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United States v. Mitchell

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 3, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TREY MITCHELL

         SECTION: "A" (3)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JAY C. ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Vacate Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Rec. Doc. 518) filed by Defendant Trey Mitchell. The United States of America (“the Government”) opposes the motion (Rec. Doc. 530). Having considered the pro se motion, the opposition, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant's Motion to Vacate Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Rec. Doc. 518) is DENIED for the reasons set forth below.

         I. Background

         The District Court Judge previously presiding in this matter[1] held a rearraignment on September 16, 2015, during which Mitchell plead guilty to Count 2 of a Superseding Indictment. Pursuant to the plea agreement and as admitted to by Mitchell in the factual basis, he committed a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). (Rec. Doc. 349, 350). On March 2, 2016, the court sentenced Mitchell to 188 months to be served consecutively with state sentences that have been imposed. (Rec. Doc. 419). Mitchell brings the instant pro se motion to vacate the sentence alleging three grounds: (1) he is innocent; (2) his career offender enhancement under the guidelines was inappropriate; and (3) incompetent and infective assistance of counsel. (Rec. Doc. 518).

         II. Legal Standard

         Section 2255 “provides the federal prisoner with a post-conviction remedy to test the legality of his detention by filing a motion to vacate judgment and sentence in his trial court.” U.S. v. Grammas, 376 F.3d 433, 436 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting Kuhn v. U.S., 432 F.2d 82, 83 (5th Cir. 1970)). The statute establishes that a prisoner in custody under a sentence of a federal court “may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.” Id. (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255). Where there has been a “denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack, the court shall vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate.” Id. Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for violations of constitutional rights and for a narrow range of injuries in federal criminal cases that could not have been raised on direct appeal and would result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. U.S. v. Petrus, 44 F.3d 1004 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing U.S. v. Vaughn, 955 F.2d 367, 368 (5th Cir. 1992)).

         A district court may deny a Section 2255 motion without conducting any type of evidentiary hearing if “the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” U.S. v. Arguellas, 78 Fed.Appx. 984, 986 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255; U.S. v. Bartholomew, 974 F.2d 39, 41 (5th Cir. 1992)). In those cases, however, where the record does not conclusively negate a prisoner's entitlement to relief, contested fact issues may not be decided on affidavits alone. Id. (citing Owens v. U.S., 551 F.2d 1053, 1054 (5th Cir. 1977)). No. hearing is necessary if the issues raised have been previously decided on direct appeal, contain no constitutional violation, or lack support in the record. U.S. v. McCollom, 664 F.2d 56, 59 (5th Cir. 1981) (citing Buckelew v. U.S., 575 F.2d 515 (5th Cir. 1978)).

         III. Law and Analysis

         Mitchell argues that his sentence should be vacated based upon three grounds: (1) he is innocent; (2) his career offender enhancement under the guidelines was inappropriate; and (3) incompetent and infective assistance of counsel. The Government argues that the Court should deny Mitchell's motion because: (1) his 2255 motion is untimely; (2) his arguments about his actual innocence and the sentencing guildelines are procedurally barred; and (3) alternatively, his arguments including ineffectiveness of counsel do not have merit. (Rec. Doc. 530, p. 4). Upon review of each ground Mitchell alleges, the Court is persuaded by the Government's response and denies Mitchell's motion.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f), a motion to vacate the sentence is subject to a one-year period of limitation which shall run from the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final. A judgment becomes final when “the federal prisoner fails to file a notice of appeal from his conviction.” U.S. v. Plascencia, 537 F.3d 385, 388 (5th Cir. 2008). In criminal cases, the notice of appeal must be filed within fourteen days of the entry of the judgment. Fed. R. App. (4)(b)(1)A)(i).

         The Court finds that Mitchell's claims are barred as untimely. The entry of judgment was signed by Judge Engelhardt on March 3, 2016. Mitchell's sentence became final on March 21, 2016; therefore he had until March 21, 2017 to file his motion to vacate the sentence. Considering Mitchell filed this motion on August 14, 2018, the Court finds that the motion is denied as untimely.

         Nevertheless, the Court also denies the motion on the merits. Mitchell's first claim is that he is actually innocent of conspiring to distribute narcotics, and his second claim is that he was incorrectly classified as a “career offender.” In its opposition, the Government counters by stating that these claims are barred by the collateral review waiver in his plea agreement. (Rec. Doc. 530, p. 15). The Government ...


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