Hampton v. U.S., CR 06-352

Decision Date13 May 2011
Docket NumberCR 06-352
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Pennsylvania

(Related to CA 11-220)

I. Introduction.

Pending before the Court is Petitioner Willie Andrew Hampton's pro se "Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 To Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody" [ECF #107]. Petitioner pled guilty on November 5, 2007 to violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1). He was sentenced on July 23, 2008 to 180 months' imprisonment. Petitioner appealed the district court's judgment and on November 2, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the judgment. Petitioner then filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court on January 6, 2010. The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition on February 22, 2010.

Respondent United States of America ("the Government") was to file its Response to Petitioner's § 2255 Motion on May 11, 2011. Instead it requested additional time to file its response.

For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's § 2255 Motion is denied. Further, the "Government's Request for Continuance to File Response to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motion"[ECF #109] is denied as moot.

II. Timeliness of Petitioner's § 2255 motion.

In order for this Court to reach the substance of Petitioner's § 2255 motion, his motion must have been timely filed. 28 U.S.C. § 2255 states in pertinent part:

[a] one year period of limitation shall apply to a motion under this section. The limitation period shall run from the latest of-
(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final....

28 U.S.C. § 2255(1). As explained by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Kapral v. U.S., 166 F.3d 565, 567 (3d Cir. 1999), "a 'judgment of conviction becomes final' within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2255[(1)] on the later of (1) the date on which the Supreme Court affirms the conviction and sentence on the merits or denies the defendant's timely filed petition for certiorari, or (2) the date on which the defendant's time for filing a timely petition for certiorari review expires."

Here, Petitioner's petition for writ of certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court on February 22, 2010. Therefore, his judgment of conviction became final for purposes of § 2255 on February 22, 2010 and his § 2255 motion, filed on February 18, 2011 was timely filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(1).

III. Standard of Review under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides a means of collaterally attacking a sentence imposed after a conviction. U.S. v. Cannistraro. 734 F. Supp. 1110, 1119 (D. N.J. 1989), aff'd, 919 F.2d 133 (3d Cir. 1990), cert, den'd. 500 U.S. 916 (1991). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a federal prisoner may move the sentencing court to vacate, set aside or correct a sentence "upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of theConstitution 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. Relief under this provision is "generally available only in 'exceptional circumstances' to protect against a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice or an omission inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure." U.S. v. Gordon, 979 F. Supp. 337, 339 (E.D. Pa. 1997) (citing Hill v. U.S., 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962)).

The Court must consider the motion together with all the files, records, transcripts and correspondence relating to the judgment under attack. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings. A district court considering a § 2255 motion '"must accept the truth of the movant's factual allegations unless they are clearly frivolous on the basis of the existing record, '" U.S. v. Booth, 432 F.3d 542, 545 (3d Cir, 2005) (quoting Virgin Islands v. Forte. 865 F.2d 59, 62 (3d Cir. 1989)), and a court "abuses its discretion if it fails to hold an evidentiary hearing when the files and records of the case are inconclusive as to whether the movant is entitled to relief." Booth. 432 F.3d at 546 (citing U.S. v. McCoy. 410 F.3d 124, 134 (3d Cir. 2005). However, the final disposition of a § 2255 motion lies with the discretion of the trial judge, see Virgin Islands v. Nicholas. 759 F.2d 1073, 1075 (3d Cir. 1985), and a district court may summarily dismiss a §2255 motion where the motion, files, and records "show conclusively that the movant is not entitled to relief." U.S. v. Mason. 2008 WL 938784, 1 (E.D, Pa. 2008) (citing Forte. 865 F.2d at 62).

"Section 2255 generally may not be employed to relitigate questions which were raised and considered on direct appeal," U.S. v. DeRewal, 10 F.3d 100, 105 n. 4 (3d Cir. 1993) (internal quotations omitted). Moreover, "if a petitioner has failed to raise an objection at the time of trial and has also failed to raise the issue on direct appeal, then collateral review of that claim is procedurally barred unless the petitioner is able to show 'cause' excusing his procedural default and 'actual prejudice' resulting from the alleged error or violation." Henry v. U.S.. 913 F. Supp. 334, 335 (M.D. Pa. 1996). See also U.S. v. Essia. 10 F.3d 968, 979 (3d Cir.1993) (holding that the "cause and prejudice" standard set forth in U.S. v. Frady. 456 U.S. 152 (1982) "applies to § 2255 proceedings in which a petitioner seeks relief from alleged errors in connection with his sentence that he has not directly appealed"). However, a petitioner need not demonstrate cause and prejudice when raising a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for the first time in a collateral attack. Massarov. U.S.. 538 U.S. 500, 504, 123 S.Ct. 1690 (2003)(holding that an "ineffectiveness" claim can be brought in a collateral proceeding under § 2255 regardless of whether the same issue could have been addressed on direct appeal); DeRewal, 10 F.3d at 104.

IV. Legal Analysis.
A. Knowing and voluntary waiver issue.

Petitioner makes four arguments in support of his § 2255 motion. His first argument is that his waiver of the right to file a collateral appeal such as the instant motion is not enforceable because the district court failed to ascertain whether he understood that he was giving up the right to appeal both the validity of his plea and thelegality of his sentence, and in doing so violated Fed.R.Crim.P. 11. See Memorandum of Law in Support of Petitioner Willie A. Hampton's Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate Sentence ("Petitioner's Supporting Memorandum"), p. 2. The Plea Agreement signed by Petitioner on November 5, 2007 stated: "Willie Andrew Hampton further waives the right to file a motion to vacate sentence, under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, attacking his conviction or sentence, and the right to file any other collateral proceeding attacking his conviction or sentence."

"A criminal defendant may knowingly and voluntarily waive many of the most fundamental protections afforded by the Constitution." U.S. v. Khattak. 273 F.3d 557, 561 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing U.S. v. Mezzanatto. 513 U.S. 196, 201 (1995)). Such waivers are enforceable "provided they are entered into knowingly and voluntarily and their enforcement does not work a miscarriage of justice." U.S. v. Mabry. 536 F.3d 231, 237 (3rd Cir. 2008) (citing Khattak. 273 F.3d at 561).

A court has "an independent obligation to conduct an evaluation of the validity of a collateral waiver." Id. at 238. Specifically, we must examine (1) the "knowing and voluntary nature" of the waiver, based on what occurred and what the defendant contends, and (2) whether the enforcement of the waiver would work a "miscarriage of justice." Id. at 237. "Whereas a defendant bears the burden of presenting an argument that would render his waiver unknowing or involuntary, a court has an affirmative duty both to examine the knowing and voluntary nature of the waiver and to assure itself that its enforcement works no miscarriage of justice, based on the record evidence before it." Id. at 237-238 (citing Khattak. 273 F.3d at 563).

As stated above, Petitioner contends that this Court violated Fed.R.Crim.P.11 by not informing him of the provision in the plea agreement containing the waiver and determining that he understood the terms of the waiver provision. Rule 11 provides in pertinent part:

Before the court accepts a plea of guilty... the court must address the defendant personally in open court. During this address, the court must inform the defendant of, and determine that the defendant understands, the following:
(N) the terms of any plea-agreement provision waiving the right to appeal or to collaterally attack the sentence.

Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(b)(1)(N). In U.S. v. McKoy. 350 Fed. Appx. 732 (3d Cir. 2009), an unpublished decision, the appellate court explained:

Because [Petitioner] did not object at his plea hearing to a Rule 11 error, he must satisfy, in light of the whole record, the plain-error rule. United States v. Goodson. 544 F.3d 529, 539 (3d Cir.2008). "Plain error requires that there must be (1) error, (2) that is plain or obvious, and (3) that affects a defendant's substantial rights." Id. (citing Johnson v. United States. 520 U.S. 461,467,117 S.Ct. 1544,137 L.Ed.2d 718 (1997)). "If all three conditions are met, an appellate court may then exercise its discretion to notice a forfeited error, but only if (4) the error seriously affect[s] the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings." Id. (guoting Johnson, 520 U.S. at 467,117 S.Ct. 1544) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Id. at *2. In Goodson.supra., the appellate court "held the District Court committed error when it 'relied upon the prosecutor's recitation of the terms of the appellate waiver to fulfill its obligation to inform the defendant of the specifics of the waiver provision'" and "further held...

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