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Adams v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

March 29, 2017

GEORGE MYRON ADAMS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          JAMES C. FOX Senior United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the court on the Government's Motion to Dismiss [DE-645] George Myron Adams' ("Adams") pending Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [DE-604]. The issues have been fully briefed, and the matter is now ripe for ruling. For the reasons addressed below, the Government's Motion to Dismiss is ALLOWED in part and DENIED in part and Adams' Motion to Vacate is DENIED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On October 24, 2012j Adams was charged in five counts of a twenty-four count indictment in the Eastern District of North Carolina as follows: conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, dispense, and possess with the intent to distribute five hundred grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count One); possession of equipment, chemicals, products, and material with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, and aiding and abetting, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(a)(6) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count Five); possession of pseudoephedrine with the intent to manufacture a methamphetamine and aiding and abetting, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(c)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count Six); possession with the intent to distribute five hundred grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine and aiding and abetting, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count Seven); and possession of pseudoephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(c)(1) (Count Sixteen). See Indictment [DE-1].

         At Adams' arraignment, held on September 3, 2013, he pled guilty to Count One of the Indictment pursuant to a written plea agreement [DE-325]. Adams and the Government agreed that at sentencing the Government would move to dismiss Counts Five, Six, Seven, and Sixteen as to Adams only. Id. at 5. Adams' sentencing was held on February 19, 2014, and this court sentenced him to 188 months' imprisonment and a lifetime term of supervised release. See Judgment [DE-474]. Adams was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment, a fine in the amount of $7, 300.00, and restitution in the amount of $2, 479.00. See Id. On March 4, 2014, Adams filed a Notice of Appeal [DE-486]. On March 18, 2015, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Adams' appeal. See Mar. 18, 2015 Order [DE-534].

         On February 26, 2016, Adams filed the instant pro se Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [DE-604]. In his motion, Adams raises the following claims: (1) his sentence violates Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015); (2) his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to inform him of a more favorable plea offer; (3) his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to object to his fine; and (4) his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to object to his supervised release. On July 11, 2016, the Government filed a Motion to Dismiss [DE-645], arguing that Adams' motion should be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) because he failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         On October 12, 2016, this court found that Adams had stated a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and the Government had not conclusively shown that Adams was not entitled to relief on the second claim in his § 2255 motion. See Oct. 12, 2016 Order [DE-687]. The Clerk of Court was directed to schedule an evidentiary hearing on Adams' second claim. Although Adams previously had retained counsel, this court found that he qualified for appointed counsel, and the Federal Public Defender was directed to provide representation.

         On December 29, 2016, this court addressed the second claim of Adams' § 2255 motion at an evidentiary hearing [DE-703]. Adams was present and represented by appointed counsel Elizabeth Dean Hopkins Thomas. The Government was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Seth Morgan Wood. Following the evidentiary hearing, both parties filed supplemental briefing. See [DE-706, -708].

         II. Legal Standards

         A. 28 U.S.C. § 2255

         Adams filed the instant motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which provides:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). With a § 2255 motion, the petitioner bears the burden of proving the grounds for collateral attack by a preponderance of the evidence. Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958); Hayes v. United States, Nos. 4:13CR70, 4:16CV54, 2017 WL 976624, at *2 (E.D. Va. Mar. 13, 2017). When deciding a § 2255 motion, the court need not hold a hearing when "the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). When conducting the § 2255(b) review, pro se filings are held to a less stringent standard. See Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978).

         B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not to resolve conflicts of fact or decide the merits of the action. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44 (4th Cir. 1999). When considering a motion to dismiss, the court assumes the truth of all facts alleged in the complaint and the existence of any fact that can be proved which is consistent with the complaint's allegations. E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). However, the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" and the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Wahi v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 562 F.3d 599, 615 n.26 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). "[A] plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his ' entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Moreover, a court "need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from the facts" nor "accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." E. Shore Mkts., 213 F.3d at 180.

         III. Discussion

         A. Adams has failed to state a claim for relief under Johnson in his first claim.

         In his first claim, Adams argues that his sentence violates Johnson. Mot. Vacate [DE-604] at 5. In particular, Adams contends that his offense of conviction, Count One, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and the two guidelines enhancements, U.S.S.G. §§ 2D1.1(b)(1) and 2Dl.l(b)(13)(C)(ii), are "unconstitutionally vague." Id.

         In Johnson, the Supreme Court addressed whether increasing a defendant's sentence based on the residual clause, contained in 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), violates due process. 135 S.Ct. at 2551. The residual clause provided that an offense was a "violent felony" for purposes of § 924(e), if it "otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii). The Supreme Court held that "[increasing a defendant's sentence under the [residual] clause denies due process of law." Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2557. In Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), the Supreme Court held that Johnson applies retroactively to cases on collateral review. 136 S.Ct. at 1268.

         Adams' reliance on Johnson is misplaced because he was not sentenced as an armed career criminal, and he did not receive a sentence enhancement based on a prior violent felony conviction. Because Adams has failed to state a claim for relief under Johnson, his first claim will be dismissed.

         B. Adams has failed to state a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel ...


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