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Wright v. United States

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

September 18, 2019

BRANDON CHARLES WRIGHT, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN K. EPPS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner Brandon Wright filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. The Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS the § 2255 motion be DENIED, this civil action be CLOSED, and a final judgment be ENTERED in favor of Respondent.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Indictment

         On August 4, 2015, the grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia charged Petitioner with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and § 846. United States v. Wright, CR 115-077, doc. no. 3 (S.D. Ga. June 10, 2016) (hereinafter “CR 115-077”). Because Petitioner had a prior felony drug conviction, the charge carried a maximum term of life imprisonment. CR 117-082, doc. no. 4. The Court appointed attorney Page A. Pate to represent Petitioner. See id., doc. no. 16.

         B. Agreement to Plead Guilty

         On January 19, 2016, Petitioner waived his right to trial by jury and pleaded guilty to Count 1 of the indictment. Id., doc. nos. 275-277. In exchange for the guilty plea, the government agreed to (1) not object to a recommendation for a two-point acceptance of responsibility reduction; (2) move for an additional one-point reduction under the Sentencing Guidelines if Petitioner's offense level was sixteen or greater prior to the acceptance of responsibility reduction; and (3) consider filing a motion, based on any “substantial assistance” provided by Petitioner, for downward departure under U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 or requesting a reduction of Petitioner's sentence under Fed. R. Crim. P. 35. Id., doc. no. 277, p. 4. The parties also stipulated the offense involved at least 112 but fewer than 196 grams of cocaine base, at least 40 kilograms but less than 60 kilograms of marijuana for purposes of U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1, and other specific offense characteristics pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b) did not apply. Id.

         Petitioner's plea agreement contained the following factual basis for his guilty plea:

That beginning on or about August 17, 2013, the exact beginning date being unknown to the Grand Jury, and continuing until the return of this indictment, in Jefferson County, within the Southern District of Georgia, and elsewhere, the defendant herein, BRANDON CHARLES WRIGHT, did knowingly and intentionally combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together with other persons known and unknown, to commit certain offenses against the United States, that is, to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and cocaine base, Schedule I and II controlled substances, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1) and 846. With respect to BRANDON CHARLES WRIGHT as a result of his own conduct, and the conduct of other conspirators, it was reasonably foreseeable to him that this conspiracy involved marijuana and cocaine base in violation of Title 21, United States Code, 841(b)(1)(c).

Id. at 2.

         By signing the Plea Agreement, Petitioner “entirely waive[d] his right to a direct appeal of his conviction and sentence on any ground” unless the Court (1) sentenced him above the statutory maximum, (2) sentenced him above the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range, or (3) the government appealed the sentence. Id. at 7-8. Absent one of those three conditions, “[Petitioner] explicitly and irrevocably instruct[ed] his attorney not to file an appeal.” Id. Petitioner also “entirely waive[d] his right to collaterally attack his conviction and sentence on any ground and by any method, ” except based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. By signing the Plea Agreement, Petitioner additionally attested he “read and carefully reviewed this agreement” with counsel and “that his attorney has represented him faithfully, skillfully, and diligently, and [Petitioner] is completely satisfied with the legal advice given and the work performed by his attorney.” Id. at 9, 11.

         C. Sentencing

         The United States Probation Office prepared a Presentence Investigation Report (“PSI”) which set Petitioner's Total Offense Level at twenty-nine, Criminal History Category at VI, and Guidelines imprisonment range at 151 to 188 months. PSI ¶¶ 25, 34, 60. The government raised no objection to the PSI. PSI Addendum, p. 1. Petitioner objected to the career offender enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 and 4B1.2, arguing the guidelines were unconstitutionally vague in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). Id. The probation office maintained the career offender application had been properly applied. Id. at 2.

         The PSI set Petitioner's base offense level for Count One at twenty-six, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c)(7). PSI ¶ 16. Petitioner's offense level for Count One increased to thirty-two after an enhancement for having two or more prior convictions for crimes of violence or controlled substance offenses, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. PSI ¶ 22. This offense level decreased three ...


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