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Ramos v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 23, 2019

RAUL CASTILLO RAMOS, pro se Petitioner



         Petitioner Raul Castillo Ramos has filed a pro se Motion for Resentencing Consideration. ECF No. 111. The Government has responded in Opposition. ECF No. 113. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES the Motion.


         On September 8, 2004, Ramos was indicted on six counts of distributing cocaine base (crack) and two counts of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense. ECF No. 5. After a jury trial in 2004, he was convicted of all eight counts. ECF No. 20. On February 2, 2005, Judge Williams of this Court (now retired) sentenced Ramos to 40 years of imprisonment. ECF No. 27. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence. ECF No. 31. On November 27, 2006, the Supreme Court denied Ramos' petition for writ of certiorari. Ramos v. United Stales, 549 U.S. 1065(2006).

         On November 5, 2007, Ramos filed a timely Motion to Vacate, Set Aside and Correct Sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 2255, asserting several ineffective assistance of counsel claims and arguing that his sentence was in excess of the sentence allowed by law. ECF No. 34. In a Memorandum Opinion and Order on December 2, 2008, the Court (J. Williams) denied the Motion to Vacate. ECF Nos. 42 and 43. Ramos appealed on January 9, 2009. ECF No. 46. On July 29, 2009, the Fourth Circuit dismissed Ramos' appeal. ECF No. 53.

         Since then and as described in the Court's February 7, 2017 Memorandum Opinion, ECF No. 109, Ramos has filed multiple motions. The Court has construed many of them as Motions to Vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See ECF Nos. 80, 85, 102. Since Ramos either had not sought or was denied authorization by the Fourth Circuit to file a successive petition in all these cases, the Court denied the motions.

         On June 10, 2016, Ramos filed a Motion to Vacate Sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 2255, alluding to the Supreme Court's opinion in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). ECF No. 101. The Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order on February 7, 2017, denying the Motion to Vacate. ECF Nos. 109 & 110. Based on the law at the time, the Court found Johnson inapplicable to the Motion because, unlike Johnson, Ramos's underlying conviction was a drug offense rather than a crime of violence. ECF No. 109.

         On September 5, 2017, Ramos asked the Court to reconsider his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), relying on Dean v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 1170 (2017). ECF No. 111. On November 1, 2017, the Government filed a response in Opposition. ECF No. 113. In this motion, Ramos is essentially arguing that the Court should reconsider his sentencing because under Dean, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) does not restrain the Court from doing so. ECF No. 111. Relying on Dean, Ramos asks the court to reconsider the sentencing for his predicate offenses and to adjust those sentences to one day each. Id., The Court notes that Ramos was sentenced to the statutory minimum for both the predicate offenses and the § 924(c) offenses.

         The Government argues that the motion is a repetitious filing under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and because Ramos has not sought the appropriate permission from the Fourth Circuit, the Court lacks jurisdiction. The Government also challenges the relevance of the Dean case because Ramos was sentenced to the statutory minimum for the predicate offenses. Lastly, the Government argues that even if Dean is relevant, it does not apply retroactively on collateral review. Id.

         Relatedly, Judge Blake of this Court Ordered that the Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland be appointed to represent Ramos in proceedings pursuant to Section 404 of the First StepActof2Ol8, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194 (2018). ECF No. 115. This Opinion solely addresses Ramos' Motion for Resentencing under Dean, ECF No. 111. Ramos continues to proceed pro se with respect to the present motion.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Absent authorization from the Fourth Circuit, a defendant's successive § 2255 motion is barred and a district court must deny the motion for lack of jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h); United States v. Winestock, 340 F.3d 200, 205 (4th Ch\ 2003) (abrogated in part on other grounds by United Slates v. McRae, 793 F.3d 392 (4th Cir. 2015)); United Stales v. Lora, 629 Fed.Appx. 564, 565 (4th Cir. 2015). Authorization is required even when it appears that a defendant is attempting to file the "functional equivalent" of a § 2255 petition. Winestock 340 F.3d at 206. In fact, district courts should "classify pro se pleadings from prisoners according to their contents, without regard to their captions." Id. at 203.

         As such, the Court first must determine whether Ramos's post-judgment filing should be construed as an unauthorized and successive § 2255 motion attacking his convictions and sentences because he previously filed a § 2255 application, which was dismissed on the merits, and has not obtained court of appeals certification for the present filing as required under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h). If Ramos's filing is construed as an unauthorized arid successive § 2255 motion directly attacking his conviction or sentence, then the Court lacks jurisdiction to consider it. See Winestock, 340 F.3d at 206.

         Generally, defendants "convicted in federal court are required to bring collateral attacks challenging the validity of their judgment and sentence by filing a motion to vacate sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255." In re Vial,115 ...

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