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Sifford v. United States

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

June 11, 2019

THOMAS DONNELL SIFFORD, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon the United States' “Consent Motion to Dismiss” Petitioner Thomas Donnell Sifford's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 or a Writ of Error Coram Nobis. (Doc. No. 7.) Sifford is represented by Federal Defenders of Western North Carolina, Inc. According to the Motion, Sifford consents to this dismissal. (Mot. to Dismiss 1, 5 n.1, Doc. No. 7.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2007, a grand jury indicted Sifford, charging him with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and at least five grams of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) (Count One), and possession of ammunition by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count Two). Crim. Doc. No. 1. The United States filed an information pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, noticing Sifford's two prior North Carolina state convictions-one for possession with intent to sell/deliver cocaine and one for possession with intent to sell/deliver marijuana. Crim. Doc. No. 12. Sifford pleaded guilty to both counts, and this Court sentenced him to 132 months of imprisonment and eight years of supervised release on Count One and 120 months of imprisonment and two years of supervised release on Count Two, with the sentences to run concurrently. Crim. Doc. Nos. 25 & 30. Sifford appealed, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed. United States v. Sifford, 330 Fed.Appx. 46 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 129 S.Ct. 2885 (2009).

         Sifford filed his first motion to vacate under § 2255 on November 5, 2010. Sifford v. United States, 3:10-cv-00596-RJC (W.D. N.C. ), Doc. No. 1. In March 2011, the Court dismissed the motion as untimely. Id. at Doc. No. 4.

         In January 2012, Sifford filed a second motion to vacate, arguing that under United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011), the § 851 enhancement was invalid and that he should be resentenced. United States v. Sifford, No. 3:12-cv-00019-RJC (W.D. N.C. ), Doc. No. 1. The Court dismissed the motion as an unauthorized successive motion to vacate. Id. at Doc. No. 3.

         In September 2013, Sifford filed a § 2241 petition attacking his § 841 and § 922(g) sentences under United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011) (en banc). Sifford v. United States, No. 3:13-cv-00541-FDW (W.D. N.C. Sept. 26, 2013), Doc. No. 1. The Court held that because Sifford was challenging only the validity of his § 841 sentence, rather than his underlying conviction, he was not entitled to relief under § 2241. Id., Doc. No. 7 at 4-5. The Court also denied coram nobis relief because Sifford was still in custody and audita querela relief because there was no gap in postconviction remedies. Id. at 5-6. However, the Court held that Sifford was entitled to relief from his § 922(g) conviction because, under Simmons, the conduct for which he was convicted was no longer deemed criminal. Id. at 6. Accordingly, the Court vacated Sifford's § 922(g) conviction and sentence. Id.

         Sifford moved for reconsideration, arguing that the vacatur of his § 922(g) conviction and sentence resulted in a corrected judgment that was part of his criminal case and allowed the Court to address the erroneous sentence on the other count. Id. at Doc. No. 10. The Court dismissed the motion as an unauthorized successive application. Id. at Doc. No. 11.

         Three months later, in December 2013, Sifford filed a third § 2255 motion again attacking his drug sentence under Simmons. Sifford v. United States, 3:14-cv-00001-RJC (W.D. N.C. 2013), Doc. No. 1. This Court dismissed the motion as an unauthorized successive motion, id. at Doc. No. 3, and the Fourth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability and dismissed his appeal, id. at Doc. No. 7.

         A year later, the Court reduced Sifford's sentence to 120 months of imprisonment based on the retroactive amendment of the Sentencing Guidelines relating to cocaine base. Crim. Doc. No. 67. The day after this reduction, Sifford filed a fourth § 2255 motion, again arguing that his § 851 enhancement was invalid under Simmons, that the vacatur of his firearm conviction changed the guideline range, and that the Court should vacate his sentence. Sifford v. United States, No. 3:14-cv-00705-RJC (W.D. N.C. ), Doc. No. 1. He asserted, citing United States v. Hairston, 754 F.3d 258, 262 (4th Cir. 2014), that his motion was not successive. Sifford was released from prison a month later and began serving his term of supervised release. This Court denied Sifford's motion as moot. Id. at Doc. No. 7.

         In February 2017, Sifford filed a motion in his criminal case for a writ of error coram nobis, seeking to vacate his §841 conviction. Crim. Doc. No. 77. He argued that his guilty plea was involuntary, that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel, and that his sentence was illegal. Id. at 4. This Court denied the motion, holding that because Sifford had had the opportunity to seek relief under § 2255, he was not entitled to relief under coram nobis. Crim. Doc. No. 78.

         In July 2018, Sifford filed the instant § 2241 petition, again asserting that his sentence under §841 is improper under Simmons and seeking to vacate his eight-year term of supervised release. (§ 2241 Pet. 1, Doc. No. 1.) Alternatively, he again seeks a writ of error coram nobis. Id. at 5-7.

         On May 7, 2019, the parties filed a joint motion to terminate supervised release in the criminal case before the Honorable Robert J. Conrad, Jr. Crim. Doc. No. 95. The undersigned granted the Government's motion to stay the proceedings in this civil action pending disposition of that motion. (Mot. to Stay, Doc. No. 6; Gavel Order, Dkt. entry of May 8, 2019.) On May 23, 2019, the Court granted the parties' joint motion and terminated Sifford's term of supervised release. Crim. Doc. No. 96.

         II. ...


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