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James Randolph Payne v. United States of America

December 8, 2011

JAMES RANDOLPH PAYNE, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



OPINION AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner James R. Payne's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence § 2255 (Cv. Doc. #1, Cr. Doc. #70)*fn1 filed on August 20, 2010. The United States filed a Response seeking to dismiss the § 2255 motion as untimely. (Cv. Doc. #9.) Petitioner filed a Reply Motion. (Cv. Doc. #12.)

I.

On January 18, 2006, a grand jury returned a three count Indictment against James Randolph Payne (Payne or petitioner) charging him with conspiracy to distribute a substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine (Count One), possession with intent to distribute a substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine (Count Two), and possession with intent to distribute a detectable amount of marijuana (Count Three). (Cr. Doc. #1.) On June 28, 2006, petitioner pled guilty to Count One of the Indictment pursuant to a Plea Agreement providing that the remaining two counts would be dismissed. (Cr. Doc. #31.) Petitioner's guilty plea as to Count One was accepted the same day. (Cr. Doc. #33.)

On November 27, 2006, petitioner was sentenced to a term of 210 months imprisonment and 3 years supervised release. (Cr. Docs. ## 45, 65.) Petitioner was scored as a career offender under United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG) § 4B1.1 based on a 1991 aggravated battery conviction and a 1987 burglary conviction. (Presentence Report (PSR) ¶32.) Although the career offender designation did not affect petitioner's base offense level score, (PSR ¶36), it did increase his criminal history category from Category IV to Category VI (PSR ¶¶ 47, 48). Petitioner filed a Motion for a Departure Sentence (Cr. Doc. #43) predicated upon the staleness of the prior convictions, which the Court granted, reducing the criminal history category from VI to V. (Cr. Docs. ## 46, 65.) The 210 month sentence fell at the low end of the adjusted Sentencing Guidelines range. (PSR ¶84 & page 20, Cr. Doc. #65.) Counts Two and Three were dismissed. (Cr. Docs. ## 45, 65.) Judgment was entered on November 28, 2006. (Cr. Doc. #45.)

On December 6, 2006, petitioner filed a direct appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Cr. Doc. #48.) On December 26, 2007, the Eleventh Circuit dismissed the petitioner's appeal based on the valid appeal waiver in the petitioner's Plea Agreement. (Cr. Doc. #69.) Petitioner did not file for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.

Petitioner now brings this 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion, which read liberally, Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998), sets forth a single claim. Petitioner asserts that under the intervening decision of Johnson v. United States, 130 S. Ct. 1265 (2010), his 1991 aggravated battery conviction does not qualify as a violent felony, and therefore he does not qualify as a career offender under USSG § 4B1.1, his sentence must be vacated, and he must be re-sentenced.

II.

The United States argues in its Response that petitioner's motion is untimely under § 2225(f). (Cv. Doc. #9, p. 4.) Read liberally, petitioner responds that his § 2255 motion is timely because he is entitled to statutory tolling or, alternatively, he is entitled to consideration of the § 2255 motion based upon his actual innocence of the career offender enhancement. (Cv. Doc. #12.) The Court addresses each issue.

A. Statute of Limitations

A § 2255 motion is ordinarily subject to the one year limitations period in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). Long v. United States, 626 F.3d 1167, 1169 (11th Cir. 2010). A petitioner has one year from the latest of any of four events to file a § 2255 motion: (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, 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)(1)-(4); see also Pruitt v. United States, 274 F.3d 1315, 1317 (11th Cir. 2001).

The statute of limitations for petitioner began to run when his conviction became final. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1). Because a petition for certiorari was not filed with the United States Supreme Court, the conviction becomes final at the end of the 90 day period during which petitioner could have filed such a petition, i.e., 90 days after entry of the appellate court's judgment. Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 532 (2003); Kaufmann v. United States, 282 F.3d 1336, 1338 (11th Cir. 2002). The Eleventh Circuit entered its order dismissing petitioner's appeal on December 26, 2007. The 90 day period expired on March 26, 2008, which is the date petitioner's conviction became final. Petitioner thus had until Thursday, March 26, 2009 to file a § 2255 motion.

Petitioner signed his §2255 Motion on August 14, 2010, and it was filed with the court on August 20, 2010. Giving petitioner the benefit of the "mailbox rule," Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988); Washington v. United States, 243 F.3d 1299, 1301 (11th Cir. 2001), the Court will deem the § 2255 motion to have been filed on August 14, 2010. The § 2255 motion was still filed almost seventeen months after the expiration of one year time period. Therefore, petitioner's motion is time-barred unless another statutory provision re-starts the time or the default is excused.

Petitioner asserts that his § 2255 motion is timely under § 2255(f)(3) or that its untimeliness is excused on the basis of his actual innocence of the ...


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