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Abdullah v. United States

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

April 20, 2018

MUHAMMED MAHDEE ABDULLAH, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on petitioner's motions for reconsideration. (DE 290, DE 292). The issues raised are ripe for ruling.[1] For the reasons that follow, this court denies petitioner's motions.

         BACKGROUND

         On December 1, 2004, petitioner was charged in two counts of a three-count indictment with the following: conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base (crack) and more than 500 grams of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846 (Count One); and distribution of a quantity of cocaine and aiding and abetting, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count Three). At his arraignment, held on February 22, 2005, petitioner pleaded not guilty. Following a three-day jury trial, petitioner was found guilty.

         On June 14, 2005, the court sentenced petitioner to 400 months' imprisonment on Count One and 360 months' imprisonment on Count Three, to run concurrently. Petitioner appealed his judgment, and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed his conviction and sentence. See United States v. Burston, 195 Fed.Appx. 150 (4th Cir. 2006) (appeal consolidated with codefendant). Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, but it was denied. See Abdullah v. United States, 549 U.S. 1145 (2007).

         On January 9, 2008, petitioner filed his first motion to vacate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. On March 11, 2009, the court addressed petitioner's three claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and denied petitioner's motion. On June 20, 2016, the Fourth Circuit granted authorization for petitioner to file a second or successive § 2255 motion. On that same day, through appointed counsel, petitioner filed a § 2255 motion, arguing that in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2551, he was improperly sentenced as a career offender.[2]

         On July 21, 2016, the court stayed this matter pending the Supreme Court's final decision in Beckles v. United States, 15-8544. On April 7, 2017, the court lifted the stay. Petitioner was directed to show cause within thirty days why his § 2255 motion should not be dismissed in light of Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). Petitioner failed to respond, and July 12, 2017, the court denied petitioner's motion to vacate.

         Additionally, on March 15, 2017, petitioner filed a motion for reduction of sentence under Amendment 794, which the court also denied on July 12, 2017, holding “defendant is not entitled to a sentence reduction pursuant to Amendment 782 because his original sentencing guideline range was based on his status as a career offender rather than drug quantity.” (DE 283).

         On July 24, 2017, petitioner filed the first of two motions for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration, both of which the court granted, allowing petitioner to file his motion by October 20, 2017. On October 23, 2017 and on February 5, 2018, petitioner filed the instant two motions for reconsideration, the former requesting the court reconsider its denial of petitioner's motion for reduction of sentence and the latter requesting the court reconsider its denial of petitioner's original § 2255 motion to vacate.

         COURT'S DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Reconsider Court's Denial of Motion for Reduction of Sentence

         The court's authority to modify a sentence is extremely narrow. There are only three circumstances in which modification is allowed: (1) upon motion of the Director of the Bureau of Prisons; (2) as permitted by statute or Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35; and (3) where the relevant sentencing guidelines have changed since sentence was imposed. See 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), (1)(B), and (2). However, a reduction of a term of imprisonment is not authorized (i.e. not consistent with applicable policy statements) under § 3582(c)(2) if the amendment “does not have the effect of lowering the defendant's applicable guideline range.” U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(a)(2)(B).

         In the instant case, based on a total offense level of 38 and a criminal history category of VI, petitioner's sentencing guideline range is 360 months to life imprisonment. (See PSR (DE 293 June 6, 2005) at ¶ 59). Amendment 782 does not have the effect of lowering the defendant's applicable guideline range. Although Amendment 782 reduces the petitioner's base offense level from 36 to 34, petitioner's total offense level is thereby only reduced from 38 to 37 due to the application of petitioner's career offender status. (See id. at ¶ 54 (“[D] efendant is a career offender within the meaning of Section 4B1.1 of the guidelines. Section 4B1.1 prescribes an offense level of 37. However, as an offense level of 38 has already been established, the offence level is not affected by the career offender designation.”)). Based on a total offense level of 37 and a criminal history category of VI, petitioner's sentencing guideline range remains 360 months to life imprisonment. See U.S.S.G. Ch. 5, Pt. A (2005).

         Petitioner argues that he “should receive a 2 level reduction since this court did not originally use U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 to determine sentence.” (DE 290 at 2). The court did, however, originally apply the career offender guideline to determine that petitioner is a career offender, (see PSR (DE 293 June 6, 2005) at ¶ 54 (“defendant is a career offender within the meaning of Section 4B1.1”)), even though that status as originally applied had no effect. (Id.). Because the court applied the career offender guideline previously, and determined that petitioner was a career offender, the court is required to apply that provision in determining whether petitioner is entitled to a sentencing reduction. See U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b)(1) (emphasis added) (“the court shall substitute ...


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