United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on initial screening of
Petitioner's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct
Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Doc. 1].
December 15, 2016, Pro Se Petitioner Byron Bernard Sadler
(“Petitioner”) was charged in a Bill of
Indictment with one count of being a felon in possession of a
firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count
One). [Criminal Case No. 3:16-cr-322-FDW-DSC-1
(“CR”), Doc. 1: Bill of Indictment]. On July 7,
2017, Petitioner agreed to plead guilty to Count One. He also
agreed to plead guilty to Violations One, Two, and Three in
the Supervised Release Violation Petition in Case No.
3:14-cr-00197-FDW. [CR Doc. 11: Plea Agreement]. A Factual
Basis for the charge was also filed that day. [CR Doc. 12:
Factual Basis]. On July 10, 2017, Petitioner pleaded guilty
in accordance with the Plea Agreement. [CR Doc. 13:
Acceptance and Entry of Guilty Plea].
United States Magistrate Judge accepted Petitioner's
guilty plea after conducting a thorough plea colloquy, during
which Petitioner was represented by counsel. [See CR
Doc. 13]. Under oath, Petitioner told the Court that he
received a copy of the indictment and discussed it with his
attorney. [Id. at ¶ 8]. Petitioner also
testified that he fully understood the charge against him and
that he was, in fact, guilty of this charge. [Id. at
¶¶ 9, 24].
November 27, 2017, the Court sentenced Petitioner to a term
of 57 months' imprisonment. [CR Doc. 24 at 2: Judgment].
Judgment was entered on December 6, 2017. [Id.].
Petitioner did not file a direct appeal from this judgment.
Petitioner's conviction, therefore, became final for
purposes of his Section 2255 motion on December 20, 2017,
fourteen days after judgment was entered. See Fed.
R. App. P. 4(b)(1)(A). On December 3, 2019, Petitioner filed
a Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside or
Correct Sentence, citing as grounds the recent Supreme Court
decision Rehaif v. United States, 139 S.Ct. 2191
(2019). [Doc. 1].
STANDARD OF REVIEW
federal prisoner claiming that his “sentence was
imposed in violation of the Constitution or the 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, may move the court which imposed the
sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.”
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).
4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings provides
that courts are to promptly examine motions to vacate, along
with “any attached exhibits and the record of prior
proceedings . . .” in order to determine whether the
petitioner is entitled to any relief on the claims set forth
therein. In many cases, an evidentiary hearing is required to
determine whether or not counsel was ineffective for
misadvising a petitioner about a plea offer. See
generally United States v. Witherspoon, 231 F.3d 923,
926-27 (4th Cir. 2000); 28 U.S.C.A. §
2255(b). After examining the record in this matter, the Court
finds that the arguments presented by Petitioner can be
resolved without an evidentiary hearing based on the record
and governing case law. See Raines v. United States,
423 F.2d 526, 529 (4th Cir. 1970).
sole claim arises under Rehaif v. United States. He
argues, “[i]n accordance with the holding in
Rehaif[, ] the government has failed to prove that
this petitioner knew he was among the relevant class of
persons barred from possessing a firearm and therefore
‘knowingly' committing an unlawful act.”
[Doc. 1 at 5]. Petitioner states that his motion is timely
because there is “no doubt that the opinion in
Rehaif was intended to be retroactively applied to
petitioners on collateral review.” [Id.].
Rehaif v. United States, the Supreme Court held
that, in a prosecution under § 922(g) and §
924(a)(2), the Government must prove both that the defendant
knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to
the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a
firearm. 139 S.Ct. 2191, 2195 (2019). The petitioner in
Rehaif was an alien who entered the country on a
nonimmigrant student visa to attend university. He received
poor grades and the university dismissed him. The university
told the petitioner that his “immigration status”
would be terminated unless he transferred to a different
university or left the country. Id. at 2194. After
the Government learned of the petitioner's visit to a
firing range, where he shot two firearms, the petitioner was
prosecuted for possessing firearms as an alien unlawfully in
the United States in violation of § 922(g) and §
924(a)(2). The case went to trial. The judge instructed the
jury, over petitioner's objection, that the “United
States is not required to prove” that the petitioner
“knew he was illegally or unlawfully in the United
States.” Id. The jury found the petitioner
guilty and he was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment.
Id. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether
the Government must prove that a defendant knows of his
status as a person barred from possessing a firearm, which in
that case was the petitioner's status as an illegal
alien. Id. at 2195. The Supreme Court held that, in
a prosecution under § 922(g) and § 924(a)(2), the
Government must prove both that the defendant knew he
possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to
the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a
holding in Rehaif does not apply to the facts of the
instant case. There was no trial in Petitioner's case;
Petitioner pleaded guilty to the § 922(g) charge he now
challenges. The burden of proof of the Government, therefore,
is not relevant. Rather, Petitioner was charged with
“knowingly and unlawfully” possessing firearms in
and affecting commerce “having been previously
convicted of one or more crimes punishable by imprisonment
for a term exceeding one year.” [CR Doc. 1 at 1]. He
pleaded guilty to this charge with a plea agreement and
agreed there was a factual basis to support the guilty plea.
[CR Docs. 11, 12]. At his plea hearing, Petitioner confirmed
at his plea hearing that he was, in fact, guilty of this
charge. [CR Doc. 13 at ¶ 24]. Petitioner does not
contend that he did not know that he possessed the firearm or
that he did not know that he was a felon, in any event.
Rehaif simply does not apply.
Rehaif did not announce a new rule of constitutional
law but rather clarified the requirements of 18 U.S.C. §
922(g) and 924(a)(2). In re Palacios, 931 F.3d 1314,
1315 (11th Cir. 2019). Further, the Supreme Court did not
make Rehaif retroactive to cases on collateral
review. Id.; In re Wright, __ F.3d __, 2019
WL 5800218, at *2 (11th Cir. Nov. 7, 2019). As such,
Petitioner's claim must have been brought within one year
of his conviction becoming final, which in this case occurred
on December 20, 2017. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(3).
Petitioner did not file his Section 2255 motion until