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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 5, 2017


         SECTION: J(1)



         Before the Court is a Motion to Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Rec. Doc. 1585) filed by the defendant Ronnie Williams. Williams filed a supplemental memorandum in support of the motion (Rec. Doc. 1614), the government filed an opposition (Rec. Doc. 1622), and Williams filed a reply (Rec. Doc. 1625). Having considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be DENIED.


         In August 2004, Williams pleaded guilty in this Court to one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute fifty grams or more of cocaine base and one count of using a communication facility in committing possession with the intent to distribute.[1] The plea agreement was made pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) and the parties stipulated to a sentence of 192 months imprisonment. On November 18, 2004, the Court accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Williams as stipulated in the plea agreement. (Rec. Doc. 875 at 10.) The Court imposed this sentence despite the fact that Williams' presentence investigative report determined that he was subject to the career offender enhancement of U.S.S.G. §§ 4B1.1 and 4B1.2 and set the sentencing guideline range from 360 months to life imprisonment.[2] At the time of Williams' sentencing, the sentencing guidelines were mandatory and it was not until the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), that the guidelines became advisory.

         On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), which struck down the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924 (e)(2)(B)(ii) (“ACCA”). Under the ACCA, a defendant is subject to an increased prison term if he or she had three previous convictions of a “serious drug offense” or “violent felony.” Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2555; 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The ACCA provides a definition of violent felony and enumerates certain crimes that so qualify. That definition also includes a residual clause, which allows a crime to satisfy the definition of violent felony if it is punishable by more than a year and “involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” Id. The Johnson Court deemed the residual clause void for vagueness. Id. In Welsh v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), the Court then made the rule in Johnson retroactive.

         On June 23, 2016, Williams filed the instant motion to correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Williams argues that based on the Court's holding in Johnson, the residual clause of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2) is void for vagueness. Williams received an enhancement under § 4B1.1 of the sentencing guidelines as a “career offender.” According to his pre-sentence report, Williams qualified as a career offender because he had been convicted of two previous “crimes of violence” as defined in § 4B1.2. However, the definition of “crime of violence” includes a residual clause that is identical to the residual clause in the ACCA, which the Johnson Court held to be unconstitutionally vague.[3] Williams argues that the rule espoused in Johnson applies to the enhancement he received to the mandatory guideline range in his case.

         On March 6, 2017, The Supreme Court ruled that the residual clause found in U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2) is not subject to a vagueness challenge because the sentencing guidelines are advisory and “do not fix the permissible range of sentences.” Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886, 892 (2017). Williams argues that Beckles is distinguishable because the enhancement to his guideline range occurred at a time when the guideline range was mandatory. Thus, Williams argues that the rule set out in Johnson, and not Beckles, applies to his case.

         The government opposes Williams' § 2255 motion, arguing that it is not timely. Section 2255)(f) sets forth a one year period of limitation within which time the motion must be brought. To be timely, the movant must bring the motion within a year of the latest of the following events:

(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;
(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action;
(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

§ 2255(f)(1)-(4). Williams argues that his motion satisfied this timeliness requirement under § 2255(f)(3) because it was ...

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