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United States v. Camarillo

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 12, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOEL CAMARILLO 30509-034

         SECTION "L"

          ORDER AND REASONS

         Before the Court is Defendant Joel Camarillo's Motion to Correct his Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Rec. Doc. 371). Having reviewed Mr. Camarillo's Motion, the Government's response (R. Doc. 376) and the applicable law, the Court now issues this Order & Reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 27, 2008, Joel Camarillo (“Camarillo”) pleaded guilty to Counts One and Six of an eighteen-count superseding indictment. (R. Doc. 138). Count One charged Camarillo with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five hundred grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A) all in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (R. Doc. 33 at 2). Count Six charged Camarillo with knowingly possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Id. at 4.

         Camarillo entered into a plea agreement waiving “the right to appeal [his] conviction and/or his sentence, including but not limited to any appeal right conferred by Title 28, United States Code, Sections 1291, and by Title 18, U.S.C. § 3742.” (R. Doc. 140 at 2). Camarillo further “waive[d] his right to contest his conviction and/or his sentence in any collateral proceeding, including proceedings brought under Title 28, United States Code, Section 2241 and Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255….” Id. However, Camarillo reserved “the right to bring a direct appeal of any sentence imposed in excess of the statutory maximum.” Id. at 3. On August 20, 2008, The Honorable Helen G. Berrigan sentenced Camarillo to 151 months as to Count One and one month as to Count Six, to be served consecutively. (R. Doc. 225). Judge Berrigan further sentenced Camarillo to five years supervised release for each of Counts One and Six, to be served concurrently. Id.

         On June 3, 2015, Judge Berrigan reduced Camarillo's sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) based on a guideline sentencing range that had subsequently been lowered by Amendment 782 to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and made retroactive by the United States Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 994(u). (R. Doc. 324). Camarillo's sentence for Count One was reduced to 121 months. Id. Camarillo's case was transferred to this Court on February 29, 2016, for all further proceedings. (R. Doc. 336).

         II. PRESENT MOTION

         On October 3, 2016, the Court received Camarillo's Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (R. Doc. 371). In his motion, Camarillo seeks relief based on Amendment 794 to § 3B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which provides that a defendant who, for example, “does not have a proprietary interest in the criminal activity and who is simply being paid to perform certain tasks should be considered for an adjustment under this guideline.” Camarillo avers he merits relief because his counsel was ineffective and because Amendment 794 was not available at the time of his sentencing. (R. Doc. 371 at 4). Camarillo asks the Court to vacate his sentence and remand for resentencing to include a four-level reduction for a mitigating role under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2. Id. at 12. He avers his new sentencing should be 78 months, making him entitled to immediate release. (R. Doc. 371-1 at 4). Camarillo also asks for immediate deportation to Mexico upon release.

         The Government opposed the Motion, arguing that Camarillo waived his right to relief under § 2255 except in limited circumstances not relevant here, that Amendment 794 is not retroactive, and that Camarillo offers no evidence to support his contention that his role in the crime was minor. (R. Doc. 376). The Government further contends that an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary because the case record shoes Camarillo is not entitled to relief. Id. at 8.

         III. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Relief under § 2255

         In his plea agreement, Camarillo expressly waived his right to collateral relief under § 2255 except for “the right to bring a direct appeal of any sentence imposed in excess of the statutory maximum.” Id. at 3. The instant motion is neither a direct appeal nor an appeal of a sentence imposed in excess of the statutory maximum. However, this Court recognizes that Camarillo is proceeding pro se and should accordingly “liberally construe pleadings and briefs submitted by pro se litigants, reading such submissions to raise the strongest arguments they suggest.” Harris v. Miller, 818 F.3d 49, 56 (2d Cir. 2016); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). This Court will therefore construe Camarillo's motion as a Motion for Modification of Sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), which permits the Court to modify a term of imprisonment of a Defendant who was sentenced based on a “sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(o).” See United States v. Perez, 2016 WL 4775536, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 14, 2016) (construing § 2255 motion seeking retroactive application of Amendment 794 as a § 3582(c)(2) motion); Harris v. United States, No. 3:08-CV-0060-O, 2008 WL 4821321, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 5, 2008).

         B. Amendment 794

         Camarillo seeks relief under Amendment 794 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which amends the commentary section of U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2 to provide courts with additional guidance and to clarify a circuit split, finding that the “mitigating role is applied inconsistently and more sparingly than the Commission intended.” U.S.S.G. Amendment 794. The Amendment clarified language in Note 3(A) of § 3B1.2 and also included a “non-exhaustive list of ...


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