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United States v. James

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 31, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Joseph A. James, Defendant.

          Gregory G. Brooker and Bradley M. Endicott, United States Attorney's Office, for Plaintiff.

          Joseph Alan James, FCI Pekin, P.O. pro se.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant-Petitioner Joseph A. James' Pro Se Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence [Doc. No. 35] and his Pro Se Motion for Clarification [Doc. No. 38]. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant-Petitioner's § 2255 motion is denied and his Motion for Clarification is denied as moot.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On September 18, 2015, the Government charged James by Information with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). (Information at 1 [Doc. No. 8].) James was represented by United States Federal Defender Reynaldo Aligada throughout the underlying proceedings. On October 1, 2015, James entered a guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement with the Government. (Minute Entry of 10/1/15 [Doc. No. 12].) In the Plea Agreement, he agreed that if the matter went to trial, the Government would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was a previously convicted felon from whom law enforcement officers seized seven firearms on or about July 7, 2015. (Plea Agmt. ¶¶ 1-2 [Doc. No. 14].) Additionally, James agreed that the Government would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he shot an outdoor automated teller machine (ATM) with one of the firearms on or about July 6, 2015. (Id.) At the hearing in which his guilty plea was entered, James also admitted to shooting the ATM.

         In the Plea Agreement, the Government and Defendant-Petitioner acknowledged that, in calculating the level for specific offense characteristics for sentencing, the Court would consider a four-level increase pursuant to Section 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) of the 2015 U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. (Id. ¶ 6(b)). This offense-level increase was based on Defendant-Petitioner's possession of one or more firearms in connection with another felony offense, (id.), namely, the shooting of the ATM. The Government and Defendant-Petitioner agreed that the applicable advisory sentencing range for the felon-in-possession charge, under the Sentencing Guidelines, was 78-97 months. (Gov't's Sentencing Position at 3 [Doc. No. 25]; Def.'s Sentencing Position at 1 [Doc. No. 24].) The offense carries a statutory maximum of term of imprisonment of 10 years. 18 U.S.C. § 22(g)(1); 18 U.S.C. 924(a)(2).

         At his March 25, 2016 sentencing hearing, James requested a 60-month sentence (see Def.'s Sentencing Position at 1), while the Government requested a 97-month sentence. (See Gov't's Sentencing Position at 1.) Ultimately, this Court sentenced James to a prison term of 78 months. (Judgment at 2 [Doc. No. 30].) He did not directly appeal his sentence.

         James now brings this timely motion to correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, asserting that: (1) the four-level sentencing enhancement under Section 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) is facially unconstitutional and was unconstitutionally applied to him, in violation of his due process rights under the Fifth Amendment and speedy trial rights under the Sixth Amendment, (Def.'s Mot. at 2-3); and (2) his counsel's failure to challenge this enhancement constituted ineffective assistance of counsel, in violation of the Sixth Amendment. (Id. at 4-5.) In addition, James seeks relief on a procedural basis. (Mot. for Clarification at 1; Def.'s Reply at 1 [Doc. No. 41].)

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard for Relief

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a),

[a] prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was with without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral ...

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