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United States v. Strickland

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 16, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Jordan Denzel Strickland, Defendant.

          Jeffrey Paulsen, United States Attorney

          Jordan Denzel Strickland, Pro Se.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Jordan Denzel Strickland's pro se motion for an order of this Court to correct his sentence pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(a) [Doc. No. 196]. The Court construes Strickland's motion to be brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and, for the reasons set forth below, denies it.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On August 29, 2014, Strickland and several other individuals participated in an armed robbery of the beer garden at the Minnesota State Fair, resulting in the theft of approximately $104, 000 in cash. (Plea Agreement at 1, 1 [See Docket Entry 112].) Strickland subsequently pleaded guilty to interference with commerce by robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 and § 2 (commonly known as “Hobbs Act robbery”). (Id. at 2, 2.) In exchange for his guilty plea, the Government agreed to dismiss Count 2 of the Indictment, which charged Strickland with using a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and § 2. (Id. at 4, 4; Indictment at 2 [Doc. No. 12].)

         In his plea agreement, Strickland stipulated to a 5-level firearm enhancement pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2B3.1(b)(2). (Plea Agreement at 4, 7A.) The plea agreement states that “[t]he base offense level of 20 must be increased by 5 levels because a firearm was brandished or possessed by one or more of the defendant's co-defendants and such possession and brandishing of a firearm was reasonably foreseeable to the defendant.” (Id.) Based on this enhancement, as well as additional enhancements and reductions, the plea agreement anticipated an offense level of 26 and a Guidelines range of 70-87 months of imprisonment. (Id. at 5, 11.) On July 28, 2015, this Court duly sentenced Strickland to a total term in prison of 70 months, three years of supervised release, and restitution. (See Third Am. Min. Entry [Doc. No. 176]; Sentencing J. [Doc. No. 177].)

         Strickland did not appeal his sentence. But on January 30, 2017, he filed the present motion pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 35(a) challenging the validity of his sentence. Strickland first asserts that the 5-level sentencing enhancement that he received for the brandishing of a firearm during the robbery violates his Sixth Amendment rights because “[b]randishing was ‘element' [sic] requiring submission to the Jury.” (Mot. at 2-3, 7.) Second, he argues that “[a]s in Welch/Johnson, ”[1] the Guidelines provision used to enhance his sentence, U.S.S.G. § 1B1.3(a)(1)(A)(B), “falls under the residual clause that was declared unconstitutional and can no longer be used” to support enhancements. (See Id. at 3, 8.) Finally, Strickland argues that his sentence should be corrected based on the then-pending case of Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017).[2]

         Strickland's motion, however, does not fall under the scope of Rule 35(a). That Rule provides that “[w]ithin 14 days after sentencing, the court may correct a sentence that resulted from arithmetical, technical, or other clear error.” Strickland filed his motion well after the 14-day deadline had passed, and he does not argue that his sentence should be corrected based on an arithmetical, technical, or other clear error. (See Mot.) As such, on June 29, 2017, this Court issued an order giving Strickland the opportunity to either withdraw his motion to avoid its re-characterization as one brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, or amend it to contain every claim for relief that he believes is available to him under § 2255. (See June 29 Order [Doc. No. 199]; See also Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 383 (2003) (holding that a district court may only re-characterize a pro se motion as a § 2255 motion if it first issues certain warnings and gives the defendant the opportunity to withdraw or amend the motion.) This Court also requested a response from the Government, (see Mar. 13, 2017 Order [Doc. No. 197]), which the Government filed on March 31, 2017 opposing Strickland's motion. (Gov't's Opp'n.)

         After this Court's order, Strickland neither withdrew his motion nor amended it, thus this Court re-characterizes it as one brought under § 2255.


         A. Standard for Relief

         Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for violations 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.” United States v. Apfel, 97 F.3d 1074, 1076 (8th Cir. 1996). Permissible grounds for a § 2255 motion also include claims that the sentencing court lacked jurisdiction to impose a sentence, or that the sentence exceeded the maximum authorized by law or is otherwise subject to collateral attack. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Beyond constitutional and jurisdictional errors, however, the permissible scope of § 2255 claims is “severely limited.” Sun Bear v. United States, 644 F.3d 700, 704 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc).

         For the reasons explained below, Strickland fails to make out a viable claim for relief under § ...

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