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Lawrence v. United States

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

May 15, 2017

TYRONE RICARDO LAWRENCE, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the court on petitioner's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence, made pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (DE 796), which challenges his career offender sentencing enhancement in light of the Supreme Court's ruling in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). Also before the court is petitioner's motion to amend (DE 839), seeking to assert a claim based on Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016). The issues raised are ripe for ruling.[1] For the reasons that follow, this court denies both petitioner's motion to vacate and his motion to amend.

         BACKGROUND

         On January 22, 2009, petitioner pleaded guilty, pursuant to a written plea agreement, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of more than one kilogram of heroin, more than five kilograms of cocaine, and more than 50 grams of cocaine base (crack), in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. On September 15, 2009, petitioner was sentenced to 190 months' imprisonment. Petitioner did not appeal the court's judgment.

         On June 27, 2012, petitioner filed his first motion to vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. On August 12, 2015, the court dismissed petitioner's motion to vacate. On June 21, 2016, petitioner's appointed counsel filed the instant § 2255 motion, arguing that in light of Johnson, petitioner was improperly sentenced as a career offender. On July 28, 2016, this case was stayed pending the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United States, 15-8544. Petitioner filed his motion to amend on March 20, 2017. On April 13, 2017, this court lifted the stay.

         COURT'S DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A petitioner seeking relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 must show 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). “Unless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court shall . . . grant a prompt hearing thereon, determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto.” Id. § 2255(b).

         B. Analysis

         1. Petitioner's Johnson claim fails on the merits.

         Prior to Johnson, an offense was deemed a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act's (“ACCA”) so-called “residual clause” if it was punishable by greater than one year's imprisonment and “involve[d] conduct that present[ed] a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). In Johnson, the Supreme Court struck down the residual clause of the ACCA as unconstitutionally vague. 135 S.Ct. at 2563.

         In this case, petitioner relies on Johnson's reasoning to challenge his designation as a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. The Supreme Court recently held, however, that “the Guidelines are not amenable to a vagueness challenge.” Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886, 894 (2017). Thus, petitioner's status as a career offender is not subject to constitutional challenge.

         2. Petitioner's Mathis claim is untimely.

         Petitioner's next motion before the court is a motion to amend, which raises a claim under Mathis. In Mathis, the Supreme Court held that when determining whether an offense qualifies as a predicate under the ACCA, the court takes a modified categorical approach, which means looking to the statutory elements of the offense rather than the means of commission. 136 S.Ct. at ...


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