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Tillery v. United States

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

January 2, 2020

MICHAEL ERIC TILLERY, JR., Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on petitioner's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, as amended, (DE 68, 79) and respondent's motion to dismiss (DE 81). The court previously granted in part and denied in part the motion to dismiss, leaving petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for evidentiary hearing. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), United States Magistrate Judge Robert T. Numbers, II entered a memorandum and recommendation (“M&R”) (DE 102), wherein it is recommended that the court deny petitioner's motion and grant respondent's motion. Thereafter, petitioner objected to M&R. In this posture, the issue raised are ripe for ruling. For the following reasons, the court adopts the M&R, denies petitioner's § 2255 motion, and grants respondent's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner pleaded guilty on March 15, 2017, pursuant to a written plea agreement, to possession of one or more firearms by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). The court sentenced petitioner, on January 29, 2018, to a term of imprisonment of 82 months. Petitioner did not appeal.

         Petitioner filed his first instant motion to vacate on April 6, 2018, asserting that his guidelines sentencing range was improperly calculated in light of the decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in United States v. McCollum, 885 F.3d 300, 303 (4th Cir. 2018). Upon the government's first motion to dismiss this claim, petitioner responded by asserting an additional claim based upon ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal.

         On June 19, 2018, the court denied the government's first motion to dismiss and directed petitioner to file an amended § 2255 motion on the correct form including his newly-asserted ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

         Petitioner filed the instant amended § 2255 motion on July 10, 2018, asserting as his first claim that counsel was ineffective in failing to file an appeal after being instructed to do so by petitioner. As his second claim, petitioner contends that the offense of North Carolina conspiracy to commit robbery, which was used as a predicate offense in calculating his guidelines sentencing range, is not a qualifying crime of violence.

         Upon respondent's motion to dismiss, the court dismissed petitioner's second claim as a matter of law and referred petitioner's first claim to magistrate judge for evidentiary hearing. At evidentiary hearing on May 16, 2019, the court heard testimony of defendant and defendant's trial counsel. M&R entered on July 15, 2019, recommending denial of petitioner's first claim. Counsel appointed for purposes of evidentiary hearing withdrew, and petitioner filed pro se objections to the M&R on December 11, 2019.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         The district court reviews de novo those portions of the M&R to which specific objections are filed. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). The court does not perform a de novo review where a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). Absent a specific and timely filed objection, the court reviews only for “clear error, ” and need not give any explanation for adopting the M&R. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005); Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir.1983). Upon careful review of the record, “the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         A petitioner seeking relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 must show that “the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). “Unless the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court shall . . . grant a prompt hearing thereon, determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). “The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, to the extent that they are not inconsistent with any statutory provisions, or the [§ 2255 Rules], may be applied to” § 2255 proceedings. Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, Rule 12.

         B. Analysis

         In his first claim, which remains for adjudication, petitioner asserts that counsel was ineffective in failing to file an ...


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