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United States v. Wilson

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 28, 2019

SCOTT WILSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett, United States District Judge.

         On February 5, 2010, pro se Petitioner Scott Wilson ("Petitioner" or "Wilson") pled guilty to arson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i) after burning down his business, fleeing from the scene, and threatening potential Government witnesses. (ECF Nos. 37 & 38.) On July 10, 2010, this Court sentenced Wilson to a term of two-hundred and forty (240) months incarceration and three (3) years of supervised relief. On November 4, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed this sentence. United States v. Wilson, 452 Fed.Appx. 418 (4th Cir. 2011). On January 28, 2013, Petitioner filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which this Court subsequently denied. (ECF Nos. 83, 122.) Now pending before this Court are the following motions filed by Wilson: a Motion for Clarification of Order (ECF No. 86); a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (ECF No. 124); a Motion to Challenge Jurisdiction (ECF No. 130); two Motions for an Order dismissing without prejudice separate Motions to Challenge Jurisdiction (ECF Nos. 131, 132); and a Motion for Appointment of Attorney for Limited Purposes. (ECF No. 140.)

         This Court has reviewed Wilson's submissions and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated below, Petitioner's Motion for Clarification of Order (ECF No. 86) is DENIED AS MOOT[1]; the Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (ECF No. 124) is DENIED; the Motion for an Order dismissing without prejudice the Motion to Challenge Jurisdiction (ECF No. 131) is GRANTED, and therefore the Motion to Challenge Jurisdiction (ECF No. 130) is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE; the Motion for an Order dismissing without prejudice a separate, never-filed Motion to Challenge Jurisdiction (ECF No. 132) is DENIED; and the Motion for Appointment of Attorney for Limited Purposes (ECF No. 140) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case, as set forth in Petitioner's plea agreement, were previously addressed in an Opinion of the Fourth Circuit and this Court's prior Memorandum Opinion. See United States v. Wilson, 452 Fed.Appx. 418, 419-20 (4th Cir. 2011); Wilson v. United States, RDB-09-0036, RDB-13-0302, 2015 WL 1401754, at *l-2 (D. Md. March 24, 2015). To provide context for Wilson's pending Motions, this Court will briefly recount these facts and the procedural posture of this case.

         Wilson and his wife, Sarah Manning, ran a business at their primary residence until her death in 2007. Wilson, 452 Fed.Appx. at 419. After her death, Wilson became embroiled in a legal dispute with his wife's family over her estate. Id. On October 31, 2008, shortly after the Circuit Court for Howard County, Maryland issued a ruling adverse to his interests in the estate, Wilson deliberately set fire to the house. Id. When the Howard County Fire Department responded to the fire, Wilson used his vehicle to escape, narrowly avoiding a collision with a firefighter. (Plea Agreement, ECF No. 37.) On December 31, 2008, he poured screws and glass on the driveaway of Priscilla Manning Ford, his sister-in-law, and a potential Government witness Wilson, 452 Fed.Appx. at 419. On January 8, 2009, he called his mother-in-law, Mary Lou Manning, and threatened to kill her and her grandchildren. Id. He then called John Manning, Jr., his brother-in-law, and threatened to kill him. Id. at 420. They, too, were potential witnesses. (ECF No. 37.)

         On January 9, 2009, United States Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm of this Court issued a criminal complaint against Petitioner for arson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). (ECF No. 1.) On January 22, 2009, Petitioner was indicted by a federal grand jury for arson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). (ECF No. 8.) On February 19, 2009, the grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment charging Petitioner with one count of arson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i), and two counts of obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512. (ECF No. 12.)

         On February 5, 2010, Petitioner pled guilty to Count One of the Superseding Indictment, charging him with arson in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). (ECF No. 37.) Pursuant to the plea agreement, Count Two and Count Three of the Superseding Indictment were dismissed on the Government's motion. (ECF No. 51.) On July 10, 2010, Petitioner was sentenced by this Court to a term of two-hundred and forty (240) months incarceration and three (3) years of supervised release. (ECF No. 49.) Petitioner was ordered to pay $147, 247.46 in restitution and a $100.00 special assessment. (ECF No. 49.) Judgment on Petitioner's sentence was entered on August 4, 2010. (ECF No. 51.)

         Wilson has previously advanced two unsuccessful challenges to his sentence. On August 10, 2010, Petitioner filed a timely Notice of Appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for die Fourth Circuit. (ECF No. 53.) On November 4, 2011 the Fourth Circuit affirmed the Judgment of this Court. (ECF No. 67.) On January 28, 2013, Petitioner filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which this Court subsequendy denied. (ECF No. 83.) On April 20, 2015, Petitioner filed a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), arguing that this Court should have held an evidentiary hearing before ruling on the Motion.

         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). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly recognize motions for "reconsideration." Instead, Rule 59(e) authorizes a district court to alter, amend, or vacate a prior judgment, and Rule 60 provides for relief from judgment. See Katyle v. Penn Nat'l Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 471 n.4 (4th Cir. 2011), cert, denied, 132 S.Ct. 115 (2011). As this Court explained in Cross v. Fleet Reserve Ass'n Pension Plan, Civ. No. WDQ-05-0001, 2010 WL 3609530, at *2 (D. Md. Sept. 14, 2010):

A party may move to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e), or for relief from a judgment under Rule 60(b). See Fed. R, Civ. P. 59(e) & 60(b). A motion to alter or amend filed within 28 days of the judgment is analyzed under Rule 59(e); if the motion is filed later, Rule 60(b) controls. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e); MLC Auto., LLC v. Town of S. Pines, 532 F.3d 269, 280 (4th Cir. 2008); In re Burnley, 988 F.2d 1, 2-3 (4th Cir. 1992).

(footnote omitted). Here, Wilson served his Motion for Reconsideration, expressly pursuant to Rule 59(e), by mail on April 17, 2015. This Court entered its Order denying Wilson's Section 2255 motion on March 24, 2015. Therefore, Wilson's Motion was timely under Rule 59(e).

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has repeatedly recognized that a final[2] judgment may be amended under Rule 59(e) in only three circumstances: (1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. See, e.g., Gagliano v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co.,547 F.3d 230, 241 n.8 (4th Cir. 2008). Moreover, "[t]he district court has considerable discretion in deciding whether to modify or amend a judgment." Id. Such motions do not authorize a "game of hopscotch," in which parties switch from one legal theory to another "like a bee in search of honey." Cochran v. Quest Software, Inc.,328 F.3d 1, 11 (1st Cir. 2003). In other words, a Rule 59(e) motion "may not be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to entry of judgment." Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'/ Fire Ins. Co.,148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting 11 Wright, et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 2810.1, at 127-28 (2d ed. 1995)). Where a party presents newly discovered evidence in support of its Rule 59(e) motion, it "must produce a legitimate justification for not presenting the evidence during the earlier proceeding." Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Where a party seeks reconsideration on the basis of manifest error, the earlier decision cannot be '"just maybe or probably wrong; it must... . strike us as wrong with the force of a five-week old, unrefrigerated dead fish." TFWS, Inc. v, ...


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