United States District Court, D. Maryland
ROBERT WILLIAN SYKES, JR. Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Richard D. Bennett, United States District Judge.
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. 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).
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.). 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.
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.)
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.)
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.)
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).
Motion is Timely
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.
Petitioner's Ineffective Assistance of ...