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United States v. Carlson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 8, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DEBORAH MAE CARLSON, Defendant.

          Deborah Mae Carlson, pro se.

          Jeffrey S. Paulsen, Assistant United States Attorney, for plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Defendant Deborah Mae Carlson was convicted of nine counts of mailing threatening communications to her veterinarian and others and three counts of mailing extortionate communications to various business entities. Carlson appealed, and the Eighth Circuit reversed one count of mailing extortionate communications to a business entity, after which Carlson was resentenced. Carlson brings a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct her resentencing under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging, among other grounds, law enforcement misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, and actual innocence. The Court finds that Carlson's motion fails to satisfy the requirements of § 2255 and warrants dismissal.

         BACKGROUND

         Carlson brought her pets to Dr. Katherine Belisle of South Fork Animal Hospital (the “Hospital”) for frequent veterinary care in March 2010. United States v. Carlson, 787 F.3d 939, 941-42 (8th Cir. 2015). From March through May 2010, Belisle received at the Hospital eight hand-addressed letters (“Belisle Letters”) detailing threats of her kidnap, torture, and rape. Id. at 942. One letter was delivered with a knife in the Hospital's mailbox. Id. In addition, two other Hospital staff received letters at the Hospital detailing harm to be committed against them and Belisle. Id.

         Three other businesses near the Hospital also received threatening letters (“Business Letters”) around this time, but these letters were falsely signed with Belisle's name. Id. Notably, one letter was addressed to “Scott Lake Veterinary Center.” Id. Each of the Business Letters threatened physical violence, property damage, and defamation if the recipient failed to deliver large sums of money or veterinary supplies to the Hospital. Id.

         After a jury trial, Carlson was indicted and convicted of nine counts of mailing a threatening communication in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876(c) and three counts of mailing a threatening communication with intent to extort in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876(b) and (d). Id.; (see also Jury Verdict, May 8, 2013, Docket No. 75). The Court sentenced Carlson to 33 months in custody and 3 years of supervised release with various conditions. (Sentencing J., Mar. 31, 2014, Docket No. 101.)

         On appeal, Carlson challenged the three counts of mailing a threatening communication with intent to extort. Carlson, 787 F.3d at 941. The Eighth Circuit reversed on one count, which involved the letter addressed to Scott Lake Veterinary Center. Id. at 949. The Eighth Circuit held that the jury was not properly instructed on the definition of “person” with regard to the victim of extortion under § 876 and that the letter addressed to Scott Lake Veterinary Center was ambiguous as to whether the victim was a natural person. Id. at 948-49. On remand, the Court again imposed a sentence of 33 months incarceration, which Carlson had already completed at the time of resentencing in October 2015. (Resentencing J., Nov. 9, 2015, Docket No. 138.)

         Carlson presents ten grounds on which she argues the Court should vacate, set aside, or correct her resentencing. (Def.'s Mot. to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (“Mot.”), Oct. 14, 2016, Docket No. 140.) In addition, Carlson requests an evidentiary hearing. (Def.'s Reply Mem. at 1-2, Dec. 13, 2016, Docket No. 143.) For the foregoing reasons, the Court denies both Carlson's motion and request for an evidentiary hearing.

         ANALYSIS

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Section 2255 allows a federal prisoner in custody a limited opportunity to seek post-conviction relief on the grounds that “the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). “Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for transgressions of constitutional rights and for a narrow range of injuries that could not have been raised on direct appeal and, if uncorrected, would result in a complete miscarriage of justice.” Eagle v. United States, 742 F.3d 1079, 1081-82 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v. Apfel, 97 F.3d 1074, 1076 (8th Cir. 1996)). In addition, this Court continues to have jurisdiction over Carlson's motion because individuals on supervised release are “considered to be ‘in custody' for purposes of a § 2255 motion.” United States v. Pregent, 190 F.3d 279, 283 (4th Cir. 1999).

         II. ...


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