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Chambers v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 20, 2019

ROBERT CHAMBERS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On June 16, 2008, pro se Petitioner Robert Chambers ('Petitioner" or "Chambers") pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to one Count of distribution of cocaine base in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 841. On September 4, 2008 Judge William D. Quarles[1] of this Court sentenced Chambers to 180 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. (Judgment, ECF No. 60.) On September 11, 2008 Chambers appealed his sentence. (Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 61.) On August 27, 2009 the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal. (ECF Nos. 69, 70.)

         While imprisoned, Petitioner has periodically filed motions seeking to vacate or otherwise amend his sentence. The motions are styled as follows: (1) a "Motion Seeking a Reduction in Sentencing Pursuant to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010; Amendment # 706; Title 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)" (ECF No; 89); (2) a "Motion under Rule 60(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and/or a Writ of Error Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651" (ECF No. 104); (3) a "Supplemental Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(2-3), or Motion under 28 U.S.C § 2241 to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct a Sentence of a Person in Federal Custody; and/or a Writ of Error Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651" (ECF No. 108); (4) a "Motion for Supplemental Authority" (ECF No. 111); and (5) a "Motion to Correct a Plain Error" (ECF No. 112.)

         The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the foregoing reasons, Petitioner's Motion Seeking a Reduction in Sentencing Pursuant to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010; Amendment # 706; Tide 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) (ECF No. 89) is DENIED; Petitioner's Motion under Rule 60(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and/or a Writ of Error Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651 (ECF No. 104) is DENIED; Supplemental Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(2-3), or Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct a Sentence of a Person in Federal Custody; and/or a Writ of Error Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651 (ECF No. 108) is DENIED; Petitioner's Motion for Supplemental Authority (ECF No. 111) is DENIED; and Petitioner's Motion to Correct a Plain Error (ECF No. 112) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 13, 2008, Chambers pled guilty before Judge William D. Quarles of this Court to distribution of crack cocaine, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 841. (ECF No. 53.) In his plea agreement, Petitioner stipulated that he qualified as a career offender pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. (Plea Agreement 3, ECF No. 54.) Prior to sentencing, the United States Probation Office completed a presentence investigation report ("PSR") which indicated that Chambers qualified as a career offender under the United States Sentencing Guidelines based on multiple felony drug convictions and multiple convictions for violent crimes including kidnapping, assault with intent to murder, and armed robbery. See United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 4B1.1 (U.S. Sentencing Comm'n 2007) (U.S.S.G.); (see also Sentencing Tr. 2:15-3:3, ECF No. 65.) Taking into account his acceptance of responsibility, the PSR recommended an adjusted offense level of 30 and a criminal history category of VI, producing an advisory guideline range of 168-210 months imprisonment.

         During the sentencing hearing, the parties presented arguments concerning the appropriate sentence. The Government recommended a sentence within the applicable Guideline range of 168 to 210 months. (Id. at 3:10-19.) During the sentencing hearing, Chambers' counsel acknowledged that he qualified as a career offender, but sought a sentence falling below the Guideline range based in part on his military service and drug addiction. (Id. at 7:17-21.) Taking into account both Chambers' military service and entire criminal history, this Court sentenced Chambers to 180 months imprisonment followed by a three-year term of supervised release. (Id. at 20:17-21:6; Judgment, ECF No. 60.)

         Petitioner has launched a volley of challenges to his sentence. On September 11, 2008 he appealed this Court's judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Court dismissed the appeal. (ECF Nos. 60, 68, 69.) On September 7, 2011, Petitioner filed a Motion for Reduction in Sentence. (ECF No. 89.) On April 25, 2016 Petitioner filed another motion challenging his sentence, which he styled as a "Motion under Rule 60(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and/or a Writ of Error Pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 1651." (ECF No. 104.) On May 3, 2016, shortly after this case was reassigned to the undersigned, this Court issued an Order directing the Government to respond to both Motions. (Id.) Subsequently, Chambers filed a "Supplemental Motion" seeking relief pursuant to, inter alia, 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 108.) On June 23, 2016, the Government filed its Response (ECF No. 109.) The Petitioner has submitted a Reply (ECF No. 110) and two additional Motions, styled as follows: a Motion for Supplemental Authority (ECF No. 111) and a Motion to Correct a Plain Error (ECF No. 112.) The Government has not filed a Response to these latter motions.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Documents filed pro se are "liberally construed" and are "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafter by lawyers." Erikson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted). As further explained below, Petitioner seeks relief pursuant to two statutes: 28 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         I. Motion to Reduce Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).

         Petitioner's self-styled "Motion for Reduction in Sentence" is best construed as a Motion to Reduce Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). (See Pet. Mot. for Reduction in Sentence 4, ECF No. 89 ("At issue here is whether § 3582(c)(2) permits a reduction in the petitioner's sentence . . .")) 28 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) presents an exception to the general rule that a court "may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed." United States v. Martin, 916 F.3d 389, 395 (4th Or. 2019) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) (2018)). To determine whether to reduce a defendant's sentence pursuant to this statute, courts conduct a "two-step inquiry." United States v. Peters, 843 F.3d 572, 574 (4th Cir. 2016). First, courts must determine whether the defendant is eligible for a sentence reduction. "Section 3582(c)(2) permits a reduction only if (1) the defendant's 'term of imprisonment [was] based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission,' and (2) the reduction 'is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.'" Id. (quoting § 3582(c)(2)). The applicable policy statements, which are found in Section 1B1.10 of the Guidelines, permit sentence reductions only when the relevant Guidelines amendment is both retroactively applicable and has "the effect of lowering the defendant's applicable guideline range." U.S.S.G. § 1B 1.10(a)(2)(B). Second, having determined that the defendant is eligible, the Court must consider the factors set forth in Section 3553(a) "to the extent that they are applicable." Id. (quoting § 3582(c)(2)). Ultimately, the decision to reduce a defendant's sentence is within this Court's discretion. United States v. Smalls, 720 F.3d 193, 195 (4th Cir. 2013).

         II. Motion Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a prisoner in custody may seek to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence where: (1) "the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States," (2) the court lacked "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." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). "If the court finds .. . that the sentence imposed was not authorized by law or otherwise open to collateral attack, or that there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack, the court shall vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         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 (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[s] cause and actual prejudice resulting from the errors of which he complains." United States v. ...


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