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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

June 28, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
NAMOND WILLIAMS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL W. GRIMM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Following Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.” or “Guidelines”) in 2014, the Federal Public Defender's Office and the Government filed a Consent Motion Seeking Reduced Sentences Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) Based on Retroactive Application of Amendment 782 to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines (“Drugs Minus Two”). ECF No. 1269-2. As a result, Namond Williams's 1992 sentence was reduced on June 17, 2015 from 600 months to 484 months, as requested. Order Reducing Sentence, ECF No. 1231. At the time, Williams also had retained counsel who told him that “all they could do was ‘monitor the situation'” while the Public Defender and the Government negotiated Amendment 782 reductions. Def.'s Mot 5 (quoting Jan. 6, 2015 Ltr. from Counsel, ECF No. 1268-3). Williams's reduced sentence unfortunately was based on a misunderstanding of his original Guidelines offense level, which the Federal Public Defender's Office and the Government misstated in recommending the 484-month sentence, and a consequential erroneous belief that his original sentence was a significant upward departure from the Guidelines range. Had the Court received accurate information, it would have been informed that Williams's original sentence fell within the Guidelines range applicable at the time, and that his new Guidelines range was 272 to 365 months.

         On December 15, 2015, Williams, through retained counsel, filed a Motion to Correct Order Granting Sentence Reduction pursuant to § 3582, ECF No. 1234, and a Motion for Leave to File Untimely Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 1235, both times alerting the Court to the misunderstanding and seeking a further reduction in his sentence. The Court denied the second § 3582 motion as successive and untimely, ECF Nos. 1244, 1245, but granted the Motion for Leave to File Untimely Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 1236. Williams filed his appeal on June 17, 2016, ECF No. 1247, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed both this Court's Order Reducing Sentence and its denial of Williams's second § 3582 motion on February 9, 2017, ECF No. 1252. Notably, he did not base his appeal on the misunderstanding that now is central to his Motion. Williams filed the pending Motion to Vacate, Correct, or Set Aside Sentence “pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), or any other applicable statute or rule” on May 4, 2018. ECF No. 1268.

         Preliminarily, I note that, notwithstanding the unavoidable outcome of this Motion- which is yet another denial of Williams's request to reduce his sentence-it is disturbing that everyone seems to agree that the Public Defender, the Government, and the Court in its reliance on counsel's recommendations, made an incorrect calculation, resulting in Williams serving a sentence ten years longer than it otherwise may have been. Williams's motion is properly construed as a § 3582 motion, but he cannot file a successive § 3582 motion. Although the bar to successive § 3582 motions is not jurisdictional, if the Government raises the successiveness as a defense (which it did here), then the motion must be denied. Additionally, the court cannot grant a Rule 60(b) motion for reconsideration of the Order Reducing Sentence, which is an order on a § 3582 motion.

         Perhaps this is why Williams styled his motion primarily as a § 2255 motion. But, this Court lacks jurisdiction to decide the motion as a § 2255 motion, because it is successive. Further, as a § 2255 motion, it is untimely and while there certainly are extraordinary circumstances where the Federal Public Defender's Officer intervened (and erred) while Williams had retained counsel, there is no basis for equitable tolling because the considerable delay between the Fourth Circuit's ruling in February 2017 and when Williams filed this motion in May 2018 negates any assertion of due diligence. Further, prior to February 2017, he had the wherewithal to retain counsel and file a § 3582 motion and an appeal, again suggesting that if he exercised due diligence, he would have filed a § 2255 motion sooner. Moreover, Williams simply does not have a basis for filing a § 2255 motion at this juncture, when he no longer has a Constitutional right to counsel, the Court had the jurisdiction to impose the sentence it imposed, which did not exceed the maximum authorized by law, and the sentence is not otherwise subject to collateral attack because Williams failed to raise this issue on direct appeal and has not shown cause for that failure. Consequently, I have no alternative than to reach a result that is unfair, and deny Williams's motion.

         Background

          In 1990, a federal grand jury indicted Williams and twenty-two others on a variety of charges for their roles in a large-scale Baltimore-area drug and money laundering operation. Def.'s Mot. 3-4. On March 20, 1991, a jury convicted Williams of four drug charges and money laundering. Id. at 4. At Williams's sentencing on January 13, 1992, the Court elevated his calculated offense level from 41 to 42, concluding that Williams was not just a “manager, ” but an “organizer and leader” of the illicit operation run by Williams's uncle. Id. The Guidelines range for offense level 42 with a criminal history Category I (where Williams fell) was 360 months to life imprisonment. Id. The Court imposed a within-Guidelines sentence of 600 months imprisonment. Id. In 2008, Williams filed a § 3582 motion, ECF No. 1192, which the Court denied, ECF No. 1195. In 2010, Williams filed another § 3582 motion, ECF No. 1205, and a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which the Court construed as a third § 3582 motion, ECF No. 1206. The Court denied both motions and Williams's motion for reconsideration, ECF Nos. 1207, 1208, 1209, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed, ECF No. 1221.

         In 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission passed Amendment 782, which retroactively reduced drug quantity offense levels by two. U.S.S.G. Manual § 1B1.10 cmt. n.6 (U.S. Sentencing Comm'n 2018). Williams hired counsel to seek a sentence reduction. Def.'s Mot. 5. The Federal Public Defender's Office (FPDO), which had established a process by which it would coordinate with the United States Attorney's Office to recommend sentence reductions under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), [2] id. at 6, informed Defense counsel that the process was already underway for numerous federal prisoners in conjunction with the Government. Dec. 17, 2014 FPDO Ltr. to Williams, ECF No. 1268-2.

         The FPDO sought corrected sentences that mirrored the original sentences' position within (or beyond) the original guidelines. Def.'s Mot. 6. However, when the FPDO examined Williams's case, they incorrectly determined that offense level 41 was the original offense level (instead of offense level 42, as Court found) and, as a result, interpreted Williams's original 600-month sentence as having been well above the Guidelines range of 324 to 405 months recommended for offense level 41, rather than within the Guidelines range of 365 months to life that actually applied in 1992. Kurtz Aff., ECF No. 1268-5. The FPDO applied the two-level reduction to offense level 41 (instead of 42); the Guidelines range for offense level 39 was 262 to 327 months. Calculating that 600 months was 148% of the high end of offense level 41, the FPDO recommended a proportional reduced sentence of 484 months (148% of the high end of offense level 39). Id. Had the FPDO correctly understood Williams's original sentence to be within the Guidelines range for offense level 42, they could have sought a reduced sentence within the Guidelines range for offense level 40 (272 to 365 months). Id.; Mirchandani Aff., ECF No. 1268-6.

         The FPDO reached an agreement with the Government (without involving Williams) and filed a Consent Motion Seeking Reduced Sentences Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) on June 12, 2015. ECF No. 1269-2. The same day, Williams learned of the consent motion from his attorney via email and notified his attorney that there had been a mistake in the calculations. June 12, 2015 Williams Email to Counsel, ECF No. 1269-3. On June 17, 2015, the Court granted the consent motion and reduced Williams's sentence from 600 months to 484 months. Order Reducing Sentence, ECF No. 1231. Williams was notified on June 23, 2015. June 23, 2015 FPDO Ltr. to Williams, ECF No. 1268-4.

         On August 4, 2015, the FPDO contacted the Government, acknowledged the error and sought consent to reduce the sentence further, insisting that had it not erred, it would have requested a sentence within the correct amended Guidelines range, not above it. Kurtz Aff.; Mirchandani Aff. The Government did not disagree that the FPDO erred. Gov Opp'n 4. Nonetheless, it stated that it would not have agreed to a reduction to 365 months and that, even using the correct offense level, it still would have arrived at 484 months by calculating the proportion over the low end of the Guidelines range (600 months as 167% of the low end of offense level 42, and 484 months as 167% of the low end of offense level 40). Aug. 4, 2015 Gov't Email to FPDO, ECF No. 1269-4. Williams also asserts that he would have rejected an above-range modified sentence and proceeded to a contested sentencing hearing. Williams Aff., ECF No. 1268-1.

         As noted, Williams, through retained counsel, attempted to have the Court correct the error. First, on December 15, 2015, he filed a Motion for Leave to File Untimely Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 1235, which the Court granted on February 3, 2016, ECF No. 1236, and a Motion to Correct Order Granting Sentence Reduction, ECF No. 1234, which the Court denied on June 3, 2016, ECF No. 1245. Williams appealed on June 17, 2016. ECF No. 1247. On February 9, 2017, the Fourth Circuit affirmed both the Court's Order Reducing Sentence and its denial of Williams's subsequent Motion to Correct Order Granting Sentence Reduction. ECF No. 1252. On August 14, 2017, this Court appointed counsel for Williams under the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B), ECF No. 1258, and he filed the pending Motion to Vacate, Correct, or Reduce Sentence “pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), or any other applicable statute or rule” on May 4, 2018. Def.'s Mot. 1.

         Discussion

         Williams argues that he has three procedural grounds for relief: (1) pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2255; (2) pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6); and (3) under the principles of contract law, Def.'s Mot. 11-13, and he also seeks leave to file another § 3582 motion, id. at 16.

         § 2255 Motion

         28 U.S.C. § 2255 permits a prisoner to file a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence on ...


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