United States District Court, D. Minnesota
H. MacDonald, United States Attorney, and Deidre Y. Aanstad,
Assistant United States Attorney, for plaintiff.
Michael Wayne Wadena, pro se defendant.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S 28 U.S.C. § 2255
R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE
2016, Defendant Michael Wayne Wadena pleaded guilty to being
a Felon in Possession of a Firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1). (Plea Agreement at 1, Aug. 5, 2016, Docket
No. 26.) At the time, Wadena had three previous convictions
in Minnesota state courts, two for Third Degree Assault and
one for a Fourth Degree Controlled Substance offense.
(Id. at 3.)
United States and Wadena disagreed over whether Wadena's
prior convictions subjected him to the Armed Career Criminal
Act's (“ACCA”) fifteen-year mandatory minimum
sentence. The ACCA's mandatory minimum applies when a
federal defendant has at least three prior convictions, each
conviction being for either a “serious drug
offense” or a “violent felony.” 18 U.S.C.
§ 924(e)(1). A serious drug offense is defined as one
“involving manufacturing, distributing, or possessing
with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled
substance . . . for which a maximum term of imprisonment of
ten years or more is prescribed by law.” 18 U.S.C.
United States argued that Wadena's three convictions
qualified under the ACCA and that Wadena was therefore
subject to the fifteen-year minimum sentence. (USA's
Position on Sentencing at 6-12, May 5, 2017, Docket No. 42.)
Wadena disagreed, and argued that the ACCA did not apply.
(Def.'s Position on Sentencing at 6-16, Apr. 25, 2017,
Docket No. 37.) As relevant here, Wadena admitted that his
controlled substance conviction came with a statutory maximum
of fifteen years imprisonment but argued that the conviction
should not serve as an ACCA predicate because the Minnesota
Sentencing Guidelines calculation used at his state
sentencing prescribed a sentence below ten years.
(Id. at 16.)
sentencing hearing, the Court overruled Wadena's
objection to the ACCA enhancements, finding that clear Eighth
Circuit and Supreme Court precedent foreclosed his
guidelines-based argument. (Tr. at 10, May 19, 2017, Docket
No. 57.) Finding that Wadena was subject to the ACCA's
fifteen-year minimum, the Court sentenced Wadena to 180
months imprisonment. (Sentencing J. at 2, May 11, 2017,
Docket No. 48.)
now files a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion to Vacate, Set
Aside, or Correct his Sentence. (Pro Se Motion to Vacate,
Feb. 25, 2019, Docket No. 68.) He asserts that the Court
incorrectly concluded that his controlled substance
conviction was a serious drug offense and that the Court
incorrectly applied the ACCA minimum. He argues that because
the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines recommended a sentence
below ten years, and because Minnesota courts must usually
stay within the guidelines range, his conviction does not
qualify as a serious drug offense.
the soundness of Wadena's argument then and now, the
Court is bound by precedent to find that his controlled
substance conviction qualifies as an ACCA predicate. It is
clear that his statute of conviction carries with it a
statutory maximum of fifteen years imprisonment. Minn. Stat.
§ 152.024 subd. 3. And, although the top of Wadena's
sentencing guidelines calculation was far below ten years,
the Supreme Court has made clear that “the phrase
‘maximum term of imprisonment . . . prescribed by
law' for the ‘offense' was not meant to apply
to the top sentence in a guidelines range” but instead
was meant to apply to “to the maximum term prescribed
by the relevant criminal statute.” United States v.
Rodriquez, 553 U.S. 377, 390-91 (2008). See also
Griffin v. United States, 617 Fed.Appx. 618, 624-25
(8th Cir. 2015) (holding that the statutory
maximum determines whether a conviction qualifies as a
serious drug offense); United States v. Bynum, 669
F.3d 880, 885 n. 3 (8th Cir. 2012) (discussing
Minn. Stat. § 152.024 and its applicability as a serious
drug offense). Wadena argues that Minnesota sentencing courts
have limited discretion in departing from guideline ranges,
and that his maximum sentence is therefore less than ten
years. But the Rodriquez decision found that limited
discretion dispositive, holding that “the top sentence
in a guidelines range is generally not really the
‘maximum term . . . prescribed by law' for the
‘offense' because guidelines systems typically
allow a sentencing judge to impose a sentence that exceeds
the top of the guidelines range under appropriate
circumstances.” Rodriquez, 553 U.S. at 390.
also relies on United States v. Haltiwanger, 637
F.3d 881 (8th Cir. 2011), to argue that the Eighth
Circuit does consider a defendant's specific possible
sentencing outcomes in determining whether a prior conviction
qualifies as a serious drug offense. However, the Eighth
Circuit has distinguished Haltiwanger from the
present situation because Haltiwanger's maximum statutory
sentence was dependent on whether he was a repeat offender.
United States v. Jefferson, 822 F.3d 477, 481
(8th Cir. 2016). Here, Wadena's maximum state
sentence was clearly prescribed at fifteen years and was not
dependent on Wadena meeting any prerequisites. Thus,
Haltiwanger is inapplicable.
the Court accurately applied Rodriquez and its
protégé, the Court did not err in finding that
Wadena's Minnesota controlled substance conviction was an
ACCA predicate offense. Accordingly, the Court did not err in
finding that Wadena was subject to the ACCA's
fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence. The Court will
therefore deny Wadena's § 2255 Motion.
United States requests that the Court deny Wadena a
certificate of appealability. The Court may grant a
certificate of appealability only where a petitioner has made
a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional
right. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); Copeland
v. Washington, 232 F.3d 969 (8th Cir. 2000).
To make such a showing, the issues must be debatable among
reasonable jurists, a court must be able to resolve the
issues differently, or the case must deserve further
proceedings. See Flieger v. Delo, 16 F.3d 878,
882-83 (8th Cir. 1994). The Court finds that it is
unlikely that another court would decide the issues raised in
this § 2255 motion differently. For this reason, the
Court concludes that Wadena has failed to make the required
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right,
and the Court denies a certificate of appealability.
on the foregoing, and all the files, records, and proceedings