United States v. Smith, Crim. No. 10-CR-20058

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
Writing for the CourtHon. Gerald E. Rosen
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent, v. ROOSEVELT SMITH, Defendant/Petitioner.
Decision Date30 September 2015
Docket NumberCrim. No. 10-CR-20058,Civ. No. 12-CV-11913

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
ROOSEVELT SMITH, Defendant/Petitioner.

Crim. No. 10-CR-20058
Civ. No. 12-CV-11913


September 30, 2015

Hon. Gerald E. Rosen


At a session of said Court, held in the U.S. Courthouse, Detroit, Michigan on September 30, 2015

PRESENT: Honorable Gerald E. Rosen United States District Judge


On January 10, 2011, Defendant Roosevelt Smith entered a guilty plea, pursuant to a Rule 11 Plea Agreement, to being a felon-in-possession of a firearm and subject to the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"). Under the Plea Agreement, Defendant agreed to the statutory minimum sentence of 15 years (180 months) and the statutory maximum three-year term of supervised release. Defendant also waived his appeal rights as to both

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his conviction and sentence.1

The Court accepted the Plea Agreement and, in accordance with the agreement and the Government's motion for downward departure, on May 9, 2011, sentenced Smith to 156 months incarceration to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release.

On April 26, 2012, Defendant filed the instant motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. As grounds for § 2255 relief, Defendant Smith alleges that he pled guilty due to the ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, Smith claims (1) he was coerced by his attorney to plead guilty; (2) he was misled as to the maximum sentence: he claims he was led to believe that he could get up to 180 months but was not told that 180 months was mandatory; and (3) his attorney never challenged his being sentenced pursuant to the ACCA even though his prior convictions do not meet the required elements of the ACCA.

Smith subsequently filed a Motion to Amend his § 2255 Motion on September 16, 2014, seeking to supplement his original claims with additional arguments and citations to recent decisions of the United States Supreme Court which he believes are favorable him. In this motion to amend, Smith also asserted several new claims, to-wit,

1. that he is actually innocent of the felon-in-possession charge

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(a) he was not residing at the home on Northlawn at the time the ATF agents executed the warrant and found the firearm giving rise to the felon-in-possession charge, and

(b) he was coerced into admitting that the firearm belonged to him by one of the ATF agents; and

2. that his Fifth Amendment rights were violated because he was not given Miranda warnings before he was asked by one of the ATF agents at the time of the execution of warrant if the gun found at the residence belonged to him.

Then, on August 11, 2015, Smith filed a second motion to amend (captioned as a "Review and Reconsideration Request in Light of Invalidation of ACCA Residual Clause") seeking to supplement his § 2255 motion with the Supreme Court's recent decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015).


Before addressing the substance of Defendant's § 2255 arguments, the Court will address the Motions to Amend.


The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") provides a one-year limitation period in which to file a motion to vacate a federal conviction. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f); Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 655, 125 S.Ct. 2562, 2569 (2005). The limitation period runs from the latest of:

(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;

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(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, if that right has been newly 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).

Relevant here is subsection (f)(1) -- the date on which the judgment of conviction became final.

Because Smith expressly waived his right to appeal his conviction and sentence in his Rule 11 Plea Agreement, the judgment of conviction became final on May 24, 2011, fourteen days after it was entered. See Sanchez-Castellano v. United States, 358 F.3d 424, 426 (6th Cir .2004) ("an unappealed district court judgment of conviction becomes 'final' [fourteen] days after the entry of judgment, at least where the defendant has not actually sought an extension of appeal time for good cause or excusable neglect." Id. (footnote omitted)). Smith's § 2255 Motion was timely-filed within the period of limitations on April 26, 2012 -- approximately one month before the limitations period expired.

Defendant's two Motions to Amend his § 2255 pleadings, however, were filed long after the AEDPA period of limitations expired: his first Motion to Amend was filed on September 16, 2014, some 28 months after the period of limitations expired, and his

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Second Motion was filed on August 11, 2015, more than three years too late.

If an amendment to a 2255 motion is untimely filed, the Court looks to equitable tolling rules and Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in reaching its decision regarding the timeliness of the proposed amendment.2 If the amendment is barred by § 2255's statute of limitations and not subject to equitable tolling rules, then the Court must determine whether the amendment relates back under Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to the movant's previous claims. Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 656-57, 125 S.Ct. 2562 (2005).

To warrant equitable tolling, Defendant must show "'(1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way' and prevented timely filing." Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649, 130 S.Ct. 2549, 2562 (2010) (quoting Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418, 125 S.Ct. 1807 (2005)). The Sixth Circuit has repeatedly made clear its view that "equitable tolling relief should be granted only sparingly." See Amini v. Oberlin College, 259 F.3d 493, 500 (6th Cir.2001). Typically, equitable tolling applies only when a litigant's failure to meet a legally-mandated deadline unavoidably arose from circumstances beyond that litigant's control. Graham-Humphreys v. Memphis Brooks Museum, Inc., 209 F.3d 552, 560-61 (6th

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Cir.2000). Defendant Smith's motions contain no allegation that any extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented him from timely filing his motions to amend. Indeed, neither motion presents any basis for equitable tolling. Since Defendant Smith has failed to offer any explanation for the delay, the Court finds he has failed to demonstrate that equitable tolling is appropriate in his case.

The relation-back provision in the Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(2) provides that pleading amendments relate back to the date of the original pleading when the claim asserted in the amended pleading "arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading." Rule 15(c)(2) "relaxes but does not obliterate the statute of limitations; hence relation back depends on the existence of a common 'core of operative facts' uniting the original and newly asserted claims." Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. at 659 (citations omitted). The Supreme Court observed that if claims asserted after the one-year period could be revived simply because they related to the same trial, conviction, or sentence, AEDPA's limitation period would have slim significance. Id. at 662.

Although Defendant's August 2015 proposed amendment and that portion of Defendant's September 2014 proposed amendment which merely supplements his original 2255 motion with additional arguments and citations of additional authority clearly relate back to his original filing, the new claims he raises in his September 2014 motion -- i.e., his claims of "actual innocence" based on his new assertions about not residing at the Northlawn residence at the time the gun was found and being coerced by

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the ATF agent to admit the gun belonged to him, and his claims about not being read his Miranda rights when he admitted owning the gun -- do not escape the AEDPA statute of limitations by "relating back" to the claims in his timely filed original § 2255 motion because they are entirely new arguments that do not relate back to any of the claims in his original § 2255 motion. See Oleson v. United States, 2001 WL 1631828 *3 (6th Cir. Dec.14, 2001). Amendments that seek to add new legal theories or present new claims based on different factual underpinnings are not permitted. Dean v. United States, 278 F.3d 1218, 1221 (11th Cir.2002). Accordingly, Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not save these claims as they do not "relate back" to the "conduct, transaction, or occurrence" relied upon in the claims in the timely-filed §...

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