Sayles v. United States

Decision Date27 August 2013
PartiesARNOLD JEFFREY SAYLES Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION

CONTI, District Judge

Pending before the court is a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence by a person in federal custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (the "Motion") (ECF No. 617)1 filed by petitioner Arnold Jeffrey Sayles ("petitioner" or "Sayles"). After reviewing the Motion, the brief in opposition filed by the United States of America (the "government") (ECF No. 656), and petitioner's reply to the government's brief (ECF No. 670), the court will deny the Motion because, among other reasons, petitioner waived his right to file the motion and, even if he had not done so, it is time barred.

I. Background

On September 15, 2009, a federal grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania returned a one-count indictment against petitioner and others alleging violations of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(ii), and 846. (ECF No. 1.) On December 8, 2009, a federal grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania returned a five-count superseding indictment against petitioner and others. (ECF No. 145.) Petitioner was charged in count one of the superseding indictment with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (Id.) Petitioner was also charged in counttwo of the superseding indictment with possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(ii). (ECF No. 145.) On May 17, 2009, petitioner entered a plea of guilty to count one of the superseding indictment for conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. (ECF No. 412.) On September 27, 2009, this court sentenced petitioner to a term of imprisonment of 120 months to be followed by a term of supervised release of five years. (ECF Nos. 518-19.)

Petitioner waived his right to take an appeal except in limited circumstances: (1) if the government filed an appeal, (2) if the court imposed a sentence that exceeded the statutory maximums, or (3) if petitioner's sentence unreasonably exceeded the guideline range. (ECF No. 656-2 at 5.) Petitioner also waived his right to file a motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to § 2255. (Id. at 4-5.) The court found petitioner competent to plead guilty and accepted the plea agreement. (ECF No. 656-1 at 5, 19-20.) The court entered judgment in this case on September 29, 2011. (ECF No. 519.)

On November 8, 2012, the clerk of court received and filed petitioner's Motion pursuant to § 2255. (ECF No. 617.) Petitioner lists three grounds in support of his Motion. (ECF No. 618.) Petitioner argues that: (1) his attorney failed to reject the plea agreement and take the case to trial, (2) his attorney failed to raise a motion to suppress evidence, and (3) this court abused its discretion in sentencing petitioner to a term of imprisonment that exceeds the range set forth in the United States Sentencing Guidelines. (Id.)

The government filed its response in opposition to petitioner's motion on March 1, 2013. (ECF No. 656.) In its response, the government argues that the motion should be dismissed because: (1) the statute of limitations ran before petitioner filed his motion, (2) petitioner knowingly waived his rights to file such a motion, (3) petitioner's counsel was not ineffective,and (4) the court did not abuse its discretion in imposing the term of imprisonment (Id.) Petitioner filed a reply on May 25, 2013. (ECF No. 670.)

II. Standard of Review

Under § 2255, a federal prisoner in custody may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence upon the ground 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. The Supreme Court interpreted the statute as stating four grounds upon which relief can be granted:

(1) "that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States," (2) "that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence," (3) "that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law," and (4) that the sentence "is otherwise subject to collateral attack."

Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 426-27 (1967) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255).

The statute provides, as a remedy for a sentence imposed in violation of the law, that "the court shall vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate." 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Petitioner in the present case asserts that his counsel was ineffective, which implicates the first ground for relief under § 2255.

A district court is required to hold an evidentiary hearing on a motion filed pursuant to § 2255, unless the motion and records of the case show conclusively that the movant is not entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("Unless the motion and the files and the records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief, the court shall . . . grant a prompthearing hereon, determine the issues and make findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect thereto."); United States v. Booth, 432 F.3d 542, 545-546 (3d Cir. 2005).

III. Timeliness of Petitioner's § 2255 Motion

Petitioner's § 2255 motion does not meet the statute of limitations requirement set forth in 28 U.S.C § 2255(f), and therefore must be denied. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-66, there is a one-year statute of limitations applicable to a §2255 motion. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f); Lloyd v. United States, 407 F.3d 608, 611 (3d Cir. 2005). The statute of limitations period runs from the latest of the following dates:

(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;
(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action;
(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence

28 U.S.C. § 2255(f).2

a. Final Conviction—§ 2255(f)(1)

In this case, petitioner did not appeal his criminal conviction. (ECF No. 617.) For purposes of § 2255(f)(1), a petitioner's conviction becomes final, and the statute of limitations begins to run when the time for filing a notice of appeal expires and no appeal is filed withinthat period. See United States v. Kapral, 166 F.3d 565, 577 (3d Cir. 1999). Defendants convicted in a criminal case have fourteen days to file a notice of appeal. See Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure 4(b)(1)(A). In the present case, petitioner's judgment was entered on the criminal docket on September 29, 2011. (ECF No. 519.) Petitioner did not file an appeal within fourteen days and his conviction therefore became final on October 13, 2011. Petitioner did not file his Motion until November 8, 2012. (ECF No. 617.) As a result, petitioner's Motion was untimely pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1), because it was filed after October 13, 2012, i.e., more than one year after petitioner's conviction became final.

b. Government Impediment—§ 2255(f)(2)

Petitioner does not allege, and the court cannot discern, facts warranting the application of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(2) to petitioner's case. The gravamen of petitioner's § 2255 motion is that his counsel failed to investigate adequately the facts with respect to the government's charges against him before advising him to accept the government's plea offer. (ECF No. 618.) Petitioner challenges his counsel's effectiveness during the plea bargaining stage. (Id.) Specifically, petitioner claims that his counsel was ineffective by failing to reject the plea agreement and proceed to trial, (ECF No. 618), and claims that his counsel failed to file motions to suppress evidence. (Id. at 14.) The record, however, is devoid of evidence that "governmental action" created an "impediment" that "prevented" petitioner from filing his § 2255 motion within one-year of his conviction as required by § 2255(f)(1). Under those circumstances, § 2255(f)(2) is inapplicable to petitioner's case.

c. Assertion of a Right Newly Recognized by the Supreme Court§ 2255(f)(3)

The only other avenue for petitioner's Motion to be timely filed is pursuant to § 2255(f)(3). § 2255(f)(3) provides that the one-year statute of limitations may begin on:

. . .the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been [1] newly recognized by the Supreme Court and [2] made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3) (emphasis added). Petitioner argues that two recent Supreme Court decisions recognize the right that he is currently asserting, thus extending the statute of limitations for his § 2255 motion. (ECF No. 618.) Petitioner asserts that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated as a result of ineffective assistance of counsel. (ECF No. 618 at 17.)

First, petitioner claims that Missouri v. Frye, 132 S.Ct. 1399 (2012), initially recognized the right he is currently asserting. (ECF No. 618 at 2). Frye concerned the right to effective assistance of counsel with respect to communicating formal plea offers to a criminal defendant. Id. at 1408. The court in Frye held that "defense counsel has the duty to communicate formal offers from ...

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