Riley v. United States

Decision Date10 April 2020
Docket NumberCASE NO. CR14-0113JLR,CASE NO. C19-1522 JLR
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Washington
PartiesMICHAEL A. RILEY, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

ORDER DENYING 28 U.S.C. § 2255 PETITION AND MOTION FOR COMPASSIONATE RELEASE

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the court are three motions—two that Petitioner Michael A. Riley filed in his civil action against Respondent United States of America ("the Government") and one that Mr. Riley filed in the Government's criminal action against him. Mr. Riley's motions include: (1) a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 petition to vacate, set aside, or correct his

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// sentence (2255 Mot. (C19-1522 Dkt. # 1)1); (2) an 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1) motion for compassionate release (Release Mot. (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 142)); and (3) a motion to stay his 28 U.S.C. § 2255 petition pending the outcome of his motion for compassionate release (Stay Mot. (C19-1522 Dkt. # 7)). The court has considered the motions, all submissions filed in support of and in opposition to the motions, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, the court DENIES both Mr. Riley's 28 U.S.C. § 2255 petition and his 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1) motion for compassionate release. In addition, the court DENIES Mr. Riley's motion to stay his 28 U.S.C. § 2255 petition as MOOT.

II. BACKGROUND

On April 14, 2014, the Government charged Mr. Riley with distribution of heroin, possession of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of 100 grams or more of heroin with intent to distribute, and two counts of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. (Indictment (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 1).) On September 21, 2016, the Government filed a superseding indictment, which added two more charges of possession of firearms as a convicted felon. (Superseding Indictment (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 75).) The charges in the superseding indictment included the following seven offenses:

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// Count 1: Distribution of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. This count pertained to Mr. Riley's distribution of 47.16 grams of heroin to a confidential informant on March 27, 2014. (See id. at 1; see also 2255 Resp. (C19-1522 Dkt. # 5) at 2.)

Count 2: Possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. (See Superseding Indictment at 2.) This count pertained to Mr. Riley's possession of 446.8 grams of methamphetamine in the safe located at his residence on March 27, 2014. (See id.; see also 2255 Resp. at 2.) This count carried a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A).

Count 3: Possession of heroin with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. (See Superseding Indictment at 2.) This count pertained to Mr. Riley's possession of 362.3 grams of heroin in the same safe located at this residence on March 27, 2014. (See id.; see also 2255 Resp. at 2.) This count carried a five-year mandatory minimum sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B).

Count 4: Possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). (Superseding Indictment at 2-3.) This count pertained to Mr. Riley's possession of five rifles/shotguns stored in the safe at his residence along with the methamphetamine and heroin on March 27, 2014. (See id.; see also 2255 Resp. at 2.) In the same safe, agents seized $13,282.00 cash. (See 2255 Resp. at 2-3.) The Government alleged three predicate "drug trafficking crimes" in this count—specifically, the offenses alleged in counts 1-3. (See Superseding Indictment at 3.)

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// Count 5: Unlawful possession of firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). (See Superseding Indictment at 3.) This count pertained to Mr. Riley's possession of the same five rifles/shotguns listed in count 4. (See id. at 3-4; see also 2255 Resp. at 3.)

Count 6: Unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). (See Superseding Indictment at 4.) This count pertained to a Glock handgun that Mr. Riley had in his possession at the time of his arrest in downtown Seattle on March 28, 2014. (Superseding Indictment at 4; see 2255 Resp. at 3.)

Count 7: Possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). (Superseding Indictment at 4-5.) This count pertained to Mr. Riley's possession of the same Glock handgun he had in his possession at the time of his arrest. (See 2255 Resp. at 3.) The Government alleged four predicate "drug trafficking crimes" in this Count—specifically, the offenses alleged in Counts 1-3, and attempted possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. (See Superseding Indictment at 4-5.)

Count 7 alleged the additional predicate crime of attempted possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute based on facts at the time of Mr. Riley's March 28, 2014, arrest that the Government argues were consistent with Mr. Riley being on his way to purchase additional quantities of methamphetamine to sell. (See 2255 Resp. at 3 n.1.) Specifically, the Government alleges that approximately three hours prior to his arrest, at the time Mr. Riley sold heroin to the confidential informant, Mr. Riley told the confidential informant that he needed to "re-up" his methamphetamine supply. (See id.) Mr. Riley later departed his residence driving his vehicle in a mannerconsistent with someone headed to a drug deal—including engaging in high rates of speed and counter-surveillance maneuvers. (See id.) Finally, at the time of his arrest on March 28, 2014, Mr. Riley was in possession of $2,120.00 in cash, a digital scale, an empty container similar to the type in which he stored his drugs in his safe, and the loaded Glock pistol (see id.; see also Plea Agreement (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 100) ¶ 7)—all facts that the Government asserts were consistent with Mr. Riley being en route to purchase additional methamphetamine.

On September 24, 2014, the court found Mr. Riley was suffering from a mental disease or defect that rendered him mentally incompetent to stand trial and ordered him hospitalized to determine whether his competency could be restored pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241. (9/24/14 Order (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 26).) Nearly one year later, the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") issued a certificate of restoration of competency to stand trial and submitted a psychiatric evaluation and report. (8/31/15 Cert. of Competency (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 31).)

The court scheduled Mr. Riley's trial for November 28, 2016. (See 9/19/16 Min. Entry (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 82).) Mr. Riley eventually pleaded guilty to Counts 2, 3, and 4 of the superseding indictment. (See 11/16/16 Min. Entry (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 99) (Change of Plea Hearing); Plea Agreement; Hr. Trans. (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 101) (attaching the transcript of Mr. Riley's 11/16/16 change of plea hearing).) Under Mr. Riley's plea agreement, the Government agreed to dismiss counts 1 and counts 5-7 and to reduce the drug quantity allegations in counts 2 and 3, which had the effect of eliminating the mandatory minimum sentence for those counts. (See Plea Agreement ¶¶ 3, 8-9; see alsoSuperseding Indictment.) The five-year consecutive mandatory minimum sentence remained in place as to Count 4. (See Plea Agreement ¶ 3.) Under the plea agreement, the Government also agreed to recommend a sentence no higher than 180 months (15 years) and Mr. Riley agreed to recommend a sentence of not less than 96 months (8 years). (See id. ¶ 10.)

On March 17, 2017, Mr. Riley filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. (Mot. to Withdraw (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 107).) Mr. Riley argued that he was misadvised by his defense counsel when his attorney told him that he would face a mandatory term of 30 years if he was convicted of both Counts 4 and 7 of the superseding indictment in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). (Mot. to Withdraw at 6.) Mr. Riley claimed that this advice was incorrect because the predicate acts underlying the two counts were not sufficiently distinct because both cited counts 1-3 as predicate drug trafficking crimes, and therefore, he argued that the counts would have merged for sentencing purposes. (Id.) As a result, Mr. Riley argued that he would have been exposed to only a total of five-years mandatory minimum sentence for both counts. (Id.)

The Government opposed Mr. Riley's motion maintaining that controlling Ninth Circuit authority foreclosed Mr. Riley's argument. (Withdraw Resp. (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 110) at 7-8.) The Government relied upon United States v. Beltran-Moreno, 556 F.3d 913, 916-17 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing United States v. Smith, 924 F.2d 889, 894 (9th Cir. 1991); United States v. Fontanilla, 8489 F.2d 1257, 1259 (9th Cir. 1988)). (See Withdraw Resp. at 7-8.) In Beltran-Moreno, the defendants were convicted of two 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) counts—one alleging predicate drug trafficking offenses of a drugconspiracy and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and the other alleging as predicate offenses the same drug conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. 556 F.3d at 916. The Beltran-Moreno court held that the Government was entitled to charge the defendants with two separate § 924(c) counts, and after the defendants pleaded guilty to those counts, the district court was required to impose consecutive minimum sentences of five and twenty-five years on top of the ten-year mandatory minimum that attached to the drug charges. 556 F.3d at 916-17. This court accepted the Government's argument in response to Mr. Riley's motion on that basis. (See 4/25/17 Min. Entry (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 114); see also 4/25/17 Hr. Trans. (CR14-0113 Dkt. # 131) at 67:20-68:17.) Accordingly, the court concluded that Mr. Riley did not receive incorrect legal advice and denied Mr. Riley's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. (Id. at 67:20-68:17.)

On June 27, 2017, the court sentenced Mr. Riley to a 15-year term of imprisonment and a five-year term of supervised release. (See 6/27/17 Min. Entry (CR1...

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