir. Dec. 20, 2016). On March 8, 2018, Sykes filed the pending Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, arguing his counsel was ineffective during his sentencing. (ECF No. 68.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 jurisdicdon 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). When seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a petitioner bears the burden of proving his or her grounds for collateral relief by a preponderance of the evidence. Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958).

         ANALYSIS

         I.

         Petitioner's Motion is Timely

         At the outset, this Court notes that the Petitioner's § 2255 Motion is timely. A one-year statute of limitations applies to § 2255 petitions. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). Under § 2255(f), limitations runs from the latest of, among other things, the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final. Id. Here, Petitioner's sentence was affirmed by the Fourth Circuit on December 20, 2016. His Judgment then became final on or around March 20, 2017, when he did not petition the Supreme Court for certiorari. Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 525, 123 S.Ct. 1072 (2003). Therefore, Petitioner had until March 20, 2018 to file the instant § 2255 Motion. Because he filed his Motion on March 8, 2018, his Motion is timely.

         II. Petitioner's Ineffective Assistance of ...


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