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Taylor v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

April 23, 2019

DONNELL ALEXANDER TAYLOR, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Petitioner Donnell Alexander Taylor's Rule 59(e) Motion to Reconsider dismissal of his pro se 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence and denial of his “Motion to Supplement” his § 2255 Motion to Vacate. (Doc. No. 8.). Also before the Court are three motions to supplement the Motion to Reconsider. (Doc. Nos. 9, 10, 11-1.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 4, 2006, a federal jury convicted Taylor of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and aiding and abetting the same, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 851 and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count One); possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Count Two), and possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (Count Three). Verdict, Doc. 48.[1] Prior to sentencing, a presentence report (“PSR”) was prepared using the 2006 United States Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.”) Manual, and the probation officer concluded Taylor qualified for an enhanced sentence as a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. PSR, Doc. 69 ¶¶ 20, 32, 34-35. According to the PSR, Taylor qualified as a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, based on his prior North Carolina convictions for Assault with Deadly Weapon Inflicting Serious Injury (“AWDWISI”), Possession With Intent to Manufacture, Sell or Deliver Marijuana, and Possession With Intent to Sell and Deliver Cocaine. Id. at ¶ 20.

         The probation officer calculated a guidelines sentencing range of 420 months to life in prison for all three counts. Id. at ¶ 64. The statutory term of imprisonment for Count One was 120 months to life in prison, while Count Two carried a mandatory consecutive sentence of at least five years. Id. The statutory term for Count Three was a maximum of 10 years. Id.

         The Court sentenced Taylor to 480-month and 120-month concurrent prison terms for Counts One and Three, respectively, and to a term of 60 months' imprisonment for Count Two, to run consecutively to Counts One and Three. Judgment 2, Doc. 54. Judgment was affirmed on appeal. United States v. Taylor, 283 Fed.Appx. 172, 176 (4th Cir. 2008) (unpublished).

         Taylor filed a timely § 2255 motion to vacate, which this Court dismissed. Order, Taylor v. United States, No. 3:09-cv-00089-FDW (W.D.N.C July 20, 2009), Doc. No. 2. Thereafter, he filed several unauthorized successive motions to vacate, which were dismissed.[2]

         On June 20, 2016, Taylor sought authorization to file a successive motion to vacate in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, contending that under the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), made retroactive to cases on collateral review, Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), he no longer qualifies as a career offender under the federal sentencing guidelines and should be resentenced. (Pet., Doc. No. 1.) The Fourth Circuit granted Taylor's motion and authorized him to file a successive § 2255 motion based on Johnson. (4th Cir. Order, Doc. No. 1-1.)

         In his Motion to Vacate, Taylor raised a single claim -- that pursuant to the holding in Johnson, 135 S.Ct. 2551, his North Carolina conviction for AWDWISI no longer qualifies as a predicate crime of violence under the residual clause of the career offender sentencing guideline. (§ 2255 Mot. 4, Doc. No. 1.) On November 14, 2016, Taylor filed a Motion to Supplement his § 2255 Motion to Vacate, seeking to add a claim that his convictions for possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime (Count Two) and possession of a firearm by a felon (Count Three) should be vacated because the firearm at issue was an “antique.” (Mot. to Suppl. § 2255 Mot., Doc. No. 5.)

         After Taylor filed his Motion to Vacate, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Beckles v. United States, holding that Johnson does not extend to the advisory federal sentencing guidelines. 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). Because the residual clause of the career offender guideline under which Taylor was sentenced remained valid, this Court determined he was not entitled to relief under Johnson. (Order Dismiss. § 2255 Mot. 4-5, Doc. No. 6.)

         As for Taylor's Motion to Supplement his Motion to Vacate, the Court found the Motion was untimely because it was not filed within a year of the Johnson decision, see § 2255(f)(3), and the facts supporting the claims presented in the Motion could have been discovered with due diligence prior to his convictions, see § 2255(f)(4). (Order Deny. Mot. to Suppl. § 2255 Mot. 6-7, Doc. No. 6.) The Court also found the claims raised in the Motion to Supplement did not relate back to the claims raised in the Motion to Vacate, see Fed. Rule Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(B). (Id. at 7-8.) As such, the Court denied the Motion to Supplement and dismissed the Motion to Vacate. (Doc. No. 6 at 8.) Taylor is seeking reconsideration of the Court's judgment. (Doc. Nos. 8-10, 11-1.) Order dismissing the Motion to Vacate and denying the Motion to Supplement based upon the Supreme Court's decisions in Dean v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 1170 (2017) (Doc. No. 8), Mathis v. United States, (Doc. No. 9), and Class v. United States, (Doc. No. 11-1), as well as the Fourth Circuit's opinions in United States v. Newbold, 791 F.3d 455 (4th Cir. 2015) (Doc. No. 10) and United States v. Carthorne, (Doc. Nos. 11-1).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Because Taylor's Motion to Reconsider (Doc. No. 8) was filed within 28 days of entrance of judgment in this action, it shall be considered under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). A district court “has the discretion to grant a Rule 59(e) motion only in very narrow circumstances: ‘(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice.'” Hill v. Braxton, 277 F.3d 701, 708 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Collison v. Int'l Chem. Workers Union, 34 F.3d 233, 236 (4th Cir. 1994)). “Rule 59(e) motions may not be used to make arguments that could have been made before the judgment was entered.” Hill, 277 F.3d at 708.

         Taylor argues the Court should reconsider its judgment in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Dean v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 1170 (2017). In Dean, the Court held that a sentencing court can consider that a defendant is subject to mandatory consecutive sentences under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) when calculating the appropriate sentence for the predicate offense. Id. at 1178. Taylor contends that if he were sentenced today, he would no longer qualify as a career offender because of a change in the ...


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