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Jones v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

February 12, 2018




         More than four years ago, this Court sentenced Antwan Jones (“Jones”) to 137 months' imprisonment following his conviction for possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Jones, who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution-Low in Yazoo City, Mississippi, has now filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct his Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 83.)[1] Jones contends that the Court must resentence him following the United States Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, U.S. at___, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (June 26, 2015). (Id.) Johnson invalidated the Armed Career Criminal Act's (“ACCA”) residual clause. This Court did not rely upon the ACCA, much less the Act's residual clause, in any way during Jones' sentencing proceedings. However, Jones points out that his advisory Sentencing Guidelines' range turned on his classification as a career offender under the Sentencing Guidelines, U.S.S.G. §§ 4B1.1 and 4B1.2. Section 4B1.2(a)(2) contains language similar to the ACCA's residual clause. Nonetheless, following Jones' instant Section 2255 Motion, the Supreme Court held that Johnson does not apply to the Guidelines and has specifically held that the decision does not invalidate Section 4B1.2(a)(2)'s definition of a “crime of violence.” Beckles v. United States, ___U.S.___, 137 S.Ct. 886 (Mar. 6, 2017).

         Because Jones does not raise a valid Johnson claim, he filed his Motion well outside of the one-year statute of limitations of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). Thus, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Jones' Section 2255 Motion, (doc. 83), as untimely. Alternatively, to the extent that the Court reaches the merits of Jones' arguments, it should DENY his Motion. Further, I RECOMMEND that the Court DENY Jones a Certificate of Appealability and in forma pauperis status on appeal and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal.


         On June 6, 2012, a grand jury for this District charged Jones with: possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count One); possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) (Count Two); and possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count Three). (Doc. 1.) The Government's Penalty Certification stated that Jones faced not more than ten years' imprisonment as to each of Counts One and Three and not more than twenty years' imprisonment as to Count Two. (Doc. 2.)

         However, Jones and his trial counsel were able to negotiate a plea agreement with the Government whereby Jones agreed to plead guilty to Count Two of the Indictment in exchange for the Government moving to dismiss the remaining counts. (Doc. 46.) On November 9, 2012, Jones appeared before the Honorable Lisa Godbey Wood for a change of plea, or Rule 11, hearing. (Doc. 44.) Before accepting Jones' guilty plea, Judge Wood engaged in an extensive plea colloquy with Jones to ensure that Jones fully understood his rights and the charges against him, as well as the maximum penalties associated with those charges, and that Jones made his decision to plead guilty knowingly, voluntarily, and intentionally. (Doc. 65.)

         Prior to Jones' sentencing hearing, United States Probation Officer Brian Mills prepared a Pre-Sentence Investigation report (“PSI”). Probation Officer Mills detailed Jones' offense conduct and criminal history and calculated Jones' statutory penalties, as well as his advisory Guidelines' range. Officer Mills concluded that Jones was a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 because: (1) Jones was at least eighteen years old at the time he committed the offenses in this case; (2) the offense Jones pleaded guilty to was a controlled substance offense; and (3) Jones had three prior felony convictions for controlled substance offenses. (PSI, ¶¶ 29, 39, 40, 41.) Jones' offense level of 29 under Section 4B1.1, combined with a criminal history category of VI, resulted in a recommended Guidelines' sentencing range of 151 to 188 months. (Id. at ¶ 74.)

         Jones' counsel levied objections to the PSI. (PSI Addendum.) Specifically, he argued that Jones should not receive a two-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1) for possession of a firearm in connection with the offense conduct. (Id.) Additionally, counsel filed a motion for downward departure, adjustment for time served in state custody, and/or request that sentence be imposed concurrent with remainder of state sentence. (Doc. 52.)

         On July 29, 2013, Jones appeared before Judge Wood for a sentencing hearing. (Doc. 55.) Judge Wood overruled Jones' counsel's objection to the Section 2D1.1(b)(1) enhancement. (Doc. 66, pp. 25-27.) Judge Wood concurred with and adopted the factual statements and conclusions in the PSI and found a Guidelines' range of 151 to188 months' imprisonment. (Id.) However, based on Jones' counsel's motion for downward departure, his arguments at sentencing, and the sentencing factors of 18 U.S.C. § 3553, Judge Wood varied downward from the Guidelines' range and sentenced Jones to 137 months' imprisonment. (Id. at pp. 42-44.) Pursuant to the plea agreement, Judge Wood dismissed the remaining counts of the Indictment against Jones. (Doc. 56.)

         On March 27, 2014, Jones filed a notice of appeal. (Doc. 59.) On December 17, 2014, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed that appeal as untimely. (Doc. 69.) On February 26, 2015, Jones filed his first motion to vacate under Section 2255. (Doc. 71.) The Government responded that Jones' motion was untimely and meritless. (Doc. 76.) Jones then moved to dismiss his first Section 2255 motion without prejudice, and the Court granted that request. (Docs. 78, 81.)

         In his instant Section 2255 Motion, Jones argues that his counsel was ineffective and that the Court must revisit his sentence. (Doc. 83.) He argues that the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson should apply to Section 4B1.2 and invalidate his career offender designation. (Doc. 83.) The Government responded to Jones' Motion and argues that the Eleventh Circuit had held that Johnson does not apply at all in the context of the advisory Sentencing Guidelines, and specifically, does not apply to the career offender Guideline. (Doc. 85, pp. 2-4.) Further, the Government asserts that, even if Johnson invalidated the Guidelines' definition of “crime of violence, ” Jones' career offender designation was not based on that definition. Rather, he was designated a career offender due to his convictions for “controlled substance offenses.” (Id.) The Government further argues that Jones' claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are untimely, just as they were when Jones raised them in his first Section 2255 motion. (Id. at p. 4.) Jones filed a Reply to the Government's Response and points out that the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Beckles to decide whether Johnson applied to Section 4B1.2. (Doc. 86.)


         I. Whether Jones Timely Filed his Petition

         To determine whether Jones timely filed his Motion, the Court must look to the applicable statute of limitations period. Motions made pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 are subject to a one-year statute of limitations period. 28 ...

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