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Studivant v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 3, 2019

ARNOLD STUDIVANT Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.

         On October 13, 2016, Petitioner Arnold Studivant ("Studivant" or 'Petitioner") pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (Plea Agreement, ECF No. 99; Judgment, ECF No. 108.) On December 21, 2016, Judge J. Frederick Motz of this Court sentenced Petitioner to sixty (60) months imprisonment, followed by supervised release for a term of forty-eight (48) months.[1] (ECF No. 108.)

         Now pending before this Court is Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct . Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 145.) The parties' submission have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated herein, Petitioner Studivant's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 145) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On April 8, 2015, a federal grand jury in Maryland returned an indictment charging Petitioner Studivant with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (ECF No. 1.) According to the statement of facts set forth in the Plea Agreement agreed to and signed by Petitioner, beginning on or about June 1, 2014, and continuing through September 2014, Studivant conspired with others to distribute quantities of heroin in Baltimore, Maryland. (ECF No. 99.) On several occasions, Studivant would meet with co-conspirators, and others, to obtain quantities of heroin and then distribute that heroin to his street distributors and to his own personal use customers. (Id.)

         During this time, law enforcement officials began investigating Studivant's drug dealing. The Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") obtained authorization to intercept the wire and electronic communications of Petitioner and one of his co-conspirators, Brian McClurkin. (Id.) Subsequently, Petitioner was intercepted discussing the distribution of heroin and a firearm. (Id.) On August 27, 2014, members of the Baltimore Police Department ("BPD") and members of the DEA conducted undercover purchases of heroin from Petitioner's co-conspirators. (Id.) Two BPD officers succeeded in purchasing two separate units of heroin. During the purchases, another co-conspirator, Phillip Vaughn, brandished a firearm. (Id.) Following the arrests of Petitioner's co-conspirators, additional quantities of heroin and a firearm were recovered. (Id.)

         Pursuant to the Plea Agreement, Studivant and the government stipulated that the applicable base offense level under the United States Sentencing Guidelines was at least twenty-four (24) because during the course of the conspiracy, Studivant conspired to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute at least 100 grams but less than 400 grams of heroin. (Id) See U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c)(8). The parties further stipulated that the base offense level would increase by two, to a level of twenty-six (26), because during the conspiracy a firearm was brandished. (Id) See U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1) (promulgating that "if a dangerous weapon (including a firearm) was possessed, increase [offense level] ¶ 2 levels."). Finally, the parties stipulated that Petitioner's criminal history category was III. (Id.) On December 21, 2016, Judge J. Frederick Motz of this Court sentenced Studivant to sixty (60) months imprisonment followed by supervised release for a term of forty-eight (48) months. (Judgment, ECF No. 108.)

         On October 18, 2018, Studivant filed the pending Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, arguing that his counsel fraudulently induced him to accept a plea agreement on the promise that he would be eligible for a one-year time credit upon completion of the Bureau of Prison's ("BOP") Residential Drug Abuse Program ("RDAP") Program. (ECF No. 145). The Government's Response (ECF No. 149) contended, inter alia, that the petition was untimely because it had been filed over one year after the predicate Judgment became final on January 4, 2017. On December 27, 2018, this Court issued an Order (ECF No. 150) advising the Petitioner that his Motion would be dismissed as untimely unless he provided a response within 28 days demonstrating that he met an exception to the one-year statute of limitations, or that he was entided to equitable tolling. Petitioner did not meet this deadline. Instead, on January 29, 2019, Studivant appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, mischaracterizing this Court's grant of additional time as a denial of his § 2255 Motion. (ECF No. 152.) Noting that Petitioner's Motion was still pending in this Court, the Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal. (ECF No. 155.)

         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); see also Alley v. Yadkin County Sheriff Dept., No. 17-1249, 698 Fed App'x 141, 142 (4th Cir. Oct. 5, 2017) (per curiam) (unpublished) (citing Erickson for the proposition that "[p]ro se complaints and pleadings, however inartfully pleaded, must be liberally construed and held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers"). 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 jurisdiction 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, 82 S.Ct. 468 (1962) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2255). "[A]n error of law does not provide a basis for collateral attack unless the claimed error constituted 'a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.'" United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185, 99 S.Ct. 2235 (1979) (quoting Hill, 368 U.S. at 428, 82 S.Ct. 468).

         The scope of a § 2255 collateral attack is far narrower than an appeal, and a "'collateral challenge may not do service for an appeal.'" Foster v. Chatman, 136 S.Ct. 1737, 1758 (2016) (quoting United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165, 102 S.Ct. 1584 (1982)). Thus, procedural default will bar consideration under § 2255 of any matters that "could have been but were not pursued on direct appeal, [unless] the movant show cause and actual prejudice resulting from the errors of which he complains." United States v. Pettiford, 612 F.3d 270, 280 (4th Or. 2010) (citing United States v. Mikalajunas, 186 F.3d 490, 492-93 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Petitioner's Motion is Untimely.

         A. Petitioner's Motion is barred by the ...


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