United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina
J. Conrad, Jr. United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Petitioner's
Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Under 28
U.S.C. § 2255; Alternative Petition for Relief Under 28
U.S.C. § 2241; Alternative Petition for Writ of
Coram Nobis; and Alternative Petition for a Writ of
Audita Querela (Doc. No. 3); see also (Doc.
No. 16) (Petitioner's Supplement to Motion to Vacate
Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Asserting Alternative
Petition for Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241).
was charged by Superseding Indictment with: Count (1),
conspiracy to commit bank robbery (18 U.S.C. § 371);
Counts (2) and (3), bank robbery (18 U.S.C. §§
2113(d) and 2); Count (4) entitled possession and use of a
firearm in connection with a crime of violence (18 U.S.C.
§ 924(c)(1) and 2); Count (5), possession of a firearm
by a convicted felon (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 2);
Count (6), possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial
number (19 U.S.C. § 922(k)); Count (7), conspiracy to
obstruct justice and suborn perjury (18 U.S.C. § 371);
and Count (8) obstruction of justice (18 U.S.C. § 1503).
(3:05-cr-227, Doc. No. 15). A jury found Petitioner guilty as
charged. (Id., Doc. No. 30).
Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) was
calculated under the 2005 U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
(Id., Doc. No. 60). The adjusted offense level for
Counts (1)-(3) and (5)-(6) was calculated as 26 for
possession of a firearm in connection with the commission of
armed bank robbery, which was the higher of the adjusted
offense levels. (Id., Doc. No. 60 at ¶¶
24-55). However, Petitioner was found to qualify as a career
offender based on his prior convictions for breaking and/or
entering (96CRS3127) and robbery with a dangerous weapon
(98CRS915), and he was found to qualify as an armed career
criminal based on those priors as well as a conviction
breaking and/or entering (96CRS832). (Id., Doc. No.
60 at ¶¶ 56-57). The offense level for those counts
was found to be 34. (Id., Doc. No. 60 at
¶¶ 56-57). The career offender guidelines provide
that, for multiple counts of conviction per 4B1.1(c)(2), the
guideline range is the greater of: (A) the guideline range
that results from adding the minimum mandatory consecutive
sentence per 924(c) to the minimum and maximum of the
otherwise applicable guideline range determined for the count
of conviction other than § 924(c), or (B), the range
using the table in subsection (c)(3). In this case, the
higher range is that set forth in the table in subsection
(c)(3), which resulted in a guideline range of 360 months to
life. (Id., Doc. No. 60 at ¶ 61). However,
because a statutory life sentence was mandated under 18
U.S.C. § 3559 for Count (4), the guideline term of
imprisonment was life pursuant to § 5G1.1(c)(2).
(Id., Doc. No. 60 at ¶ 62).
PSR's criminal history section scored nine criminal
history points, and two more points were added because
Petitioner was under a term of post-release supervision when
the instant offense was committed. (Id., Doc. No. 60
at ¶¶ 73-74). One more point was added because the
instant offense was committed less than two years after
Petitioner's release from custody for robbery with a
dangerous weapon. (Id., Doc. No. 60 at ¶ 75). A
total of 12 criminal history points scored a criminal history
category of V. However, the criminal history category for
career offenders and armed career criminals is VI.
(Id., Doc. No. 60 at ¶ 76).
resulting guideline range was 360 months to life
imprisonment. (Id., Doc. No. 60 at ¶ 95).
However, because a mandatory consecutive sentence of life
imprisonment is required under §§ 924(c)(1)(A)(ii)
and 3559(c)(1) for Count (4), the guideline term of
imprisonment was life pursuant to 5G1.1(c)(2). (Id.,
Doc. No. 60 at ¶ 95). The guidelines called for
supervised release for at least two years but not more than
three years for Counts (1), (2), (6), (7), and (8), and at
least three years but not more than five years for Counts
(3), (4), and (5). (Id., Doc. No. 60 at ¶ 98).
sentencing hearing, the parties agreed that the correct
guidelines range was a mandatory life sentence for Count (4)
and a sentence between 360 months to life on the remaining
counts. (Id., Doc. No. 52 at 3-4). Defense counsel
requested a downward departure based on circumstances
including Petitioner's young age and diagnoses with
serious mental and emotional disabilities. (Id.,
Doc. No. 39); (Id., Doc. No. 52 at 5). The Court
denied the Motion because the life sentence was mandatory
under § 3559(c) and there was no discretion.
(Id., Doc. No. 52 at 7). The Government argued that
Petitioner is a dangerous gang member who recruited young
kids for the bank robberies, then tried to cover it up.
(Id., Doc. No. 52 at 9). Petitioner addressed the
Court and stated that he felt he had been wronged in some way
because he did not take part in the actual bank robbery and
did not have a fair trial because a lot of people came in and
lied on the stand. (Id., Doc. No. 52 at 10-11).
Court noted that Petitioner received a fair trial including
“excellent representation … in a vigorous
defense.” (Id., Doc. No. 52 at 11). The Court
took into account the § 3553(a) factors including
Petitioner's young age, his history of mental and
emotional disabilities and criminal history, the Court's
duty to protect the public from Petitioner's further
crimes and the serious circumstances of this case which
involved a “very horrific bank robbery in which the
defendant employed juveniles to rob banks - or rob a bank for
the purpose of gang admission, with one of those juveniles
firing a shot into the ceiling, another assaulting a
customer, and Mr. James attempting to orchestrate his defense
at trial from prison and further trying to elicit others to
engage in obstructive injurious conduct and, … Mr.
James himself engaged in perjury at trial.”
(Id., Doc. No. 52 at12-13).
Court concluded that, based on Petitioner's prior record,
the nature and circumstances of the case, and his status as a
career offender, that the life sentence was appropriate:
[T]he sentence imposed in this case including the mandatory
life imprisonment sentence is sufficient but not greater than
necessary to accomplish the sentencing object[ives] of
Section 3553(a), including promoting respect for the law,
affording adequate deterrent, but most importantly,
protecting the public from further crimes of the defendant,
and the court will attempt in structuring this sentence to
provide Mr. James rehabilitation in the most effective manner
that the court knows of in terms of recommendations to the
Federal Bureau of Prisons, but Mr. James is a career offender
under the guidelines and has violated the three strikes
statute of 18 United States Code Section 3559. And in
addition, he committed the incident offenses, as I said, by
soliciting three juveniles to commit the robbery for purposes
of entering into a street gang in which Mr. James is an
admitted gang member.
(Id., Doc. No. 52 at 12-13).
Court accordingly adjudicated Petitioner guilty and sentenced
him on Counts (1) and (7) to 60 months' imprisonment,
concurrent; on Count (2) to 240 months' imprisonment,
concurrent; on Count (3) to 300 months' imprisonment,
concurrent; on Count (5) to 360 months, concurrent; on Count
(6) to 60 months concurrent; on Count (8) to 120 months
concurrent; and on Count (4) to life, consecutive, followed
by three years of supervised release for Counts (1), (2),
(3), (6), (7), and (8), and five years of supervised release
for Counts (4) and (5), concurrent. (Id., Doc. No.
filed a memorandum brief on direct appeal pursuant to
Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), conceding
the lack of meritorious grounds for appeal but questioning
whether Petitioner's life sentence pursuant to §
3559(c) violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition
against cruel and unusual punishment because it did not take
into account the circumstances of Petitioner's childhood.
The Fourth Circuit found that Petitioner's sentence was
not constitutionally disproportionate and reviewed the entire
record and found no meritorious issues for appeal. It
therefore affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentence.
United States v. James, 276 Fed.Appx. 301
(4th Cir. 2008).
August 4, 2009, Petitioner filed his first § 2255 Motion
to Vacate, case number 3:09-cv-344. The Court denied and
dismissed relief on the merits on June 11, 2012.
(3:09-cv-344, Doc. No. 39). Petitioner filed a Motion for
Reconsideration more than a year later, (Doc. No. 42), and
filed a Motion to Amend/Correct nearly four years later,
(Doc. No. 51). The Court denied both Motions on August 6,
2019 because “the Court fully and finally ...